“Hey, Mom, look at me!” Every five-year-old shouted those words when he came up with some new skill or trick. Whether it was riding a bicycle without training wheels, lacing his own shoes or doing a crude cartwheel, it was a call for approval. Good Moms usually gave the little guy some praise that made it all worthwhile.
Most of us have done some showing off. Sometimes it is a goofy thing and sometimes it is a little more serious. Those of us of a certain age were usually careful that our showing off did not lead to disaster. Those who took too great a risk were considered stupid. For instance, watching Fat Tony do a cannonball in the pool was funny because he jumped into the pool from the low diving board. That is a far cry from some of today’s show-oafs who would up the stakes by jumping off the roof. All too often, the ones taking it to an extreme do not get the results they expected.
Between the “Hey Mom, look at me!” attitude, instant video and the young folks’ need for everything extreme, we have a generation of reckless dolts injuring themselves for naught. They may have thought it was a good idea when they started rolling the video camera, but the end results are the expected consequences for stupidity.
Last month I shared a video that took the tune of the old song “That’s Amore” and put it to words mocking the latter-day show-oafs. It was entitled “That’s a Moron.” Well- placed clips of such moronic behavior was displayed, matching the words of the song. They had a lot from which to choose. There are thousands of videos of foolish stunts from which to choose. They involve the gamut from dangerous stunts with motor vehicles to taunting big animals to things too incredibly stupid to believe.
Since my youth, I have handled and fired firearms from pellet guns to 50 caliber machine guns to 8 inch howitzers. I have handled explosive ranging from sparklers to TNT. I have dealt with big animals and with some people who were considered dangerous. I still have all my fingers and toes. The reason is that there are safe ways to do all of that. Going back to the arquebuses of the Middle Ages, people realized that handling guns and ammo in certain ways prevented accidents. Again from the Middle Ages, folks realized that dealing with petards and other explosives was a lot safer if they followed certain rules. The same goes for animals, vehicles, dangerous people, etc. If one follows these rules, they have a high likelihood of avoiding danger. Most are what we call “common sense.” For many adults, it all goes back to kindergarten and that first safety rule, “Don’t run with scissors.”
This fad of taking stupid risks is widespread. I wonder if the people doing these stunts realize just how dangerous they are. In my generation, adults took time to warn us of the dangers. We were told to leave the dog alone on a hot day, to ride our bicycles safely and to avoid silly stunts.
Jumping: if you judge by action movies, people can jump from 20 feet or more and feel no discomfort. In fact, a ten foot drop can be a lot. People are not made for it. The structure of our legs limits us. Part of the problem are kids trying to imitate a French sport called parkour. They overestimate their ability to jump and get hurt. People are not supposed to jump off rooftops, eaves or terraces. Results run the gamut from sprains and fractures to paralysis and death. All just to get a few moments attention.
Vehicles: Cars and motorcycles are subject to the laws of physics. Greater speed increases the force in play. The same scientific laws that affect car on the highway also affect race cars and stunt vehicles. Racing cars and stunt cars are made to apply the laws of physics for their special purpose. This is why Forumula 1 racers are so different from the family sedan. Vehicular stunts are normally the province of trained individuals. If you do not have that training nor the specially-fitted stunt car, you have no business trying those tricks in your car or motorcycle.
Animals: One of the first lessons kids learn is to not provoke the dog or cat. Do not stick things in their ears or pull their tails. Do not annoy them on hot days because heat makes some animals testy. Whether tame or wild, animals do not have much of a capacity for reason. They react emotionally and instinctually.
Animals that are not pets, whether domestic or wild, react differently than those who are used to people. Pets see people as individuals. Wild animals and most non-pet domestics do not. Their entire existence is dominated by instincts and needs. Cattle, sheep, and goats share this with deer, bears and racoons. The animal does that for which its nature calls.
For instance, some animals are territorial. They resent anyone intruding into their space. Some species will repel an intruder harshly. Some give warnings that the intruder is not welcome. Most people would take this as a sign to leave. By the way, it gets even worse during mating season.
Another instinct is to protect their young. A horrible incident senveral years ago occurred on a college campus. A moose with her baby had strayed onto the campus. She was near a building entrance. A man heading to the building suddenly found himself confronted by the enraged moose. She mauled him to death. If you see baby animals in the wild, understand that the mother is nearby and will move to protect them. The sight of fawns, moose calves, bear cubs and the like are a sign to get away.
Taunting and provoking animals is a fool’s game. It is worse when dealing with smarter animals. For instance, a dog that cannot retaliate immediately can attack some time later when circumstances permit. Dogs remember their tormentors for a long time. Even animals considered “meek” can do harm when provoked. Sheep and goats can head-butt with unexpected force. Cows can kick hard enough to shatter bones. If provoked, deer can gore with antlers. Bears have a whole natural arsenal to express their rage.
Leave the animals alone. Do not enter their enclosures and do not taunt them. You would be surprised how an enraged animal can break from its enclosure to attack. You do not have the means to defend against it. A cow, bull, or bear is too big and too well-armed for you. Be it horns and hooves or claws and teeth, it is bigger, badder and faster than you.
Small animals are not safe, either. Racoons, possum, skunks and foxes can each do harm with claws and teeth. Add the fact that some of these little critters may have rabies.
Firearms: there have been rules of safety since someone figured out that firearms can be as hazardous to their users as to their target. Most firearms accidents are the result of stupidity. There are loads of videos of fools doing all sorts of idiot tricks. Just as bad are folks videotaping first-time shooters who have not been shown the basics of safe firing. Guns are not a joke and bullet wounds can be forever. People who treat them as toys face the possibility of harming themselves or others.
The first rule of safety is to treat every firearm as if it is loaded. It is that simple. Never point a gun at something unless you intend to shoot it. There is a safety on a firearm for a reason. Loaded guns should not be jostled or thrown. Here are a few simple rules that the video clowns ignore.
As if common sense were not enough, the penalties for careless gun handling can be stiff. A gun accident that results in physical harm or death becomes a legal matter. Criminal negligence and involuntary manslaughter are no joke. The courts do not want to hear, “I didn’t mean it.”
Explosives: As far back as I can remember, the local newspaper always carried a story or two about people who got hurt during the 4th of july. The reports appeared a day or two after the 4th. Usually, it was about someone who lost an eye or a couple of fingers. Sometimes it was a whole hand. Most of these incidents involved folks who somehow tampered with the fireworks to make a bigger bang. They might have put several cherry bombs in a pipe or removed the powder from firecrackers to make what amounted to a small bomb.
People often played with firecrackers and cherry bombs. Usually it was something silly like blowing up plastic army men. Most accidents were small. The folks who got hurt were the ones who went too far.
In the 1970s, what with the popularity of magazines like “Soldier of Fortune”, several publishers began offering manuals of improved explosives. Some were reprints of old CIA and army manuals. Some were entirely new. There was no shortage of idiots who bought the books and tried their hands at making pipe bombs. Because they misunderstood explosives, many of these cretins were hoisted by their own petards. Back in 1980, one vendor of paramiltiary books told me that he had one customer who lost an arm to the explosives. The man came back to his shop to buy more books on the subject. To his credit, he stopped selling them.
Improvised explosives are meant for a military emergency. The original manuals were also meant for use by people who had already learned to use explosives. Some key information was omitted because it was assumed the reader had already been taught. Things like the dangers of static electricity and the reason the work areas has to be squeaky clean. I remember how Pickatinny Arsenal handled everything in a very controlled environment.
Whether tampering with fireworks or making their own, fools tend to underestimate the power of their toys. Instead of a loud POP they get a massive BOOM. Both personal injury and damage to property ensue. The point is that explosives should be left to the experts. Rational folks among us know that. Frankly, I doubt the morons will ever get the point.
Water: swimming is a lot of fun, whether in a pool, a lake or at the shore. There are a few safety rules wherever you go. Beaches and public pools have lifeguards who maintain order. Private pools are another thing entirely.
In-ground pools usually have a deep and shallow end. Many have a small diving board. Around them is a walkway of concrete or stone. Swimming and diving is normally safe for most folks. Morons try and take it to another level.
One recent fad is for a moron to jump from the roof to the pool. They often mis-calculate the horizontal distance from roof to pool. Instead of landing in the water, they fall short. Splat. Others do not account for the water’s resistance. Jumping from poolside might be safe. From a roof there is not enough resistance to slow the diver. He is going to feel the impact with the pool’s bottom.
Another moronic stunt is to try to leap across the pool to the other side. If they do not make it, and many don’t, they crash into the pool and the side of the concrete walkway. Equally stupid are those who try to jump in when the pool is frozen. If they break through, they have the problem of being under the ice.
Above-ground pools are not made for diving. Suffice to say that the morons create more than their share of accidents.
As with other pastimes, swimming is best when common sense rules. It is a hazard when morons and their stunts take to the water.
Fighting: the martial arts and combat sports like boxing and wresting are done within certain parameters. They have rules and conditions that keep them safe. Matches are organized according to specific criteria. That includes things such as skill levels, weight classes and the like. Bouts are refereed according to the rules of that specific sport.
The morons have taken to staging fights, brawls and stunts for video. The bouts can be among consenting people or forced on someone by surprise. Invariably, people get hurt. Whether by showing off and having an accident or getting pommeled by an opponent, morons make a mess of themselves. Their videos of fights and attempts at martial arts tricks all too often end up in pain.
Ironically, many videos of violent assaults end up being used to convict the attackers. The need to be seen frequently translates to the means for a slam dunk conviction.
The sad fact in our times is that morons abound. So long as there are video cameras and video sharing websites, there will be buffoons showing off. What with folks also trying to imitate extreme sports, we can expect emergency rooms to be kept busy.
There are times when people have to take risks. Situations involving disasters and threats to human life may demand risking harm. The foolish thing is to risk harm for no good reason. Giving your pals a laugh or making a video is not cause enough to risk life and limb. Health and life are precious. They should only be risked in times of danger. The cause has to justify the value of one’s health. Anything less is selling life cheap. Those who do that are morons, as they obviously do not recognize the value of life.