NOTE: I was working on this as an update to last night’s “Pursuing invariably etc” post, but didn’t get done with it till just now. So it made more sense to just break it out into a new post. Enjoy.
A risk-averse society is an unhappy, mentally unhealthy society.
As many observers have noted, staying safe has become a religion. “Safetyism,” as it is sometimes called, like all religions, places what it values — in this case, being safe — above other values. Safetyism explains the willingness of Americans to give up their most cherished values — including liberty — in the name of safety for the last year and a half.
Millions of Americans not only gave up their right to go to work, earn a living, attend church or synagogue, and visit friends and relatives, but they even gave up their right to visit dying relatives and friends. One can assume that nearly every person recorded as having died of COVID-19 died without having a single loved one at their bedside from the moment they entered a hospital until their death. The acceptance of such cruelty — irrational and unscientific cruelty, one might add — can only be explained by the failure of generations of schools and parents to teach liberty, while successfully teaching the worship of safety. If your father had to die alone, it was worth it for the sake of safety; if your mother had to be in what amounted to solitary confinement in a nursing home for more than a year, that, too, was worth it for the sake of safety. And, of course, if political leaders and leaders in science and medicine have to lie for the sake of safety, so be it; truth, too, is less important than safety.
None of this is new. Twenty-five years ago, I wrote and broadcast about the willingness of Americans to watch individual rights crushed in the war against smoking, and especially in accepting the absurdity of the allegedly lethal dangers of secondhand smoke. No one denies that intense exposure to secondhand smoke can exacerbate preexisting illnesses such as asthma. But the anti-smoking zealots’ claim that 50,000 Americans die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke is nonsense. For example, in 2013, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that there was no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.
What is important to note is that these irrational prohibitions on personal liberty bothered no one except smokers. The number of nonsmoking citizens of Burbank who objected to these laws was probably zero. Had Burbank announced a ban on alcohol, there would have been a revolt — despite the fact that at least half the instances of spouse- and child-abuse are accompanied by alcohol, and every instance of death, brain damage, paralysis and other permanent injury caused by a drunk driver is caused by alcohol. Has anyone been killed by a smoking driver? Has anyone been murdered, or any child or spouse been molested or beaten because the murderer or abuser had been smoking?
So, the safety zealots learned from the anti-smoking and anti-secondhand smoke crusade the great lesson that if you told Americans something wasn’t safe, you could deprive them of their rights and they would willingly go along with it. And, for the record, this is equally true in virtually every country in the world. “Safety uber alles.”
They didn’t only learn this lesson from the anti-smoking fanatics. For two generations now, safety has increasingly deprived Americans of joys as well as freedoms. Children, in particular, have been so coddled that American children of the last two generations have probably had far less joy and far more fear than children of any previous American generation. Young children cannot take walks on their own lest child protective services be called; diving boards, once found on nearly every home swimming pool, are widely banned; and monkey bars and seesaws have been removed from playgrounds. As an article in the Australian website Babyology headlined: “Monkey bars are dangerous and must be removed from playgrounds, experts say.”
Two Norwegian scientists, Ellen Sandseter (Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education) and Leif Kennair (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), wrote a study on children and risky play published in Evolutionary Psychology in which they concluded: “We may observe an increased neuroticism or psychopathology in society if children are hindered from partaking in age-adequate risky play.”
You can live a safe life. Or you can live a full life. You can’t live both.
Yup. It’s an old, old story by now—a true disgrace to any nation with the temerity to proudly misnomer itself “free,” in contradiction of the self-evident reality. And, well, here we all are.
Helmet laws; seatbelt laws; smoking bans; ignition lock-outs on riding lawnmowers that shut the thing down every time you have to step off to move a fallen branch, a big, blade-chomping rock, or some other obstruction. Soldering irons that won’t get hot enough to melt solder. Gas cans that won’t pour gas. Numerous automobile-related encroachments, including headlights that stay on even during daylight hours, drastically shortening the life of ever-spendier bulbs; side windows that can only be opened halfway; and all the annoying bells, chimes, and flashing lights to nag you if you’re not fully in step with every government edict when you shift into D.
Roadside DUI Checkpoint Chickies all over the place, something which was once considered an outrageous, Soviet-style intrusion but is now docilely accepted as necessary and just. Chainsaws that can’t chainsaw, thanks to mandatory “safety chains” as standard equipment. Blood alcohol-level limits that disallow a person of average body mass from having a single beer with dinner and then driving home afterward, lest he have his life ruined for decades thanks to a “drunk driving” charge—not because he was actually impaired, or even barely buzzed, but just because the Almighty Safety State decrees it.
Parents actually thrown in the clink for allowing the young ‘uns to play outdoors without constant supervision; yes, this really is a thing now, alas. Here in NC, a law forbidding kids under sixteen to be taken for a country-lane joyride in the back of dad’s old pickup—something my neighborhood crew used to look forward to every summer Sunday afternoon, after the weekly all-hands softball game and before the big grill-out and ice-cream churn that closed out the festivities on a sweet note. It was a wonderful thing, an all-American community-building tradition that allowed kids to enjoy spending time with not just family but all the neighbors and their kids as well. And now it’s gone for good.
All this overregulation, close-in monitoring, and smothering Nanny-Statery—all this, and plenty more besides—is of a piece, inflicted on once-free Americans by busybodies with a broader agenda concealed behind a thin scrim of Safetyist “concern.” It’s neither accident nor coincidence that Safetyism zealots are almost universally shitlibs; it’s been the case from the very beginning of the contemptible Safety Nazi movement. Nor is it an accident that this meddling is forever expanding. Their work is never quite done, their mission never accomplished; as is typical of such types, they’re always on a search for the next crusade, their next masterpiece of social engineering.
That’s because it was never really about safety but about control, the irreducible mania of every Leftist. They’re all well aware that a cowed, fearful, risk-averse populace will accept the bit much more readily than their more adventuresome fellows. Keep ’em scared, and you can keep ’em under your thumb forever.