Monday, December 1, 2008

“I refuse to tip-toe through life only to arrive safely at death”

That anonymous quote got me thinking again about the latest Ontario government initiatives to coddle its citizenry, protecting us from ourselves, and furthermore protecting us from ever having to take any real responsibility for our actions. (Previously blogged on here, here, and here.)

Nanny-state legislation, most often initiated as a political knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate death or injury, seems particularly problematic in Ontario. And without a major backlash, its relentless progression will eventually turn us all into a society of zombies. As we move from one protective bubble to the next, we will live our lives totally unexposed and to some extent oblivious to the real world around us with all its excitement, beauty, and, it must be said, dangers. Unable to conceive of taking any personal risk, we will become solely focused on immunizing ourselves from life so we can survive forever, without fear and without pain. Ironically, in order to live longer we become the walking dead ourselves.

I’m certainly no Edmund Hillary when it comes to living on the edge, but I’ve had my moments (many of which I'm proud to say would now be against one or more laws) and I simply can’t imagine being 100 years old and only having a white bread life to look back on. As the old joke goes, the doctor says if you give up drinking, smoking and wild women you’ll live to be 100. To which the patient replied, why would I want to? Exactly!

Any life worth living is inherently risky. Sure, some of us pushed it too far and, paraphrasing James Dean, lived fast, died young and left a beautiful corpse. Other friends, colleagues and family members didn’t make it this far due to countless other factors beyond their or anyone else’s control. But most of us make it through just fine, in spite of it all. And facing those risks, feeling that excitement, winning... and losing, even those near-death experiences define who we are. They are the underpinnings of our character, the same human character that brought innovation and progress to the western world at an unprecedented rate over the past few generations. It’s the same human character that gives us our heroes, in war and in peacetime; the same human character that lets us dig deep to find that irresistible force needed when faced with one of life’s immovable objects; and the same human character that every society needs in order to survive and that we, as humans, need to truly live.

Losing a loved one before their time hurts, and it’s understandable that those suffering such a loss will cry out for more rules, more limits, more controls so that no one else will ever have to feel their pain. But personal pain is not a good forge for public policy, and we should expect our politicians to be wise enough to realise that.


Pat Rossiter said...

Hi Dave:
You said: "Losing a loved one before their time hurts, and it’s understandable that those suffering such a loss will cry out for more rules, more limits, more controls so that no one else will ever have to feel their pain."
Call me a cynic, but I don't think people really cry out for more controls so that no one else will feel their pain. They cry out for controls or legislation or guardrails or whatever mostly because they feel some personal guilt (whether rightly or wrongly makes no difference) and they feel they need to be seen to be trying to do something. It may be totally unconscious, but that is the real reason in 90+% of the situations.
all the best

Canajun said...

I'm sure that guilt is part of it too. And you're right, it can often be irrational. But that doesn't change the fact that our politicians are far too quick with the knee-jerk reaction legislation.

Pat said...

Agreed entirely. Policitians are elected to be leaders, right? So why are they panderers instead? It's almost hilarious (pathetic?) how they read the current polls before rushing out to lead the public where the polls say the public is already going. When was the last time we heard a politician say in a measured tone that something proposed might be popular, but it is the wrong thing to do? (Of course we get lots of that after the event by the nay-sayers, foresight-challenged, and hindsight-blessed.)