Tuesday 28 December 2010

Without the need to think, people stop doing so

Today I tweeted about yet another Pat Robertson remark that redefined the meaning of stupidity:
Snow Is God’s Way of Punishing Americans Who Were Planning to Drive to Do Something Gay
Gay not meaning jolly there of course, but homosexual.
It is comments like these that defy my -and others'- utter sense of imagination. I have lived a year in the US as an exchange student, even "did my time" graduating from High School, so have had my fair share of errrr, let's say, North-American culture and customs, but that doesn't keep me from being absolutely astonished every now and then - like now

I have a few friends in the United States, most of which would consider themselves liberal and not very religious. They always tell me how things in Europe are so much better: education, social security, pensions, teenage pregnancy, literacy, public transportation, etcetera. I don't always agree with them, as they usually see the pros much better and more clear than they do the cons.
  • Public transportation? Hey overhere in NL we pay $ 8.50 a gallon so we can pay for that - would you?
  • Insurance for everyone for less than 100 euros a month, covering all expenses? Hey we pay up to 52% tax overhere in NL - would you?
  • Pensions being nice and for everyone? Well we pay a few hundred euros a month in order to make that happen overhere in NL - would you?
  • Tuition-free-ish education for almost all, up to college and University?Well we spend 38 billion euro per year to keep 3.8 million educated - that's 10,000 euro people like me won't have to pay, because we do so via taxes
So, everything comes at a price

I think that common sense comes at a price too. When I made my way over to the US back in 1988, I was surprised at all the rules and regulations written down everywhere. The "objects in mirror are closer than they appear" is the most frequent reminder of that.
It surprised me, because most of those were so bloody obvious. It was like being reminded of having to breathe (good blonde-joke about that right here btw).
Pretty soon I got to get annoyed with the messages. On the swimming pools, inflatable armbands, everywhere. I put up a small collection:

"Do not use in shower" - On a hair dryer
"Caution: Do not spray in eyes" - On a container of underarm deodorant
"Do not drive with sunshield in place" - On a cardboard sunshield that keeps the sun off the dashboard
"Do not eat toner" - On a toner cartridge for a laser printer
"Caution! Contents hot!" - On a Domino's Pizza box
"Caution: Hot beverages are hot!" - On a coffee cup

There are many, many more. All of them are there in place to try to prevent lawsuits. Now I don't know whether they actually do prevent lawsuits, but I myself suspect they prevent people from thinking for themselves. If you're told daily what is blatantly obvious, you might stop looking at it as such.
In the midst of this post, Saul Kaplan comes up with a perfect tweet:
Any nation of wusses is sure to have a high per capita lawyer percentage.
As if he were reading along with this... amazing

Update 28th December 22:47 CET: It will be beneficial to explain why I think people in the US get away with not thinking for themselves: lawyers will simply compensate them. Got into an accident while not insured? A lawyer will sue the victim for you. Accidentally shot someone on your porch? A lawyer will prove he was trespassing. Ran a red light? A lawyer will defend you, claim you're colour blind and make the government put signs "this light is red" on all US traffic lights (admit it: it is plausible, isn't it?)
Not being sensible or take responsibility is rewarded in this way. Every society functions by way of punishment and reward, every human is domesticated this way. Lack of punishment equals reward, lack of reward equals punishment - simple as that
What do you think? Practice makes the master, but does lack of practice make the apprentice? And if this is the price paid by the US, what did they get in return?

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