Monday, 23 April 2012

Uncommon Sense

All sorts of good things die out over time. Rainforests... elephants... the art of written correspondence... And, to this endangered species list we can now add one more creature. Increasingly elusive but once so valued, we need to protect this rare vestige of our natural world.

Common sense.

Ah yes, common sense. Native intelligence killed off by our increasing reliance on instruction, legislation, signs, labels, and other people to take responsibility for that which we are responsible for. This is a world where we blame anyone but ourselves when things go wrong. How did we get here?

Perhaps in some ways we've let emotion make us exempt from being responsible. Because bad things happen. Sometimes terrible, tragic things. And when they do, it helps if there is somewhere to point our anger, and on which to focus our grief. These emotions can be so overwhelming that we will naturally look for a way to shift the weight of it.

So we shout at companies and demand more warnings on things. This is despite the fact that you can have all the warnings in the world and bad things will still happen.

The truth is, the more we expect warnings and come to rely on them, the more danger we put ourselves in, because we will simply charge on ahead unless someone dangles a warning under our noses.

Our reliance on warnings is killing us.

Recently a New Zealand mother of eight died after excessive Coca Cola consumption. She would drink up to 10 litres of soft drink day. Her partner said "I never thought about it. It's just a soft-drink, just like drinking water." Her family says that nobody knew the dangers of drinking this much coke because the product didn't come with a warning. Coca Cola doesn't provide a caution label against binge consumption but their bottles do offer a list of ingredients. It's more than just water. "I never thought about it" says it all. 

So would a warning on the bottle really have been the answer, when this is a simple lack of common sense? After all, this woman was also a heavy smoker - a product which comes with a very obvious warning indeed. Warnings do not stop us making poor decisions. The sad thing is, this woman's body had given her warning signs but for some reason a label from a soft drink company is the only one worth listening to.

Being aware of what you are putting into your body – especially in such extraordinary quantities – is the responsibility of every adult individual. We have to stop relying on food companies to tell us what to eat and how to eat it. Chugging back fizzy drink until a company tells us to stop is not the way to go. We have enough intelligence and information at our disposal to be informed about what we eat. We have a choice.

The same goes for the risks we take. For instance, there was a case of a teenage girl who got tipsy at a house party and jumped into the shallow end of the swimming pool at the house. She hit her head and is now, sadly, confined to a wheelchair. A simple case of foolish decisions resulting in a tragic lesson, right?

This young woman didn't seem to think so. Instead she sued the family who owned the pool for not putting up... you guessed it... more warning notices. The young woman lost her case because she was entirely responsible for her own actions. I can appreciate it would have been much easier to point the finger than face the fact that she had caused her own suffering. It's hard to face sometimes, but we are in control of what we do.

With all the finger pointing going on these days, are we really letting other people and organisations run our lives? Are we actually handing over responsibility for the decisions we make to someone else? Why are we not able to stand up and say "I know what I am doing"? Surely it is a liberating thing to own our actions. At the end of the day there should be no one else to blame.

Let's please revive common sense and stop waiting for someone else to tell us how to live.