Sunday, July 26, 2009

Has anyone written this book?...

If someone provided me with a good researcher, I might undertake to write a book called something like "A Nation of Cowards: Raising Our Children in Fear". It would compare how Americans addressed risk fifty years ago with how we do it today. Of course, research might find some exceptions to the rule -- were we more germ-phobic in the late 1950's than we are today? On the whole, though, I expect one could document that my now-middle-aged generation was expected to accept many more everyday risks without a second thought, and society as a whole was more prepared to undertake risky endeavors (e.g. going to the moon).

But maybe there are several books like this out there already. Names, anyone?

The automatic toilet as symbol

The other day, I was in a mall bathroom with automatic toilets. Several had been left unflushed; the one I used was, as is common, both under- and over-sensitive, flushing before it should and not flushing when it needed to. It occurred to me that automatic toilets are both a symptom and a symbol of what ails this country (well, one important ailment).

Instead of assuming that people can take responsibility to the minimal extent of flushing away their own waste, we replace individual responsibility with a System. The System doesn't really do the job, failing at least as often (I'd guess more often) than the individuals did -- but its very existence leads people to assume that they no longer have to take any action. Thus the System's failures go uncorrected.