Protecting Yourself in the 21st Century

By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings

How many of you happen to remember the safety rhyme we were taught in first grade?

“Stop, look, and listen before you cross the street.

Use you eyes, use your ears, and then use your feet.”

That intelligent bit of common sense has been phased out in America, especially in California. Pedestrians have the right of way in this state so that most folks younger than I am don’t bother to look either way when they step off the curb. Their fragile bodies are protected by the law. Under this legal philosophy, a citizen has no responsibilities for his or her own physical welfare! Somehow, the courts will protect your interests and your life.

Yet, it’s still a jungle out there even though our state of California isn’t located in the tropics. Injured pedestrians who are fortunate enough to live through a brush with a car will attest that being watchful and vigilant is not a bad idea.

You can have all kinds of governmental agencies investigating, inspecting, and auditing, but Murphy’s Law cannot be avoided. (Murphy’s Law states that: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”) From my lengthy experience in business, I have written a corollary to that law: “If bad things can happen to a human being, they will happen at the worst possible moment” – like the gas explosion in San Bruno, CA and the oil well catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. (Not to mention the earthquake in Haiti and the flooding in Pakistan.)

The unfortunate result of California’s cockeyed modern philosophy is that many young people grow up believing that there is someone who ought to look out for them, someone else to blame when things go wrong, and someone with sympathy for you when life treats you unfairly and unjustly. And if you pay enough, a generous creditor who will provide financing for your urgent needs.

When I began college in 1951 there were no credit cards for students and no student loans. Although there were about half the number of inhabitants in the U.S. back then, competition was stiff among the men. Only a few women were electing to go to Business School. The Great Society with the abundance of drugs and government intervention was ahead of us poor folks working our way through college.

As a child born during the Great Depression and who experienced the rationing of the WWII, I grew up with a twin sister in Detroit, Michigan knowing that no matter how little you earned, you had to save something for that inevitable “rainy day.” When I began peddling morning newspapers at 11, I put my earnings into a savings account. Kids that age didn’t write checks. The interest rate was 2%, twice the best interest available today for a CD or savings account.

A daily paper sold for 3 cents in 1944 as did a postage stamp. I earned a penny of that 3 cents. Social security began in 1936, and began paying retirees at 65 when the average life expectancy for men born in 1933 was 59 years! Obviously, the federal government was much more cautious decades ago. My father and mother were more provident than modern parents.

There were few entitlements in those days. Only the GIs who fought in WWII were offered benefits. Health insurance called “major medical” paid by a major automobile company was just being offered to its employees. Since my family had no health insurance, we rarely went to visit doctors except for a stitch job or to set a broken bone.

“Look out for yourself” was the insistent message from my parents because no one was going to do that for you. Bankruptcy was a rarely heard word. Obeying the law and staying out of jail were the rules of my family. Illegal drugs were mentioned in college, and marijuana was smoked by a few musicians I read about like Gene Krupa. Because I was a drummer, he was my idol. Alcohol was the narcotic of preference, but binge drinking was not popular on campus yet. Drinking at college dances was not allowed, but alcohol was prevalent at the dances I played for, and the over-indulgent unused to drinking hard liquor got sick and puked in the bushes outside.

There were acceptable ways for patriotic young men to avoid the draft, but the concept of a completely volunteer military corps came into being after our military intervention in Vietnam that didn’t end victoriously. A better way to stay alive and healthy today is not to join our fighting forces – that is, if you can find a decent paying job.

Modern cars are safer and safety seats in cars for infants are mandatory. One car manufacturer is offering an expensive model that can override bad decisions of the driver in certain emergencies. Safety in factories is demanded by concerned unions, and conscientious management has provided employees with safety clothing and eye protection.

The average person lives a longer life today thanks to the awareness of the safety rules and the improved medical treatment for injuries and curable illnesses. Nevertheless, people still smoke, drink too much, and indulge in illegal drugs. There is help for these humans if they wish to change their habits. Our compassionate society doesn’t want unhealthy lifestyles to become accepted by the majority of us. Yet, legalized gambling, the sale of alcohol, and the sale of dope in California are permitted and politically ignored as a social menace because such habits increase government revenue.

Americans aren’t hypocrites because everyone knows that there are safety nets for the wayward today that didn’t exist when I was born. Live and be well, my friends! Be sure you wear a safety helmet when you ride a bicycle and buckle up when you drive a car full of air bags!

Oh, better check out the menu in your child’s elementary school cafeteria. I doubt that the menu features white bread peanut butter sandwiches that come in used paper bags and a gill of whole milk. We have to guard our children’s health because there aren’t any entitlements for overweight humans on the books yet.

Chic Hollis
Chic Hollis is a longtime drummer and motorcyclist, who served in the US Air Force in North Africa. Married 4 times with 5 children born in 5 different countries on four continents, Chic is a politically independent citizen of the world interested in helping Americans understand the reality that is life overseas where many intelligent, educated, and industrious people aren't as privileged as we are in the US. He studied Latin, Greek, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German and ran several large companies. Sadly, Chic Has left this planet and we miss him very much, but we are very pleased to display his amazing writing works.