Monday, October 30, 2006

Don't be a retard

New York City is about to ban artificial trans fats. Santa Monica is about to ban smoking in public outdoor areas. Proponents of the measures claim that health is the most important thing and that the government must look out for our health and prevent us from harming each other and ourselves.

Health is indeed important – no one would argue with that. However, so is personal responsibility. And so are manners and consideration for others.

If you want to avoid trans fats, don’t go to McDonald’s or KFC or other fast food places known to use trans fats. This should not be a problem in New York City, where there are so many other options. If you want to eat fast food, for whatever unfathomable reason, let the companies know that you would prefer a healthier alternative to trans fats, if you actually care, and let them make their own decisions based on the preferences of their customers.

If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times – don’t ask the government to make decisions for you or to protect you – take personal responsibility for your own actions and your own choices and look after yourself.

Worse are the implications of the smoking thing. Even here in Prague, smoking is banned in certain outdoor places. For example, it is prohibited to smoke at a tram stop. I see the logic in the ban - tram stops can be crowded, and if the weather is bad there might be a lot of people trying to fit under a shelter. But why on earth do people need to be told what to do? I, for one, would never light a cigarette at a crowded tram stop, the same way I wouldn’t light a cigarette in a queue. Why? Good old-fashioned manners, being considerate of those around me.

When the government tells people what to do, people forget their sense of responsibility or never develop one. A person who is used to being told what he can or cannot do, and where and when, will not think for himself. He will not reason why he can smoke in this park but not at that tram stop. And he will automatically light up in the park just because he can, and he will do so without looking round to assess if he is in an appropriate place.

Being told what to do stops people from thinking. It damages an individual’s ability to reason and make informed and responsible decisions. It interferes with the development of consideration for others and good manners. When we are treated like helpless and stupid children, we are in danger of becoming helpless and stupid children. I can speak only for myself, but I prefer being treated as a rational adult and I insist on making my own decisions.

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