Friday, October 02, 2009


A small straw in the wind from Spain. The rescue agencies in the scenic and mountainous and thus dangerous region of Catalonia are now going to charge lost hikers, mountain climbers, skiers, and similar types for the costs of their search-and-rescue if the rescuees have been demonstrably negligent in their preparations.

A couple of thoughts.

The Westernization of the world, and certainly Western Europe, proceeds apace. Although this is not the march of democracy but rather the more current march of fecklessness.

Generations, now, have grown up with some combination of the 1990s ‘Valley Girl’ and ‘happy slacker’ mentality: all the world’s a movie set and you just do what you like and it will all work out to fun and a real good party.

Of course, even that isn’t the worst of it. Anybody who gave it a moment’s thought would realize that the ‘Valley Girl’ characters were not really possessed of scads of money through wealth and doting or absent parents, but rather they were just actors – and the Mercedes or the trendy Jeep was just a vehicle rented by the production company for the days of filming. And that there was a veritable army of highly-organized and brutally serious professional folks gathered for the purpose of making sure that what the ‘Valley Girls’ experienced in each of the scenes went exactly as planned in the script.

Yes, any kid raised on movies and TV might get the wrong impression on a ‘40s or ‘50s’ or early 60’s afternoon: you might be forgiven as a child or youth for thinking that you can actually drive an expensive car up to the front door of a Madison Avenue or Wilshire Boulevard office building in the middle of a weekday and leave it there right in front because there was an open parking space, and you could leave it with the windows open and without even taking the keys out. Or that you could drive a motorcycle or car at high speeds along San Francisco streets or Los Angeles freeways without ever getting into a wreck or killing a few folks. But in those days you had to grow up and you realized more or less quickly that ‘that was the movies’.

Not so now, it appears.

Generations are used to the idea that your own life can ‘happen’ just like in the movies, and you can build a self on the basis of your favorite movie character or actor and ‘do’ that stuff and it will be as much fun – and without consequences – for you as it was for the actor. Yah.

So there are hordes of clueless youth (not all of them young any longer) – with no ‘situational awareness’ as the military used to teach – who are heading to all sort of fun and even dangerous venues to – for lack of anything else to give meaning to their days – relive the scenes of their favorite movies or characters.


Except for when you wind up in the late afternoon, in flip-flops and a tee-shirt you just bought down in the village – on a mountain that’s fixing to go into night-mode.

Which is where you Tweet or Text or even call the local 911 on your personal communication device and start bawling for the cavalry. And want them to bring up some snacks or Correct bottled water while they’re at it.

This is not what rescue units are really there for. They’re there to risk life and limb to rescue folks who through no fault of their own have been caught in unforeseeable and dangerous circumstances.

Ah - fault. Yes, it sounds like we’re blaming the victim here, doesn’t it?

And thereby hangs the tale.

Responsibility – that’s a baaad word. An ‘oppressive’ word, no? A word devised by ‘oppressors’ to continue justifying their ‘oppression’ of those whom they have chosen to ‘oppress’. Anybody with a university education knows that now.

You can see where things have gotten out of hand.

In order to draw attention to genuinely ‘structural’ problems in a society a certain school of thought has ‘deconstructed’ the idea that anybody is responsible for anything that happens to him/her in life. And there is some worthwhile insight to this, when properly applied.

Going out for fun with nary a thought to what supplies and equipment might be necessary for the situation you’re going to put yourself in – that’s not at all how life works. That’s not at all how one conducts a sober and mature life or enters upon certain activities in life. Although, of course, the whole idea of ‘responsibility’ and the well-grounded mindset and skills of self-management (even self-discipline … the horror!) are not Correct and the thoroughly modern liberated person does not have any truck with such ‘oppressions’.

You can see where this could go in a society and a culture.

The Catalonian rescue services see it all too often. And now they want to do something about it. Dedication, professionalism, and heroism are requirements in their line of work. But they’d rather not risk their lives and limbs and the well-being of their own families just because some witless blockheads think they’re entitled and empowered to play out scenes from their favorite movies, shows, or virtual games (lest I date myself) in places that are actually dangerous. And without the benefit of that small army of production crewmembers who actually work hugely hard and carefully to make those scenes look like effortless serendipity.

There was a time when military training could do a really good job of demonstrating these realities. Not so much anymore. And the present misadventures under fire demonstrate clearly that even the highest levels of military – as well as civilian – command have sort of lost the knack of how they’re supposed to go about their jobs.

So I say good for the Catalonian rescue services.

And to quote Mark Twain (himself quoting a certain quaint but still useful Book): Go thou and do likewise.

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