Monday, February 15, 2010

On Risk and Consequence

Life entails a certain amount of risk. Getting up in the morning increases your chances of dying. Driving is a statistically dangerous activity. Choosing to submit yourself to the forces of gravity and physics while attached to or riding on bits of slippery fiberglass is dangerous. Whizzing around on bits of sharp metal on ice is dangerous. Inhaling a toxic cocktail of nicotine, additives and pollutants is dangerous. Eating food high in sodium and fat is dangerous. Drinking alcohol is dangerous.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, there are risks associated with every single minute of our lives, and with every choice we make. Ignorance of the risks is not acceptable grounds for whining about the consequences if and when they catch up with you. Similarly, feeling that you are invulnerable and above the consequences of your actions does not excuse you from paying the potential price.
Take as an example the young girl who died while skiing at Calabogie a couple of weeks ago. She lost control, hit a tree, and died. Outraged readers in the comments section cried "cut the trees down!" The reason she hit a tree (which are not generally known for hanging around in the middle of ski runs) was because she was going too fast for her abilities and therefore went where she wasn't supposed to.

Another more recent example was the young Georgian luge pilot who lost control and died the day before the Olympics started. The response was to pad the luge run support poles and decrease the length of the overall run. I don't think anyone who saw the video of his death harbours any illusions that hitting a pole, padded or not, at 120-160 kms/hour will result in anything but instant death.

Both of these incidents are sad, no doubt, but utterly preventable... no-one made the child go skiing; no-one made the young man choose luge. And at the end of the day, it wasn't the tree or the ski hill operators or the luge run that were to blame: it was human error and/or hubris.

Sports "accidents" are not what really gets my goat, though. Pursuing exhilaration and glory for sports may not always be the safest thing, but it's somewhat forgivable. No, it's the other idiots that really get me: smokers who get cancer and then whine about how they didn't know it was bad for them. Obese people who try to sue fast food companies for their own inability to make sound nutritional choices. People who sue when their coffee spills and burns them.

Know the risks. Make your choices and accept full personal responsibility for your own actions. If you die from smoking, it's not the government's fault for not making them illegal, it's because you were dumb enough to start in the first place, and sincerely believed that little fairy tale "it won't happen to me". Let me tell you now... you're nothing special. God or fate or destiny doesn't love you more than anyone else, and if you put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger, the odds are excellent that you'll end up just as dead as anyone else.

But go ahead and try it, anyhow. The world is a little too cramped as it stands, and you'll at least do us all the courtesy of removing your genes from the pool as you excuse yourself. One final favour? Kill yourself quickly with your vices so as to minimize the strain on our health care system. K, thanks, bye.


lookinout said...

Yeah, you're right!

Velda said...

Wow. You really should write a book.

Susan said...

Thanks, Gillian and Velda. I re-read this several times before and after posting, wondering if I should post something this potentially inflammatory (and angry.) However I decided that I stood behind the sentiments, however phrased, and stood back to take a lambasting. I am pleasantly surprised to find the first two comments approving... thanks for your support.

Velda said...

I wish I was as well versed in speaking my thoughts as you are.