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One of  the Contrarian’s   aunts was often heard to say, that “you gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die.”

While that may or may not be exactly true, it’s close to the mark I think. We are becoming a people who over-obsesses (can you over obsess?) about cleanliness and germs.

That’s perhaps a dumb remark given the flu epidemic and the fact that I am taking wipes to church and dunking my host these days, but let us continue.

This goes hand in hand with our obsession to keep our kids safe, against dangers real or imagined. This came to my attention when a woman in NYC was roundly accused of being “the worst mom in America” because she sent her seven year old off on the subway alone.

At least so America weighed in. Yet the woman in question says her son rides the subway regularly with her, is mature, wanted to go alone, and was sent with appropriate money and instructions. Now I’m not about to declare whether she is right or wrong. Not being a parent, I hesitate to try to place myself in that situation.

Yet that story was preceded by one in which a woman had developed “gloves” for kids to put on when entering public bathrooms where they might touch germy toilet seats. The reporter suggested that this, along with oodles of other “safety” items now available to parents was getting a bit “over the top.”

Some of this is I guess understandable in a post 9/11 world. Some of it is understandable in an urban versus suburban/rural world. Some of it is understandable in a information overload which tends to focus on the sensational murder/abduction case ad nauseum because they have to fill time. Plenty of women kill their husbands and plenty of men kill their wives. Most don’t make the national news unless there is some mystery to hang a story on.

But are we adults becoming paranoid to the point that we are teaching our youngsters to be fearful, reticent, and down right withdrawn from the world? Are we in fact encouraging the Internet junkie and computer game addiction in the name of “knowing where the kids are?”

I recall that as even a young child, I had a lot of time unsupervised. From the time I could ride a bike, I could pretty much travel on the dirt roads which gave me a 1 x 1/2 mile area to wander in. It was easily by age eight or nine that we were crossing the four-lane highway to get a loaf of bread or McDonalds (yes they had them way back then, but they were 15cents a burger!). My time to come home was when the “street lights” came on. (I was forever getting in trouble, since they came on not all at once but in a rotation, and the one on our corner obviously came on before the one where I was at did.)

The Contrarian is of the opinion that there was a lot less asthma and allergy illness when kids were allowed to be kids, i.e., wallow in dirt all day long, and wash most of it off before bed. Farm kids, who come in contact with the poop of many a critter besides dogs, seem to be the healthiest of all.

Now we have wipes handy in car and kitchen, ready to clean up that face and hands. Hey, who hasn’t tasted dirt? And a number of kids actually ate it. The grit still makes me shiver, like nails on a chalk board.

So I ask you, are we raising a generation of fraidy cats with compulsive hand washing obsessions? I dunno. Just askin’ the question.


On another and far distant note, I ponder the following. Several people, somewhere in the US have a bank that mistakenly credited their accounts with about a quarter million bucks. A woman, so blessed, notified the bank of the mistake. So far, Americans across the country have sent her nearly $2000 in “reward” for her honesty.

This is nothing new of course, but is now routinely done for anybody who does the right thing. And I wonder, why exactly is that? Aren’t we supposed to be honest? Isn’t that the norm?

Some religious do believe that morality can only come through religion, but that is bunk. There are perfectly logical reasons why non-believers conclude that honesty is the “best policy.” Its rational to be honest. Rational because dishonesty has unpleasant consequences first of all. Moreover, and one would hope more compellingly, empathy draws us to honesty. We can easily put ourself in another’s place and feel how we would feel should they suffer a loss due to thievery, or mistake or negligence on their part. We realize how someone might suffer by our unexpected opportunity.

If we start gifting the honest person, then we tarnish their honesty. We turn it into a compromise, wanting to keep it, figuring you might get caught, and the hope that you’ll get a sizable “reward” for being good. The altruism is ruined and we are poorer for it. So I say, don’t reward what is expected of every human being. It sends the wrong message.

A little creativity can be used. There are usually plenty of good reasons to “reward” anyone. Find one that doesn’t pat them on the head for doing what they should.

End of lecture for today. There will be a test. I’ll reward those who study hard. Oops, that would be reward for doing what is right. I could reward you for reading this, but then, that is also the right thing to do. At least in my world of what’s morally right!

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