Are we really that stupid?

Warning, this post may turn into a rant. This topic has been on my heart since before Queensland’s recent rain event (Jan 2013) and it just won’t leave my thoughts. Now that my attention is not so urgently taken with filling needs, it’s time to let the topic loose.

Are we really that stupid?

Once upon a time, there were maybe a handful of ways to die: sickness, injury (especially in the workplace, if you think industrial era) and childbirth. But society went and got all advanced and created technology and the Internet and cured illnesses and improved safety and childbirth. And we all lived long lives happily ever after.

Ah, no, not quite.

While sure we did those things, we also invented news ways to kill ourselves. We created processed foods full of additives that were cheap to make and quick to prepare at home. We invented cars and planes. We even invented the mobile phone AND THEN put the Internet on it. Weren’t we smart?

Ah, no, not quite. It seems in all our inventiveness, we lost one thing – our self-preservation instinct. Though it’s true we still have a biological fight or flight response and some good reflexes, our basic need to stay alive has been swept away by how wonderful our modern society is.

I’m not even talking about ‘addictions’ that have been with us for some time like cigarettes and alcohol. We can now literally eat ourselves to death or drink ourselves to death with soft drink. We become blaise behind the wheel of this amazing moving piece of machinery. We decide that sending a text message is more important that our basic instinct to remove ourselves from danger and protect our body to keep it alive.

Are we really that stupid? Or are we just lazy? Or maybe we’ve become so comfortable with our modern lifestyles that the edges have been blurred and we’ve lost that sense of danger? Fear in a dangerous situation is a self-preservation instinct. Getting behind the wheel for the millionth time when you’ve been driving for years does not feel dangerous, it feels like auto pilot. Ditto with eating and drinking whatever feels nice. Where’s the sense of danger?

So, as a society, how do we address that? How do we steer our lives back on track to minimise the current modern dangers? Simple – we tax them or we legislate against them. No driving faster than the posted speed limit. No touching your mobile phone when you are driving. Let’s impose a ‘fat tax’ on all soft drink & fast food. Oh and put cigarettes in plain packaging. Because we really are that stupid.

The message is clear – society must be banned from what will kill it, or forced to pay a premium for the pleasure. *headdesk*

It was actually a workplace health and safety TV advertisement that got the message right. It showed the reason why you want to be safe in your workplace – because you want to come back home again to your family.

So why isn’t that kind of message enough? Speed kills. One punch can kill. It’s just not sinking in. We need some kind of magical marketing campaign that says ‘just stop doing stuff that is bad for you’. Stop doing stuff that puts your life at risk, especially if it doesn’t seem dangerous. Find your own self-preservation instinct and work at living a long, happy, healthy life.

Is that the problem? Is staying healthy and safe just too much hard work, especially in a society that’s just so very busy. Man, our priorities are screwed up.

I’ll hop off my soapbox now and admit that today I didn’t have my 5+ serves of fruit and vegetables, nor do I exercise the recommended times per week and occasionally we have a lasagne out of a box. But seriously, some of the things that are legislated and taxed in our society make me wonder just how stupid we are. We like to think we have free will.

This isn’t an ‘anti-establishment’ rant either. I’m quite happy that we have laws that say we all have to drive on the same side of the road and that you face dire consequences if you drive after drinking too much. I like laws that help other people to be safe around me. But sometimes I wish people would just take some responsibility for their choices.

Until then, we’ll continue to introduce law after tax after law after law. And who knows, maybe in the future we’ll invent a few more new ways to kill ourselves.


P.S. I’m now waiting for an onslaught of comments about people with real addictions and that it’s just not that easy to give up. Don’t start in the first place – or get help.

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