Can these juiceless, nagging bags of misery not leave anything alone?
The joyous celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons will be among the products to get more scrutiny, even though they’re a very small part of environmental pollution.
Accordingly, campaigns are afoot to discourage balloon releases at weddings, some states have passed laws restricting them, Clemson University ended its pre-game tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons before games, and so far at least one town in Rhode Island has banned the sale of all balloons out of concern for marine life. The town warden suggests balloon alternatives, like “posters, piñatas and decorated paper.” But can you tie a piñata into a giraffe?
Let me make clear at the outset that I’m on the side of the sea turtles, the soaring birds, and any other creature that might be harmed in this way, so I’m inclined to err on the side of the turtles. There’s at least some science to back this up. But that’s no guarantee that the cost-benefit ratio works out, like the way it never does with climate change. If it must be, okay; neither plastic straws nor balloons make up much of my life.
All the same, there’s something just not right about these hasty adoptions of bans on everyday things. What’s the hurry? It took 120 years for the Americantemperance movement to get the 18th Amendment, and that still turned out to be a terrible idea. In just the past few weeks, we’ve heard about the rapid spread of bans on plastic straws; on balloons; on saying, “Hey, guys” to groups that include women; on “meatless” hamburgers; on crab dinners in Baltimore. Speaking of Prohibition, expect a second try soon based on last week’s study that drinking alcohol is 100% bad for you.
My real issue is that once the left identifies a problem, its favorite solution is a ban. With more or less success, the left in recent times has banned, or would love to ban, liquor, guns, national borders, plastic bags, cigarette advertising, DDT, flirting, binary pronouns, “hate speech,” prayers at graduation, team logos, Christmas hymns, wearing fur, words like “manhole,” Nativity scenes, nuclear power plants, coal, Civil War statues, petroleum, unwanted babies, toilets that flush, incandescent light bulbs, and Roseanne Barr. As with kids who get overactive from too much sugar (at least, until that’s banned), if someone doesn’t shut off the supply of things to forbid, they’ll just get more out of control.
For sure and certain. The only thing that really needs to be banned is them. Is this next related? I suspect the authors of the book being reviewed would disagree, but I say you bet your sweet ass it is.
Haidt and Lukianoff focus on the unintended consequences of safetyism – the idea that people are weak and should be protected, rather than exposed, to challenges. Safety culture has the best of intentions: protect kids from danger. It began with a focus on physical safety – removing sharp objects and choke hazards, requiring child seats, and not letting children walk home alone. Safety, however, has experienced substantial concept creep. It now includes emotional safety, that is, not being exposed ideas that could cause psychological distress. Taken together, the focus on physical and mental safety makes young people weaker.
“Best of intentions”? Not hardly; total control is the core of the Progressivist ideal, its primary goal, and was from the beginning. “For their own good” is the Progressivist mantra rationalizing their megalomania. The Safety Nazis are Progressivists almost to a man, and that ain’t no accident. Sure, there may some dupes among them who actually do mean well. But “safetyism” has always been the slippery slope down which we’ve slowly slid into full-on tyranny.
Humans are what author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls ‘antifragile’. We ‘benefit from shocks; [humans] thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty’. Peanuts are a case in point of needing to be exposed to danger to build resilience. From the 1990s, parents were encouraged to not feed children peanuts, and childcare centres, kindergartens and schools banned peanuts. This moratorium has backfired. The LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) found that not eating peanut-containing products during infancy increases allergies. The researchers recruited 640 infants with a high risk of developing peanut allergy. Half were given a peanut-containing product. The other half avoided peanuts. The study found that 17 per cent of those who did not consume peanuts developed an allergy by age 5, compared to just 3 per cent of those who did consume the peanut-containing snack. Our immune system grows stronger when exposed to a range of foods, bacteria, and even parasites.
Antifragility applies to emotional health as well. When you guard children against every possible risk – do not let them outside to play or walk home alone – they exaggerate the fear of such situations and fail to develop resilience and coping skills. Stresses are necessary to learn, adapt and grow. Without movement, our muscles and joints grow weak. Without varied life experiences, our minds do not know how to cope with day-to-day stressors. Measures designed to protect children and students are backfiring. Fragility is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think certain ideas are dangerous, or are encouraged to do so by trigger warnings and safe spaces, you will be more anxious in the long run. Intellectual safety not only makes free and open debate impossible, it setting up a generation for more anxiety and depression.
Haidt and Lukianoff use an array of data that shows a shocking increase in American youth anxiety, depression, and suicide in the last five years, but particularly for young women. By 2016, one out of every five American girls met the criteria for having experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year – an increase of almost two-thirds over five years. There has also been an increase in male suicide by one-third, and female suicide has doubled since the early 2000s, reaching the highest recorded since 1981.
The widespread inculcation of a tremulous FUD mindset produces fearful, neurotic wretches eager to seek the protection of government from a scary, danger-fraught world. It ought to be obvious to anybody that that, too, is no accident. Via WRSA, who says: “KDT did it better a decade and a half ago.” He ain’t wrong about that, either.