Perhaps because I read The Art of Manliness too much today, perhaps because I spent a miserable 36 hours at work where this was a theme, perhaps because I just paid my taxes as a non-dependent for the first time this month, or perhaps because I live in Williamsburg – the capital of people who dress like children playing in their parent’s 1983 closet, I have been thinking a great deal about the childishness of American culture recently.
We have become a people who demand trophies for participation, not accomplishment. A people who want our government to tell us how to live, despite our forefathers having given their lives to prevent just that. A people who are so afraid of failure, we have thrown good money after bad, after worse at our financial system, because we are afraid of failure.
Who do I blame for this? Everyone, in general. More specifically, and in increasing order, I blame the Democratic party, the news media in general, CNN in specific, lawyers, judges, and, finally, I blame a then-79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico – Stella Liebeck.
In 1994 Stella Liebeck purchased a 49 cent cup of coffee from McDonalds, and then spilled it on herself. Then sued McDonalds for serving the coffee too hot. And WON. Stella Liebeck was awarded six hundred and forty THOUSAND DOLLARS for being to incompetent to hold onto a cup of fucking coffee.
Since 1994, McDonalds has put labels on their hot drinks warning that they are hot. Ladder companies are all but non-existent due to the liability involved in selling someone a device that can cause them harm. To quote the greatest mind of the 20th century, George Carlin, “Kids need a helmet now for everything but jerking off.”
Jars of peanuts now carry three labels. One stating the ingredients, another for nutritional information, and the third, and allergy warning. The allergy warning states this: “Warning: contains peanuts.” I would imagine that you would know that a jar of peanuts contains peanuts by either looking at the contents, reading the label, or reading the ingredients. Companies are so worried about being sued for other people’s incompetence so much, that they added another, more specific, label. If you are allergic to peanuts, and you need three labels to tell you not to
eat peanuts, you deserve to die.
Because of Stella Leibeck and the flood-gate she opened for frivolous lawsuits, we have grown to believe that there is no danger in the world. And if there is, someone else will watch out for danger on our behalf. And if they don’t, there will be sufficient child proofing. And if there isn’t, we can just take people to court for not child-proofing everything and not keeping a constant watch over us.
I recommend this book: Consumed by Benjamin Barber. It is a much broader and less passionate look at what the author calls the “infantilization” of culture.