Musings on decisions and factors that drive them.
Feeding the nanny state on the Fourth
I'm not a real fan of the Fourth of July. Not since my university days when I worked evenings and weekends in a big city hospital ER to earn tuition money. A parade of disasters would occur each and every Fourth. Facial injuries, burns, blindness. A great many were self-inflicted injuries. But not all. Most resulted from the "it-won't-happen-to-me" mentality of not just children, but more reprehensibly, of adults who insisted on showing off with fireworks. It's been decades since my ER days, but my general attitude towards fireworks handled by amateurs hasn't changed a whole lot. Perhaps the only significant shift is my viewpoint. I worry more about the persons on the receiving end of others' negligence or bravado.
Nine houses were set ablaze in the Seattle area this Fourth due to mishandling of fireworks. Last year there were two houses near my neighborhood that caught on fire. In this region, some types of fireworks (much more explosive than sparklers or Roman candles) are "legal." And, legal or not, they can be deadly if mishandled. TV coverage of this past weekend's tragedies indicated that this "legality" somehow excused those who set off the fireworks from any responsibility for the injuries to others and their property. [I don't know how true this is. We drive cars, which are legal. But when we drive irresponsibly, we are liable for our manner of handling the car, i.e. the legal item.]
Many argue the "remedy" to these Fourth of July debacles is simply to ban fireworks. While initially inclined to support this direction, I also wondered why we must always pass a law, a regulation, or a fine to instill a sense of responsibility in persons for their actions. My English friends refer to this as "the nanny state."
We come round to the overarching purpose of what is hoped to be achieved by our actions. If this purpose is not the purpose of all those involved or affected, then actions pursued or suggested will not be "owned" or respected. It is imperative to integrate differing viewpoints into a simple, clear framework for discussion of possible options. Hence, we combine "to allow festive pyrotechnic enjoyment" with "while ensuring the safety of persons and property." A ban is but one suggested solution. A ban on unlicensed pyrotechnical amateurs could be another possible solution. Penalties for mishandling fireworks is another. Stiffer penalties for purchasing illegal fireworks. Penalties on persons manufacturing and selling illegal fireworks. Training in the proper handling of pyrotechnics. Working a few shifts in a big city ER. There are more possible solutions and there could be a combination of actions providing an even better approach. But it all starts with working on the overarching framework for the decision. Then one would weigh the options in terms of how well they address the purpose. It many not altogether prevent our becoming a "nanny state," but there will at least be some thought to selection of more viable "nanny" actions.