Monday, August 18, 2008

Sense, common or not

Well, Hammer and Kelly got me to thinking about common sense. Being (I assume) younger than either of them, I'm of the generation that has lost all ties to common sense. It's sad that it's gone, but what's more disturbing to me is what's replacing it.

A little background: I'm from a small town, where many people had lived their entire lives, and where values are different from city values are these days. Now, it was far from perfect: meth showed up with our lack of police, and there are, of course, always problems between people any time you get two or more people in one place. And there were people without common sense there, too, but they didn't really matter one way or another.

I didn't realize how much common sense was worth until I left there. I had always thought city folks were often odd, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I started college and ended up surrounded by them.

My hometown was fairly free of crime, but I knew to lock my door in the dorms. Other kids had lots of stuff stolen, complained about it, and didn't learn. I wonder if there's any way they could ever learn common sense. I could understand the ones who locked themselves out: there was always someone to bail them out, so they didn't learn. Having a bunch of expensive stuff stolen should teach a person something.

Unlike Kelly, I'm not so sure that the lack of common sense is due to lack of common experience. There is an active reprogramming of society, it seems. Common sense, in my experience, includes many things you can learn without the experience of others.

If I touch the stove and it burns me, I know not to touch it again. Our society has been rewarding this sort of behavior, instead. You can get money for spilling coffee on your lap. If your dietary habits are poor, sue fast food. You could argue that this comes from the inability to experience the people behind the corporations, but I think it's something far more sinister: we are being duped out of our common sense.

Warning labels are put on everything. Laws make us wear seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. We are promised services that the government will pay for, and many forget that government money is dipped from their own pockets. We are willfully ignoring the lessons we should learn because we wish to remain unaccountable. We are trying to remain children, putting others in charge of our lives.

I could be wrong, but it seems like we're actively squelching the common sense we should hold dear. If it seemed that people could at least learn the basic lessons, like not destroying their own belongings, not living beyond their means, or any of the other things I'd think you could realize through only the inherent consequences, I might be more convinced that it's not an active decline.


Hammer said...

The sporting good industry has been ravaged because judges don't have enough common sense to stop awarding a million dollars everytime lil Jimmy gets hit in the head with a baseball.

Warning labels are a result of everyone covering their ass in case someone with no common sense misuses one of their products.

It's ridiculous.

Drew said...

Yeah, and it almost seems like there's a malevolent force out there encouraging this. I keep envisioning Toohey, from The Fountainhead, telling judges these people deserve money.

Anonymous said...

Most people are really unintelligent. Whether it's book smarts or street smarts. Most people are idiots.

Kelly said...

According to your profile, you're just a few years younger than me. You're between my sister's age and my husband's age... so I'd count it as being from the same generation in some ways, but there being a bit of a gap in other ways.

I agree with you because I think it's that reprogramming that is changing the common experience for people. Some people are still being raised to believe putting your hand on the hot stove means you're an idiot who deserved to get burned, and maybe you won't do it again. Others are learning that putting your hand on that hot stove and getting burned means someone else should be held responsible because they didn't prevent you from doing it. My fear is that, in time, the common experience will be the latter, and "common sense" will dictate that you must make sure you've taken every precaution possible so that someone else won't be able to hurt themself.

Drew said...

Sorry, Kelly, I guess I should've read your profile. I didn't mean to imply anything about your age.

Kelly said...

I tend to take it as a compliment when people think I'm a bit older than I really am from reading my blog or having a conversation with me. I'm not vain about age, and I've always enjoyed the company of people who were decades my senior because they have a wealth of experience and better perspective on what really matters, in most cases. Plus, I'm still waiting for the day that I'm old enough to be "eccentric" rather than "crazy".

Drew said...

Y'know, Kelly, I feel the same way. Especially about the "eccentric" thing.