September 18, 2002

Saw this on one of my mailing lists:

Accidents are Good.

Danger is nature's way of eliminating stupid people. Without safety, stupid people die in accidents, since the dead don't reproduce our species becomes progressively more intelligent (or at least less stupid).

While I hope it was intended as a joke, I know there are probably a lot of people out there who really think like this. Which just goes to show dumbasses can end up on either end of a finger pointing session.

By this reasoning, our greatest achievements should've been made millions of years ago, when we were all in the middle of a food chain dominated by leopards and heyenas and all sorts of other critters who quite patently made our ancestors's lives a lot shorter and sharper than they otherwise would've been. Yet when you look at the archeology, you find real innovation moving slowly, if at all, for hundreds of thousands of years at a time. It's our modern "safety-crazed" world that spits out innovations like some sort of monstrous pez dispenser.

We all laugh at the Darwin awards, shaking our heads at spectacularly stupid death. Good riddance, and let's have some more! Yet these represent real tragedies, examples of the almost criminal neglect of a society for one of its members. I'm not saying the vendor is at fault when some kid drags a coke machine on his head, I'm saying it's the parent's fault for not teaching the kid common sense in the first place.

Why am I getting so worked up about this, you ask? After all, haven't I gone on record time and again about how dangerous stupid people really are? Aren't we just culling the gene pool, albeit in a rather brutal way?

Sorry chief, doesn't work that way. Humanity hasn't relied on its genetic heritage to survive for at least thirty-five thousand years, probably longer. Ever since our ancestors figured out you could teach and learn just by talking to each other, it's been societies that have been driving our success, not our genes.

Societies are participatory. The only way to succeed is to contribute. In fact, history has proven time and again that the more participatory a society is, the more successful it becomes. The reverse is also true, especially in the long term. By preventing any member of a society from making a contribution, whether from neglectful disaster or outright discrimination, it prevents that entire society from advancing.

Of course, it's also society's job to turn negative contributions into positive ones. Ultimately, that's what criminal justice has always been about. Willfully stupid people seem to always end up running into the law eventually. By sticking them in a cell we not only protect ourselves, we also give them another opportunity to contribute. Some eventually wise up and contribute in positive ways we all recognize, others contribute simply by being an example of what happens when you're stupid. No, I'm not advocating paroling murders and molesters here... it's quite possible, sometimes preferable, to make positive contributions to a society from behind bars.

Everyone should be given a chance. Hell, everyone should be given as many chances as they need. It's our job as a nation, a society, and a people to maximize each chance's effectiveness. Ultimately, that's what liberty is all about. Yes, yes, we have to be careful we don't give clever people a chance to goof off, but we can't let that worry get in the way of our goals. Genius knows no boundaries, no blood lines, no color, no class. It can manifest at any time, any place. When we let our own ignorance and prejudice turn a potential positive into a definite negative, we all take one step closer to the abyss.

Because there's nothing more stupid than waste.

Posted by scott at September 18, 2002 04:42 PM

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What about those who contribute absolutely nothing to society, who do nothing but take? For example, our society supports many (convicts excepted) who are able-bodied but do not work, pay taxes, or otherwise contribute. Is it then our job to MAKE them contributing members? If so, how would you propose doing this?

Posted by: on February 28, 2003 04:18 PM

With respect, I'm talking about life and death, not making someone work.

Posted by: scott on February 28, 2003 07:12 PM
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