Columnist for Thursday, 3/1 - jims

Cluelessness In a Modern Society

Imagine my surprise one morning upon waking to hear that Highway 17, the freeway connecting Santa Cruz to the Santa Clara Valley, was closed due to snow. Santa Cruz and surrounding areas were on the recieving end of a set of storms mixed with cold weather. It managed to be cold enough that the rain turned to snow down to an elevation of five hundred feet. Patchen Pass, where Hwy 17 crests the Santa Cruz mountains has an elevtion of about nineteen hundred feet. Needless to say, there was snow on the ground. Not having to commute anymore, I just smiled and went on with my day.

Throughout that monday and the next couple of days, reports flowed in about roads being closed due to downed trees, power out, etc. Eventually, however, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol did manage to reopen the road and things slowly returned to normal. However, a rather enlightening story crossed the wire in The Mercury News on the 27th of February. At some point, the CHP were allowing people over Highway 17, but only if they had chains. Vehicles with four wheeled drive, which are way too damn plentiful in this state with the popularity of SUVs, were not allowed.

Oh, the CHP initially tried letting people with four-wheeled drive attempt the road. In a telling quote, however, they stopped the practice pretty quickly. The article simply stated that those drivers that were allowed to attempt it either ended up in the embankment or, more importantly, too many people had never driven their vehicles in four-wheel drive, let alone, knew how to engage it. I could only laugh when reading this. If you are going to have a road hogging, gas guzzling, toy, why the hell don't you know how to use it? (That is, besides trying to drive over white Hyundai cars.)

Clueless drivers are only a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things. More scary, at least to me, is that these same people are reproducing. We live in a society where people feel they are entitled to things. It shows in the way a lot of them are raising their kids. Teachers are expected to be baby sitters. Parents and politicians are calling for software to control what their children view on the internet. More and more, they are pushing away responsibility in pursuit of personal gratification.

I sometimes wonder if it is too late to teach these individuals to learn responsibility. John Muir, in his book "The Story of My Boyhood and Youth", describes a very enlightening Scottish discovery in the field of learning, "...there was a close connection between the skin and the memory, and that irritating the skin excited the memory to any required degree." In short, a good whipping goes a long way towards helping the learning process.

Such an idea is not without precedence in more recent times. Singapore, for instance, is a pretty clean city. One way they ensure that, as one fortunate whiny American youth found out, is to spoil the rod and not spare the child. Commit vandalism, you find yourself getting caned. America could learn from this Scottish wisom, if littering were punishable by caning, I am sure there would be fewer smokers throwing their butts around.

In the future, I am all for adding a little discipline to this increasing clueless society. We do need to start at the top -- our whiny politicians, irresponsible parents, and on down.

Previous day's column (Harlock)