Saturday, July 15, 2006

America: The Nanny State

Luke and I were quaffing a brew in a small pub in Kesthely, Hungary. The World Cup was on (1998), and we were having a fine time. Then something unusual happened. A man approached us and asked if he could join us. Now, that in itself is not unusual, except that he spoke English. "I haven't had good English conversation in months," he said, in a mild South African accent.

We talked, but mostly listened, to the fascinating account of this man's travels abroad for the last year. He'd been everywhere, it seemed, even the USA. "America is a nanny state. Don't do this, stay off of that. In other places, people just use common sense instead of fences and railings."

I thought his insight was quite lucid. I've had that phrase -- "nanny state" -- in my consciousness ever since. It pops into my mind whenever I see people so afraid of litigation that they stomp all the fun and adventure and risk right out of life. The pool I took my kids to today had no less than a dozen rules posted in huge letters in multiple locations.

T.S. Eliot once remarked that we dream of creating a society (i.e., a set of laws/rules) so perfect, no one will have to be good.


Blogger The Bearded said...

We are a "nanny state". In New Zealand, where "men are men" (and sheep...), I took a jet-boat ride that at one point could have ripped my body in two had I leaned out of the boat. The Kiwi perspective? If you're crazy enough to sign up for this stuff, that's you're problem.

5:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home