Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pushing Back the Abusive Nanny

Quite often we hear references to the Nanny State. There is (rightfully) a disdain for, and disgust of, meddling government. But this is not at its root a political issue. Politics picks up that which the culture lays down.

We have become a servile people - to the point where we sometimes scratch our heads and wonder how the heck did we got here.

One example of meddlesome government - even at the local level - is our local courthouse "security" measures in Gretna, Louisiana. And this is not to pick on Gretna. I suspect there is federal money lying about for local governments if they implement all sorts of "security" measures, and there may well be a penalty if they don't (our Godfather-like Uncle Sam likes to take our money, hold it hostage, tell us what to do, and then pat himself on the back when he lets us have some of it back when we do what he says). I know of an octogenarian who has lived in Gretna her entire life. She is friends with the mayor's mother. She is active in the local historical society. She has been a visitor to the local courthouse for decades. She has trouble getting around these days - and the South Louisiana heat doesn't help matters. She recently went to the courthouse (where everyone knows her). But thanks to a tiny nail file in her purse, she was sent walking back to her car, hobbling on her cane.

Whew! That was a close call. Who knows what could have happened to our country and way of life?

This is a courthouse with armed policemen inside. But in this Alice in Wonderland world we live in, a nearly 90-year old woman with a cane and a two inch nail file (implement of cuticle destruction?) threatens to bring down the republic. And there is no-one who will stand up to Uncle Sam and say "Enough!" In fact, many are so brainwashed that this is "all for our own good" that they will rationalize the irrational and actually feel safer because of the no-nail-file regulation. Some will even argue that criticizing such policies is a "sin" or somehow aiding and abetting Al Qaida. Convenient, isn't it?

But Uncle Sam isn't the only problem. Uncle Sam is a henpecked husband. He is only doing what his cultural spouse (Big Sister? Nanny?) is telling him to do.

We have let that monstrous harridan get away with far too much. And we do so because she seems so sweet and concerned, so matronly and interested in keeping us "safe" - but she is really a shrew. She is a tyrantess. She uses her maternal charm as a way to enrich her pals. Meanwhile, she controls us like pawns on a chessboard. We have allowed her to "turn the neck" of her husband (who finds it easier just to do what she says) - and hence we have become a servile people.

At this point, we don't have much of a choice but to comply with every manner of ridiculous regulation. We all dutifully strap our children into federally-mandated and (subsequently) overpriced "child seats." We buy ridiculous helmets for toddlers who are riding little bikes with training wheels on the sidewalk. We've created this sanitized Germ-X world that is so "safe" that about the only thing one can do without getting a permit and wearing government-mandated equipment is to die - and even then, all the regulations and safety gear are supposed to prevent us from doing just that.

Common sense has been defenestrated and has been replaced by paranoia.

I see a cultural pattern that this attitude has created. By not allowing children to get dirty, we have created a hysteria about germs and sicknesses - and have unwittingly compromised our children's immune systems and created dangerous mutant strains of diseases. For all of this safety-nattering, why are allergies and asthma on the rise? By creating a culture of hyper-safety, we now have an increase of children who are overweight, lethargic, and ignorant of the world around them - in addition to being unhealthy and frightened. This has also led to the specter of the hovering helicopter parents who can't even "let go" when their children start college. By striving to create a risk-free bubble for children, we now see them having become adults who lack common sense, who cannot manage the real world of risk, people whose lives are controlled by fear, ignorance, and virtual paralysis - and now they have children of their own. By babying children, we're created an entire culture of adult babies.

And these "babies" now vote and hold office. Thus Nanny's consummation with Sam.

Fortunately, there are signs of a growing resistance not only to Uncle Sam's heavy-handedness, but also to the Nanny Culture's soft tyranny. Things just didn't used to be this way, as columnist Fred Reed points out. As for me, I'm not yet 50 years old, and my parents were rather overprotective by standards of the day - but my childhood was a virtual anarchy compared to the regimented life the typical kid lives today. Many of today's parents would be shocked, if not scandalized, by the way my parents raised me.

At last, some doctors and medical experts are breaking ranks and speaking out against this insane Howard Hughes culture of germophobia and horror of dirt. And pioneering this rejection of living a life dominated by hysteria, fear, and paranoia, there is a burgeoning "Free Range Kids" movement out there - named after the blog of the same name, a term coined by the much-maligned (meaning "heroic") Lenore Skenazy.

I say it's about time.

Children are growing up in a world that, for all of the security theater and governmental safety nets, is risky and unforgiving. They will have car wrecks. They will face violence. They will get lost. They will lose jobs. They will struggle in school. They will make mistakes. They will have investments fail. They will face sickness and death. That is what it means to live in a fallen world. Original sin cannot be fixed with gooey hand sanitizer, having mom speak to the dean of students, or burdensome bureaucratic regulations. Our kids need to know how to manage risk, how to think on their feet, how to deal with real life when bad things happen. It's called "learning." That involves allowing them to take some risks now and to use their brains. And it is up to parents to teach them to think, not confine them to a secure and sterile bubble. It involves having a little faith combined with sanctified common sense.

It used to be called "growing up."


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Our children are not supposed to be our friends. They are not precious toys that we must keep safe and clean. They are people whom we are training in how to be productive adults able to choose between right and wrong. We are to be teaching them how to think, how to analyze situations, how to choose between right and wrong. We have forgotten this.

Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Great article. My chicken raisin', dirty faced, tree climbin' river swimmin', fire buildin', dirt road bike ridin' (without a helmet, I might ad) and now learning to shoot a .22 six year old granddaughter would agree with you.

Living life is one of the most dangerous things we can do. It's much better to get hurt and dirty while you're young so that one can learn to manage larger dangers later on.

Do I worry about my girl getting hurt? You bet! I watch her do things all the time that I know will most likely end in disaster and tears. But, after the crying's done she usually goes right back at it again until she beats the problem into submission.

She has very little fear, not because she's ignorant of the possibility of failure and the real chance that she may get hurt but because she can weigh the costs against the benefits. Most of her friends, because they've never been given the opportunity for painful failure are afraid to try most anything.

So keep talking about this subject. Maybe if enough people start thinking right we'll not have to be lectured by self appointed safety police when they think that we are allowing our granddaughter to much freedom to fail.

I get tired of the evil eye.

Sue said...

Thanks for posting this. Kids aren't allowed to be kids these days, not the way my brothers and I were. My first grandchild is on the way and I plan to share this with my son and DIL.

Father Hollywood said...

Thanks, y'all. By the way, we just picked up the book Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazi from the local library, read a couple chapters aloud, and laughed until our bellies hurt! It's a great read so far.

Steve said...

There's really alot of truth to this. My brothers and I romped all around the backwoods and swamps behind Ft. Stewart where my dad had his first pastorate. We never got snakebit, drug off by some boar or drowned in mud. Our worst fear was that we'd come back so muddy mom wouldn't let us in the house without taking our clothes off. We'd be gone for hours yet we always knew where home was and mom knew we couldn't do much to hurt that blessed swamp.