Limitations and Dangers of a safe life.


The Danger of a Safe life

Limitations and the paradox of a “safe” life have been on my mind lately.

I took a longer than planned break from writing over Christmas. It was not all rest and relaxation though. I worked on other things, cut, split and stacked four weeks supply of wood in the basement. That is so Sue does not have to worry about bringing wood in when I am on my enforced four weeks of light duties after my surgery later this month.

The break from my normal routine did give me more time to read and think. Splitting wood (with a tractor mounted hydraulic splitter) does make for good thinking time – even when it is -14 Celsius as it was one day.

It made me think about the limitations and dangers we face in the developed world. Many of these self-imposed and nurtured by the media.

Reading headlines about the opioid drug epidemic in North America in general and some parts of Ontario in particular raises the question of what is wrong with society. In 2007, there were 47 000 drug related deaths in Canada alone. We have more deaths from drug overdoses. More suicides, depression, mental illness, more isms, more syndromes and more allergies than we did 50 years ago. In a supposedly safer society.

The paradox is that we are not involved in any wars comparable to the two world wars, or Vietnam. We are not at risk from major epidemics. Natural disasters on our continent have been fairly minor, local events. Hurricane Katrina, while devastating for residents in New Orleans only directly affected a small percentage of the continent’s population.

Improved methods of determining mental illness, better information gathering and a greater willingness of those affected to seek treatment all contribute to a higher accuracy in estimating the true number of people affected. But they do not explain the huge increases.

Having lived through almost 40 years of terrorist activity, part-time military service, sanctions, fuel shortages, death threats, intimidation and finally imprisonment and forced removal from our homes, I and many of my compatriots, have not had a “safe” life.

In the two countries in Southern Africa where I spent most of my life, many people suffered far more than I did. However very few of us or the families of those murdered, suffered mental illness or resorted to drugs or alcohol. In an environment where most people owned guns and often carried them, we did not experience mass school shootings or frequent family murders. Most just got on with their lives. We did not allow circumstances to impose limitations on us.

The same is true of soldiers returning from the two great wars. A small minority never overcame the horrors, but the majority did.

Limitations and long life

Tuesday 10 January 2017 marked the death of an exceptional woman who did not allow limitations imposed by society or gender to stop her becoming the journalist to write the “scoop” of the century when she was the first reporter to record the start of World War II. She died this week at the age of 105. Her name was Clare Hollingworth.


Invasion of Poland 1939

She did not live a “safe” life, she faced danger many times, lived for it. Reading accounts of her life, we can assume that she did not eat healthily for long periods, lived in unhealthy surroundings, was unable to bathe or change clothes for weeks. She survived. Not only survived but lived an active life, she travelled and worked well past the age most people retire.

Here is a link to her obituary in the Guardian

What do we conclude from her story and thousands of other examples of people who survive adversity without succumbing to drugs, depression or mental illness?

We have become too soft, mediocrity is celebrated and excellence, or the desire to achieve it, frequently punished. Limitations on children taking risks and being adventurous stifle creativity and do not allow them to develop the resilience they need to enjoy the journey of life. Without resilience they will not develop the armour to protect them from the physical, mental and emotional challenges they will encounter despite any and all new legislation introduced by increasingly intrusive governments.

That’s my theory, what are yours? Leave a comment.

danger image courtesy Stuart Miles /


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