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As a child, did I wear a helmet when I took rides on my bicycle, went downhill skiing, went rock climbing, or when I played baseball? Of course not. Helmets were around during those times, but nobody ever used them because we weren’t afraid to get hurt or hit in the head. We were able to take risks and if something did hit us, we were able to deal with the pain.
Accordingly, when I did fall off my bicycle while doing tricks in the local parking lot behind the bank, landing on my head and bending my bicycle frame, did anyone call an ambulance? Of course not. I was a kid; a young person who was intended to be outside making mistakes and dealing with the consequences, no matter how painful they were.
Hell, when I was a kid, I played with dangerous chemicals in my fathers’ lab, unsupervised. I was taking a huge risk not only because of the hazardous chemicals, but I did so without an acid-proof apron, gloves, face shield, or (*gasp!*) a helmet.
Nowadays we have come to the other extreme when it comes to safety. Our children are bubble-wrapped from head to toe and must wear a helmet whenever they play any sport. Knee and elbow pads are also often used in addition to a helmet, as are GPS-Enabled cell phones (so parents can track their kids in real-time). Instead of teaching their children what to do if they or one of their friends falls off their bicycle/skateboard/scooter/roller skates, they are instructed to dial 911 from their cell phone and wait for help to arrive.
Suddenly as a society we have become so obsessed that when a child falls off their bicycle, we are suddenly obligated to call an ambulance and have them rushed to a hospital to be medically evaluated by a doctor before it can be reasonably assumed that they are okay.
But in my childhood, I would perform random stunts with my friends such as racing or jumping over obstacles on our bicycles, sledding down dangerous icy slopes, exploring abandoned buildings with nails sticking up out of the floors, and launching fire crackers with sling shots. Did we wear helmets, or any other protective clothing or equipment for any of these activities? Of course not. We didn’t need to. If anyone ever got hurt, we all knew how to perform basic first aid, and we knew where to go if we needed help. Despite all the minor injuries, bumps and bruises, torn clothing, sunburns, and sporting equipment that was damaged beyond repair, we all survived and turned out just fine.
This quest for safety has gone out of control and marketing companies have taken advantage of this stupidity and we are now able to purchase a helmet specifically designed for any activity. Gone are the days when kids wore helmets just for football, hockey and lacrosse; today, kids are forced (by law in some places) to wear helmets for bicycle riding, downhill skiing, roller skating, mountain climbing, skateboarding, baseball, etc.
When the quest for safety reaches the level where it is now a parental responsibility, kids are forbidden from participating in such activities that might pose a risk to their safety and well being. In the near future, we’ll likely see more helmets being marketed towards children, and more stupid products being sold that supposedly safeguard our kids from everything that might pose a risk to them.
This is what I refer to as The Pussification of America. It’s the belief that if we keep our kids away from everything that has even the slightest risk, they will turn out better in the long run. In a sense, these beliefs have been responsible for our children being glued to television sets and video games. Video games that allow our kids to play real sports in a virtual world where there is absolutely no chance of them getting hurt. The problem? Instead of our kids going out and playing sports, they’re inside on the sofa playing them.
No kids ever want to go outside anymore because they’ve become pussified. They’re utterly terrified of getting wet, dirty, hurt, or infected with germs. It’s almost as if this movement towards safety has gone so far as to scare young people away from enjoying their everyday lives outside. So who’s really benefiting from all of this safety crap? Nobody.