7 December 2009

human stupidity: nature or nurture Pt 2

On Saturday I toddled down to my local beach. Sometimes the beach is closed, and this Saturday was one of those days. In this neck of the wood, on days with an onshore current there are several yellow signs on poles with a swimmer icon crossed out, saying:
There is also a large volunteer lifeguard tent right in the middle of the beach and paid lifeguards in the the tower. People still surf, using the rip to get out back, and swimmers still get in, because it's not like you can build a fence. If people stray into the waves the guards corral them back in making use of whistles or the loud-hailer or the beach PA system, with regular warnings that the conditions are very dangerous. Oh, and there's no flags up.

On days like this there is a nasty little drop off, just a couple of metres from the water's edge. The waves aren't huge, maybe just one metre at most, and if you're not familiar with the conditions it is hard to see what the issue might be. The problem is when they surge you get pulled off the beach, and can end up further from shore than you intended and if you try to swim against the rip you get tired very quickly and can panic and start to drown.

So on Saturday, I have to admit I watched the other swimmers for a bit, checked out where the lifeguards were getting people out, got in for about 30 seconds without going past the depth of my neck and got out again. And even then I nearly got knocked over by a wave in thigh-deep water.

Then I lay on the sand for a while reading my Margaret Atwood short stories. Presently, the Dad-type next to me exclaimed "oh look they're doing a rescue" - and sure enough the volunteer lifeguards were going in with the tow rope to pull out a girl of about 13 or 14. Her and a friend has been playing in the edge for a while, they weren't any further out than the few body surfers, but one of them must have been struggling. The friend got out on her own, and I watched the two of them walk across the beach towards the clan. The friend was asking the rather shaken-looking rescued girl if she was okay, if she wanted to sit down, etc, generally being pretty cool. As they approached Mum, the excitement of the moment overtook her and she was all "hey did you see what happened?! Katy just got rescued! She got towed out by the lifeguards!"

Mum sat up from her towel like she'd been stuck with a pin. Wasn't a big-gosh-fun-adventure for her, oh no. She'd been reading a magazine the whole time and didn't even know anything had happened. Wouldn't the prowling guards and loudspeaker announcements at least make you look up?

So this post is a twin to the stupid posters one. I was astounded that where the signs and announcements were actually immediately useful and could actually prevent you drowning, there was this total disregard for it. This is not an anti-mother rant - just an anti-human one. Too much information where it is useless noise, and a tendency to completely ignore the signal where it is clear, un-ambivalent and critical to your own safety. I think there as a factory flaw in the human genome, basically.

6 December 2009

human stupidity: nature or nurture Pt 1

Back in winter, some train station advertising made me wonder if there weren't larger forces at work to push us that bit further into complete loss of cognitive function, coupled with total dissatisfaction with our corporeal selves. The first is a series that seem to be showing the consequences of getting too close to trains. The slogans we simply mind-numbingly obvious tinged with totally patronising. Like this gem:

"getting caught in the door will hurt" - accompanying a photo of a guy in a suit with his arm, holding a briefcase, sticking out of the door.

Other ones were about prams on the platform and about crossing the tracks. I mean puhlease. That there is a hundreds of tonnes of metal hurtling into a station on electrified tracks isn't enough to encourage people to be careful? Is the logic in the comms strategy meeting (and I've been to a few, dear readers) that - if people were just to know the consequences of running to the those closing metal doors - then they wouldn't do it? If you can't work that out after the first time to see them actually shut, then you're an idiot and you deserve the bruise to teach you.

And the second one was part of the federal government's "How do you measure up" campaign, runnning with this beautiful bit of creative:

The full caption is, wait for it, "are you on your way towards chronic disease? I was confronted with this poor guy every day when I hit the bottom of the station escalators. Looks like the campaign is encouraging people to measure their waist as a trigger to lose weight to save themselves from SUDDEN DEATH.

It's been a while since I ranted here, but can I just say.. "what the hell?" I mean really, is this actually a real health issue? Or is this social conditioning out of control? Losing weight is so the new religion, Dicko did it, Madga did it, Mikey Robbins did it, it's highly trendy and a public rite of passage for fat celebs in the Emerald City. But, really, are we just compliant in shifting the global marketing coup of making women hate their earthly form - to our men? Is the health department playing into the hands of those big corporates who can shift more product if the general populace feels a little melancholy about those few extra kilos, the love handles and the muffin tops? It's not just diet programs and home gyms and such.. when consumers constantly feel like shit, everyone wins - from chocolate ice-cream to cars to beer to diamond earrings to flat screen TVs - anything to make you feel like you might satiate that longing for a perfect life.

Now, I'm going to come out of the closet on this one.

I reckon that guy in the poster could be eminently shaggable. He's so far from a hideous fatty it's laughable. I, for one, probably wouldn't turn him down, if he was funny, smart, playful, or perhaps had a love of cinema or could teach me a language, or was into body art or any bloody thing that wasn't about his goddam waistline. I bet the actual model has a happy marriage and a couple of kids who he takes to Nippers swim club every Sunday at crack of dawn and remembers to put the bins out every week. Jesus, he could be a Judo champ with that physique. I hope he got a decent pay packet for that ad is all I'm saying. For the humiliation of having to push another cack-handed attempt of the government to tell us we could get a bit crook if we eat junk and don't exercise.

I want to do a new station advertising campaign.

If you read this poster every day you will turn into a complete moron. THINK FOR YOURSELF.
(Authorised by the NSW government.)