Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Grandfather Paradox. (Not the time travel, the other one.)

So. Let's talk about this.
I see variations on this person's comment appearing on lots of stories. It fits into a larger narrative about how we're failing our children by "babying" them and not exposing them to risk. The idea that the world is difficult, and people who don't know that are destined to be whiny complainers.

Let me offer another perspective.

This parent is complaining that they used to be able to do dangerous behaviors like this. Following that, since they grew up fine, it's a disappointment that kids can't do that sort of thing.

But the trick is: that parent didn't die as a kid doing stupid things. Other people probably did. And not surprisingly, those kids who died aren't around to tell their story in internet comments.

I remember hearing someone comment that, given the amount of death the occurred in the first World War, it's a pretty amazing coincidence that everyone's great-grandfathers survived.


If they had died in battle, there wouldn't be any survivors to have kids to talk about it. If I may trivialize a world-scale tragedy of incomprehensible proportions, if World War 1 had been a giant pillow fight, there would have been a lot more people alive in the aftermath to talk about how they should have ducked that day they got hit by a pillow at the Somme.

But they can't. They died, and all their descendants never existed.

So it's fine for the parent from the article to say, "I did stupid things like this and nothing bad happened to me!" as long as they also acknowledge that some people who did similar stupid things probably ended up dead. Because these games have the potential to be fatal.

Not fatal all the time. But the concept of "dangerous" doesn't just exist to allow us to separate the proficient from the cowardly, the strong from the weak. It exists because there is danger and consequences that can last for the rest of a young life. Whether that means a long lifetime of injury or a short lifetime of a sudden car accident.

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