Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

One Lost Cub Scout and the Death of Critical Thought

So Brennan Hawkins, the 11-year-old Cub Scout with a touch of wanderlust and a name just built for celebrity who wandered off into the Utah desert, has turned up. And that's nice news about which, in itself at any rate, I have nothing negative to say. But this little bit of the article recounting his return to civilization caught my eye:

"He had two thoughts going through his head all the time," she said. "Toby's always told him that 'if you get lost, stay on the trail.' So he stayed on the trail.

"We've also told him don't talk to strangers. ... When an ATV or horse came by, he got off the trail. ... When they left, he got back on the trail."

"His biggest fear, he told me, was someone would steal him," she said.

Now please forgive if this seems uncharitable -- I haven't had many dealings with 11-year-olds in a while so I'd be hard-pressed to venture an average level of cognizance and savvy among Brennan's coevals -- but wouldn't you want your eleven-year-old to figure out, at least by the second of four days lost in the wild, that dying of exposure was a much more imminent concern than kidnaping? Sure, the kid's scared, and sure it's a big bad world. Similarly, the article is replete with evidence of the kid's overall poise in the face of danger. But hiding out from searchers? His biggest fear being that he would be stolen?

I've ranted here before -- or if I haven't, it's long overdue -- about the weird foregrounding of abduction in the news when there's no empirical evidence that kidnaping is any more common now than it was thirty years ago, when kids rode their bikes around their hometowns without flinching at every shadow and imagining themselves sold into white slavery every time a stranger ventured to comment in their general direction . . . and when the news foregrounded stories of real interest and wide-ranging import instead of the stock-in-trade housefires, petty crime, and manifold fear-mongering that shrinking budgets and attention span have joined forces to foist upon an unwitting populace through the mannequins delivering today's surrogate for journalism. Such that now a kid who's undeniably lost does not, in his remoteness, think first that the buzz of an ATV might be a search party or a friendly face (in virtually any similar situation, about a 99% chance), but rather imagines some ogre who's going to land him on the side of a milk carton.

What other wholly irrational fears are we accepting uncritically and passing onto our children, who will very likely end up far more dependent and fearful than we ever were, just as we are probably more dependent and fearful than our parents were, and unto the seventh generation. It's sort of sad.


Blogger jason said...

You've quickly forgotten about Elizabeth Smart, if I was him I'd probably still be hiding in a cave somewhere. That was a huge deal in Utah and was probably in the back of his mind the whole time.

Actually, I've heard weird things happen to people when they are lost. Even grownups hide from rescue crews, and some people have crossed major highways and walked into the woods not even remembering doing it. Panic is a wierd thing. That said - point taken, people are paranoid.

8:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker