Allow me to be a bit philosophical on this day before Thanksgiving.
Monday on Facebook I shared this link to a story of an intervention by unarmed bystanders in a knife attack on a young woman. I found this heartening, inasmuch as I’d been following an unrelated story a few days earlier that elicited some surprising reactions.
The earlier story dealt with a training session that’s becoming more and more common across the United States: teaching kids how to deal with a spree killer in their school. The contentious part was the part of the session which taught them what to do if, despite evasion and barricading, the bad guy managed to get to them. The training revolved around the idea that it was better to do something that might give them a chance than to do nothing and accept their fate.
The story was great; it was the reader reactions that were depressing. There were parents commenting that they didn’t want their children to fight back and risk being hurt; they wanted their kids to cower in fear and wait for the bad guy to get around to killing them unimpeded. It was somehow better, in their mind, to trade a high probability of death for a lesser one, albeit one that required the children to do something that might be scary.
Over the years I’ve encountered the same sort of attitude among a wide variety of people when the subject of self defense has come up, though lately those attitudes are becoming a bit less common. Still, they do exist and crop up in the oddest of circumstances when you expect a completely different reaction.
I used to attribute this bias against action to a fear of the unknown, or to a generalized fear of independence, or to the much-discussed “victim mentality”. All of those may be true and even contribute simultaneously, but perhaps there’s something else at work: the rise of the specialist and the elevation of every job to professional status.
Today it’s likely that most of what you have, most of what you consume, and most of what you experience has all been produced by professionals: people whose jobs it is to do those things; specialists. This is especially true for things that just a couple of generations ago were primarily the province of amateurs: cooking; the raising and preservation of food; common and minor medical care; clothing production; haircuts; and so on. We’re used to letting professionals do all this, and more, rather than learn to do it ourselves.
This delegation goes further than you might realize. Take, for instance, music: fewer people than ever make their own music for the entertainment of their family and friends. This was not always the case, for when I was a kid (which, I must insist, was not all that long ago) people would gather together on Saturday or Sunday evenings, bring their instruments, and spend time singing tunes both classic and new. Art was similarly made at home, and even the majority of sporting events were largely amateur: high school athletics once drew more than just helicopter parents.
Today we listen, watch, and are entertained not by ourselves or our peers but by people who get paid to do those things: the professionals. I’m sure you can think of other examples from your own experience. Is it any surprise, then, that people delegate their safety to professionals rather than learn why they need to do it themselves?
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that this is the only, or even major, contributor to the inability to take responsibility for one’s own life. I do think, though, that society’s continuing admonition to “leave things to the professionals” has an effect on how people view everything in their lives, not the least of which is their own safety.
Have a happy (and safe) Thanksgiving!
-=[ Grant ]=-
- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On November 27, 2013