Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, April 24, 2015


I've enjoyed much of what Zandar writes at Balloon Juice.  His latest piece has some nice rant-type qualities.  I won't discuss the topic of white supremacists whining about people talking about white privilege.  I do worry that we may reach a point where white supremacists may garner some legitimacy because the world is a painfully stupid place sometimes.

I have been thinking a lot about how we think about safety, though, and what role schools play in creating a safe environment.

One of the more or less profound things that Edward Snowden said in his interview with Jon Oliver was that you can't have perfect safety outside solitary confinement.  There are certain "unsafe" things that are important to do and have done to you.  I think everybody should get punched in the face once in their lives.  Not "hit in the face with a door by accident" but punched in the face.  Because after you've been punched in the face - and it does hurt, broken noses hurt like hell - you realize that you can survive it.  It's a big deal, but it's not a Big Deal.

So, when people on the Right complain about the wussification of modern America, I'm actually fairly sympathetic to them.  This obscures the fact that they are often the biggest bed-wetting cowards around, but young people need to get knocked down, so that they can learn to get back up.

Most of the times that I've been punched in the face occurred on rugby pitches and wrestling mats.  There is a structure there that allows me to feel "safe" even as I'm getting my ass kicked.  There are limits and rules and expectations that govern behavior.  Rugby may look like a melee, but there are expectations and norms that you don't do certain things.  You don't bite or gouge eyes, even though you could at the bottom of a ruck.

But now we live in a world where parents probably won't let their kids play rugby because of concussion worries.  I probably did suffer mild cognitive impairment throughout my rugby playing years.  Or maybe I was just a 20-something year old male.  Who knows?

What worries me is that we are creating a world where we systematically reduce risk and freedom to a vanishing point.  And yet, we all know that the world is full or risk and pain and unhappiness.  Learning to deal with pain is part of growing up.  Learning to overcome obstacles is the essential quality of an adult.

I do think eventually the Special Snowflake children will adapt to a world of adversity.  And maybe their route isn't any slower to adulthood and the important realizations about the actual trials of being alive.

Still, are we losing something in our quest to give kids a safe world?

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