Every now and then the same old chestnut gets circulated via email, on a web site or a blog. Normally I ignore them but occasionally one comes along and strikes me as the perfect storm of stupidity: an old joke, not particularly funny and masquerading as insightful social commentary while actually being banal sanctimonious crap.
One such example cropped up on Reddit today and it wasn't really the site owner's fault because they posted in July 2003. It's headed "People over 30 should be dead" and while I won't blame the site owner for its appearance on Reddit, I will blame them for posting this shit and thinking it's funny/insightful/true. And as people still forward drivel like this via email and blogs I think it's worth refuting. To deconstruct it line by line:
"Our baby cribs were covered with brightly coloured lead paint"
I'm sorry, but if you think lead based paint on a baby crib (or anywhere) is a good idea, you're a fucking idiot.
"We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets"
And kids did eat medicine and drain cleaner and get sick and die. How are these things bad?
"when we rode our bikes we had no helmets. (Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.)"
Try comparing head injuries between "then" and "now". I think you'll find helmets have significantly reduced fatalities and disabilities from head injuries. And hitch-hiking? People still do that now. And occasionally get killed. If you think hitch-hiking is all fluffy bunnies and chocolate rainbows, maybe I should introduce you to Ivan Milat.
"We would ride in cars with no seatbelts or airbags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat."
Oh come on! The reduction in fatalities due to the introduction of seatbelts and airbags must be just about too high to count. In Australia it would be hundreds per year. In the US it would be many thousands per year. And you still see utes with kids in the back in country towns around here. And the result is still the same when the ute crashes.
"We drank water from the garden hose and not a bottle."
Who the fuck is saying water from the tap is bad? Obsessive yuppies? If you are in a developed country with no major pollution problems and your pipes aren't as crappy as the ones in my building (I have to filter tap water) then the tap water is probably healthier than bottled water. I think this one is bullshit and doesn't even belong with the other – bottled water isn't a safety issue, it's some bullshit marketing.
"We ate (unhealthy things) and we were never overweight because we were outside playing."
Good point although it's glossing over the increases in processed sugar and fats contained in foods now.
"We shared one soft drink with four friends from one bottle and nobody actually died from this."
Again, WTF? What is the point here? Crap like this doesn't belong in a discussion about safety issues.
"We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable!"
This one I agree with. People are too paranoid about constantly staying in contact these days.
"We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms. We had friends! We went outside and found them. We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt."
We're on a roll here, I agree with this one too.
"We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?"
Still in pretty good territory, I'm not a fan of the culture of blame.
"We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it."
Back into bullshit. This sounds like the words of a psychopathic bully. I had fights too but not everybody got over it. Some people were constantly victimised and brutalised (and this still happens) and "get over it" doesn't really cut it when you are in mortal terror every day at school.
"We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever."
You ate worms? You sick bastard. And what constitutes an acceptable number of eyes being put out? I'm guessing "lots so long as none of them are mine."
"Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors! Tests were not adjusted for any reason."
Again, I agree here. Although I think that the incidence of kids not being allowed to fail so they don't feel bad is greatly exaggerated by people trying to make a political point.
"Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Imagine that!"
True story: my older brother got busted for joy riding (also known as stealing a car) with his friends about 30 years ago. Because he had no record, the judge was going to let him off but my dad insisted he pay the price for his crime and sent him to a juvenile jail. Where his three cell mates had all killed family members. That was a real bright idea.
So all of the above is meant to add up to the collective wisdom that anyone over 30 should be dead because safety standards were so poor by comparison in our childhoods. What passes for logic here is "I didn't die when none of these safety standards were in place so therefore nobody's life has been saved by improved safety standards." The fact that this could only be accepted as sound logic by somebody who actually did suffer some severe childhood head trauma is telling.
I think parents and authority figures today do need to lighten up. Learning how to deal with risk and consequences is an important part of life. And saying a risk isn't bad because it only affects one in a thousands kids is glibness born of the fact that the one kid wasn't yours. And spouting mindless claptrap that you think makes you look wise or witty really isn't helping.