A Limit to Progress; or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Safety

There we were. On our side: youthful and wondrous. The other side: archaic and savage.

On our side, the benefit of logic. On their side, the lightning curvature and Eldritch Horror of unreason.

They had the sunlight and elements. We were full of booze.

Thus began the greatest discovery of the 21st Century by the extended Minimus family.

wrestle me for america - Copy

It may not have looked precisely like this, but it had EXACTLY that much energy.

See, we had discovered that there had been installed, on our community’s playground equipment, safety mechanisms. GASP!

Railings on the slide, and on the ladder. The LADDER!

Soft wood chips as the fill material, instead of sharp rocks. WHAT!

Metal replaced with plastic. TO HELL YOU SAY!

A governor on the Merry-Go-Round. A GOVERNOR! LIKE THEY PUT ON CARS, YOU MISERABLE PIECES OF GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT! THE DEVICE THAT FUCKING STOPS THE CAR FROM GOING TOO FAST!

Apologies. I’ve had a rough week. First they still didn’t come up with hoverboards or an answer to climate change, and only ONE of the Koch Brothers dies? Not sure I can handle much more.

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Unlike David Koch anymore. hueheuhuehuehue

Listen.

Here’s the story, mostly unvarnished.

The venue for the family reunion was a local park. A municipal park that was still standing even though my friends and I had done our best to wear out all the fun things to do when we were growing up.

We would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those blasted maintenance folks.

Maintenance folks, who were most likely told by City Leaders to install safety features on the playground equipment. Because of those damn kids.

Safety features on playground equipment…

Upon reflection, I heard a distant whisper … “PLAYSAFE”

Upon further reflection I decided that this specific wordplay I heard was more a hiccup of the cosmos reminding me about Orwellian value statements than it was a hot mike from the LEOs peering through the looking glass.

In yet other, unrelated news, the stock market and politics have both jumped outta their fuckin pants upon realization that you could just go ahead, and ya know, publish things like “PLAYSAFE” as official doctrine.

Keep an eye out for that one, wretched audience. If you have eyes, I mean. If you’re blind and hearing this I guess maybe listen extra careful?

This is the kind of silliness that sterilizes the fun right out of playgrounds, to send kids looking for non-polymer adventure in empty lots, railroad tracks and suspect bridges. You know, where the hobos live.

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Pictured: Professional Hobo. Don’t ever go to his “house.”

Fortunately, the playground still had metal slides and a metal jungle gym. It was the type of unidentifiable metal that came straight from the 70s, when American manufacturing was at its most competitive against the outside world. The kind of competitive that maybe, just maybe, doesn’t make the metal to spec. Or maybe it does, and it’s just hot as fuck and the elements have worn the equipment down.

The playground was also a proving ground, where kids learn to swear and fight.

The fighting was sporadic, because hey, kids. But the swearing was phenomenal, because hey, kids.

It was the type of metal structure that, when touched for the first time in the dead heat of the summer, instantly invoked the individual doing the touching to shout out with RIGHTEOUS FURY AND TERRIBLE ANGER: “SON-OF-A-FUCK”

In short, it was the kind of metal that taught us as youth that sometimes, fun hurts. The kind of slide where enterprising youths find wax paper, used for the sole purpose of gaining maximum velocity on a steep decline toward a pit full of gravel.

You know what kind of fun I’m talking about.

Fortunately, the small town playground still has swings made of mid-grade metal and low-grade rubber. The kind that will pinch hands, and break at a moment’s notice, ready to send the most adventurous of young souls careening into the wild blue yonder with nothing but a *SNAP* and a *WHEEEEEE*.

Unfortunately, while the Merry-Go-Round still looked volatile enough to either send them flying into nearby structures at high speeds or make them wish they had when they start re-tasting lunch, the simple machine had a fallback.

A governor.

They installed a governor on a child’s toy.

For shame.

How can kids entertain dreams of becoming astronauts or rodeo clowns when there are items placed on their favorite rides that make it impossible to feel the full effects of centrifugal force?

That’s when an uncle of mine (who for reasons of Internet publishing, will remain anonymous) told a quick story. Let’s call him Uncle Publius.

See, Uncle Publius liked to tell stories. Don’t we all. Uncle P told the story about one time, when he was a visitor at an undisclosed nuclear power plant, when the call of nature had to be answered.

“I had just sat down, and the bathroom lights went off,” Uncle P said. “What could I do? I had to stand up on the toilet, with my pants around my ankles, and start waving my hands around until the lights came back on.”

What mean, Publius? What the fuck mean?

What the fuck mean is that technology has effectively taken away our risk, whether bathroom or playground or workplace. And when your risk gets taken away from regular proceedings, you go to new proceedings.

We’re all gamblers, at a goddamned biological level. We can’t stop ourselves from it. Some propagate by taking the safe bets (*BARF) and some end up living anyway after risky bets. As with all things, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.

And then, we took away our ability to risk. We, the royal We, the editorial We, DECIDED THAT IN AMERICA, SAFETY WAS BETTER THAN RISK IN FREEDOM.

That should have been a wake-up call on its own. Lack of risk equals no reward ever, right?

Not necessarily…

It doesn’t equate some socialistic hellhole. To remind people, socialism is when The People Own The Means Of Production.

This is just too-safe nonsense.

But when, Publius?

Sometime after clean-up efforts of the next Revolution have concluded, and we can return to an environment that’s a bit more open to risky business. And by Revolution, I’m not necessarily saying that it needs to be “Water the Tree of liberty”-type nonsense. That could be the case, or it could not. Mainly it’s just a bunch of Internet Tough Guys and members of Meal Team Six repeating that particular saying anyway.

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Yes, most of them look like this.

It could be a cultural revolution, or a political one, or a demographic one (that’s coming anyway – OOGA BOOGA, WHITE PEOPLE!). Revolutions can be bloody, but they don’t need to be. It’s all dependent on how angry and armed the groups being asked to change are…

Ah shit, nevermind. I forgot I’m talking to/about Americans here.

Fortunately, they really do look a lot like the latter two photos above, which also represent people severely allergic to risk. So, it’s possible that we could get over it all, and remove all the safety mechanisms (or most, anyway). We’re not exactly talking about Irwin Mainway’s Bag O’ Glass or Invisible Pedestrian, after all. Just removing the governors from Merry Go Rounds, and somesuch.

But, we would have to get over the helicopter parenting and our own perpetual anxiety from Mean World Syndrome. So, it’s not impossible, but maybe improbable until then.

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