Monday, January 7, 2013

An Overprotective Society

An Overprotective Society

I have received any number of emails circulating over the last few years regarding the overprotectiveness of parents and society in general with regard taking any risks.  Children of earlier generations survived life without protective gear for every activity.  The American attitude towards safety at all costs has created a litigation crazy environment whereby society believes there should be zero risk or explicit warnings for every potential outcome. Whatever happened to common sense?

As one who has had the privilege of traveling throughout the world I am grateful that this approach to life has not been adapted the USA. There have been so many occasions when I have been able to access historic or places of unequaled geographical beauty that would have been impossible in the American world of today.

One of my favorite moments involves my walking across an old WWII era railroad bridge over the River Kwai in Konchanaburri, Thailand. The bridge was rickety. There were loose boards and a sketchy railing. There were crocodiles in the river below. Walking on this historic bridge would have been impossible in our over concern for safety and fear or lawsuits society in America. We relished the opportunity to experience such an amazing journey. The probability of falling over and being eaten by crocodiles was minimal. We accepted the risk. So – no problem.

That is one of my greatest issues with the expectations in today’s overprotective society.  Nobody is willing to accept risk. Or if they express a desire to accept risk and sustain an injury, they renounce their acceptance and file suit.  I know litigation concerns drive a great deal of this response. But parents expect a risk free environment for their children and instill in their offspring the belief that one should consider safety at all costs.

But I personally hate riding my bicycle while wearing a helmet. There is something scintillating in riding in the back of a pick up truck on farm roads.   I don’t want to wear kneepads while skating. I want to explore challenging terrains.  Kids should be able to eat a peanut butter sandwich at school if they want to. If some kid has an allergy, his or her parent should educate them appropriately. I know children as young as 5 can be that vigilant. I’ve seen it! I want to experience life without legislation taking away the joy.

So eventually the tide must turn. There is no such thing as absolute safety and we shouldn’t expect that. Just getting up in the morning is a risk.  But without risk there is no absolute joy. Frankly, I would rather risk falling off the Great Wall of China than have a government tell me I can’t climb the difficult side because it might be dangerous.

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