Thursday 18 December 2014

Ian O'Doherty: Kids might lose an eye? Sure, they have two anyway

Published 31/10/2013 | 21:30

Can't make head nor tail of it: The idea of the rambunctious little boy has fallen out of favour in our safety-obsessed society
Can't make head nor tail of it: The idea of the rambunctious little boy has fallen out of favour in our safety-obsessed society

We – and by 'we' I don't mean Ireland, but Western society in general – have become something of a risk-averse place.

Let's face it, the feminisation of our culture has become so prevalent that anything that involves even the tiniest sliver of potential danger is now seen as some aberration that shouldn't be tolerated.

In fact, we now exist in a weird dichotomy where people aren't allowed to do anything remotely potentially injurious to their health while at the same time, some alarmists say that our sedentary lifestyle sees the rise of the first ever generation to have a shorter life span than their parents.

Long story short – hordes of young people face the public humiliation of having their heart explode in a million globules of cholesterol by the time they're 30, while we are also propagating a bizarre eternal-life fantasy that has seen any sort of risk almost completely excised from public life.

How dangerous and, yes, ironic that at a time when people are becoming more unhealthy than ever before, we also have a hectoring, finger-wagging class which wants to stigmatise any behaviour that may encourage people to go out and live life to the full – and be prepared to accept the risks that go with that approach.

After all, we have a whole medical class which openly talks about legislating for healthy choices, and who see nothing wrong with treating any unhealthy activity as tantamount to a thought crime.

I've had one prominent doctor tell me, straight to my face, that smokers are simply stupid and deserve anything they get and just as we have replaced priests as the moral arbiters of our culture, we have now elevated elf 'n' safety considerations beyond all common sense.

The very idea of being a boisterous, rambunctious boy is under attack, as the inherent traits of maleness – aggression, competition and a willingness to take risks that seem stupid to outsiders – has been portrayed as something that is flawed and wrong and needs to be weeded out of male culture.

Think I'm joking?

I remember reading one female sociologist who went so far as to opine that social engineering could 'educate' young men to behave in more 'civilised' and 'considerate' ways.

When a middle-aged, feminist academic starts to spout about the behaviour of 14-year-old boys and, what's worse, isn't laughed out of town, then we've all gone down a weird rabbit hole where any inherently male traits are seen as somehow suspect.

Today provides yet more proof that this is a culture on its last legs with the suggestion that parents shouldn't allow their kids to duck for apples.

Dr Kathryn McCreery, an eye surgeon at Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin has warned against the game, saying: "Eye doctors are not telling families to avoid having fun at Halloween, but apple bobbing is best avoided." So they are saying fun should be avoided.

There then followed a litany of potential injuries from a kid dipping their face into a bowl of water that contains fruit. These delights include: "Scratches on the surface of the eye and infections from dirty water and water communally used by a number of children."

Yeah, because we all know how the average emergency ward is filled every Halloween with ... kids who have scratched their eye bobbing for an apple.

We probably shouldn't to be too quick to condemn the doctor because we now live in an age where anything that might contain even the most moderate levels of risk is seen as being somehow dangerous and should be stamped out.

But here's the thing – every kid should bob for apples, or play without the hindrance of interfering adults; every kid should have at least one visit to a hospital with a broken leg or arm from falling out of a tree. Every boy should at some stage feel the crunch of a hard tackle and be able to get on with things without whingeing like a big Jessie.

Every kid should be allowed to run in the playground without the school's management worried about being sued by cynical, monumentally daft parents who want to cosset their child until he becomes an inadequate crybaby who is incapable of dealing with anything that life can throw at them.

First we get rid of the lawyers? Well, nobody would argue with that – but when we're done there, can we please add the kind of doctors who want to wrap us all in suffocating cotton wool?

It's called living, and it's great fun. These doctors should try it sometime.

WELCOME TO MODERN IRELAND

So, we've a load of web summits going on at the moment – I tend to glaze over when these things are mentioned, but the nerds in the office haven't looked so excited since JJ Abrams announced a new Star Trek.

The web summit is, apparently, a Really Big Deal and tech gurus from all over the world have landed in Dublin to talk about, well, webs and summits and stuff.

And how are they greeted?

Well, they will first be told that the water in Dublin is being turned off in some parts of the city from 8pm.

Now, I know there's an old-fashioned cliché about technonerds not being great with personal hygiene.

But asking someone to come into this country with innovative ideas and then telling them they can't even have a shower when they get here just seems needlessly insulting.

LET'S HOPE OUR COPS DON'T GET ANY IDEAS

The London Met hasn't exactly covered itself in glory of late, what with the whole Plebgate fiasco.

And now they are wallowing in a big pile of embarrassing, steaming dung after they tried to 'advise' a newspaper vendor that his current copy of 'Private Eye' might prejudice the Rebekah Brooks trial.

Don'tcha just hate it when a bunch of amateurs who think they know the law try to tell other people what to do?

That, after all, is a journalist's job, not the role of the cops.

Harrumph.

Irish Independent

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