Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sh*t Happens

I love to see people running around with their hair on fire.  Well, not literally, nor do I actually "love" it, but in the sense that I am quite amused by people's reactions.

That's why I think that Jeremy Clarkson is so spot on.  From the London Times On-Line, complete with very British spelling and colloquialisms:

As we know, one man once got on one plane in a pair of exploding hiking boots and as a result everyone else in the entire world is now forced to strip naked at airports and hand over their toiletries to a man in a high-visibility jacket.


In other words, the behaviour of one man has skewed the concept of everyday life for everyone else. And we are seeing this all the time.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that throughout history 90% of people have behaved quite normally 90% of the time. Of course, at the extremes, you have 5% who are goodie-goodies and who become vicars, and 5% who build exploding hiking shoes and starve their children to death.

It’s this oddball 5% that is targeted by the tidal wave of legislation...It just changes the pattern of everyday life for everyone else. This is what drives me mad.

Happily, however, I have a solution to the problem, a way that normal human behaviour can be preserved. It’s simple. We must start to accept that 5% of the population at any given time is bonkers. There are no steps to be taken to stamp this out and no lessons to be learnt when a man with a beard boards a plane with an exploding dog.

Government officials who are questioned on the steps of coroner’s courts must be reminded of this before they speak. So that instead of saying the current law is “not fit for purpose” and that something must be done, they familiarise themselves with an expression that sums up the situation rather better: “Sh*t happens.”


Mr. Clarkson nailed it, didn't he?  (I was going to say that he hit it out of the park, but that analogy would be inapproriate).  Anyway, you should go read the whole piece.

What we have at work here is the law of unintended consequences, in which the desired goal may be desirable and even admirable, but the cure is worse than the disease. In a free society we cannot possibly protect everyone and everything, we just have to accept that there is a background level of risk that one’s life could go suddenly and tragically south in a heartbeat.

So rather than live defensively we need to live with joy and gusto, not being afraid of what tragedy might befall us but rather with a thankful and joyful heart for the good things in our lives.

I think I’ll go take a run.

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