Friday, July 15, 2011

Balanced Risks

My name is Kim Davidson, I am going into my senior year at KU studying music therapy, and I have never been a risk-taker when it comes to safety. I take risks in other areas of my life, such as picking a college in a city where I didn’t know a single person for over 500 miles, but if something could cause bodily harm? Absolutely not. I can recall being seven years old and pointing out possible consequences of the semi-dangerous behavior of my fellow second graders. But I quickly learned that this precautious thinking is quite rare in Thailand. (Artists blowing glass without gloves or masks)

In America, we feel a need for control at all times and in all situations. So we make rules and fashion long lists of prohibitions, thus making our world more predictable and safe. We are so cautious that when an accident occurs, the exact protocol break is pinpointed and a lawsuit or new bill comes into play. The amount of control we crave and create in the United States is not a possibility in Thailand. In a developing country, safety codes are not at the top of the list of issues to be tackled. And the result? Less fear.

Surrounding every pool we visited was the slipperiest tile imaginable. We crossed bridge after bridge that lacked guardrails and were constructed of boards that felt as if a few more passengers would do them in. When we were in Krabi, one of the boatmen on our island tour would move about the outside of the boat while we sped through the water at max speeds. When we climbed 1,237 steps to the top of the Tiger Cave Temple, railings were scarce and some of the steps were almost two feet tall. Did we sign a single waiver? Not a one. Were there signs with phrases like “at your own risk” or “ we are not responsible?” If so, they went unnoticed, which completely counteracts their existence.

Is this lessened regard for safety a good thing? Arguably not. According to the Public Health Ministry, motorcycle accidents alone take the lives of 27 Thais and injure 438 more every single day. And approximately 80% of those involved in accidents are not wearing helmets. How many lives could be saved with stricter traffic laws, including seatbelt and helmet laws? Countless. But on the flip side, is the level of caution we have in the United States a good thing? Antibiotics are prescribed to children for the slightest of illnesses and a new lawsuit is filed in our nation every two seconds. There are so many rules that it’s difficult to live a life within them all.

(Rock climbers without helmets or spotters)

Both nations have their share of problems; there is absolutely no doubt about that. Simple regulations and standards could save the lives of many Thais and prevent horrible injuries. But the control we infuse into everything in the United States eliminates any level of risk-taking and spontaneity. I think we often forget to live in the moment for fear of the retribution of our actions down the road. Enjoying life should not take a backseat to planning and preparedness. The Thais seem to understand this, even if they have room for improvement in some other areas.

How do you feel about the difference in caution and control between the United States and other countries?

1 comment:

  1. Ha. This reminds me of when Brighton and I visited the Crocodile Farm. The entire time we just kept saying, "This would not hpapen in America..." Given a choice between the two, I have to say I prefer the hyper-controlled to the under-controlled safety situations. Maybe that's just because I'm a worrywort, though. On the same token, I wish so much that we could just lighten up. Our obsession with lawsuits and a few stupid people or absurd freak accidents has made us scared of our own shadows and made having a little excitement now and then very difficult.