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Friday, May 11, 2007

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

When did we
quit trusting?

Rather than Smokey’s brilliant answer to the question of the week, today I have a question.

On a regular basis I write about what I think ails this society of ours. I cannot help it. I write about what I observe in this world, and often what I observe leads me to believe we have some real problems that need solutions.

I usually try to present a solution based on the ethics I hold dear, and common sense.

But, this week, I do not have an answer - just a question.

Here’s the question: When did we stop trusting each other?

I ask that because the evidence that we do not trust each other is as thick as greasewood on a hill.

And, the evidence that we used to trust each other is just as abundant in the volumes of our history.

Think about it - what can you do today that does not first require an approval stamp by some expert? For that matter, what can you voice an opinion about and not be ignored, if you do not have a set of “expert” credentials?

In 1900, if young parents had a question about parenting, they simply asked their parents or grandparents. They were experts. They had done the job. They did not have college degrees in behavioral psychology or genetics. But they did have experience and common sense.

Today, in a society overrun with distraught parents looking for answers to their parenting problems, we refer to experts and books written by “experts” with letters and abbreviations before and after their names.

Grandma is no longer a child-rearing expert. Some egghead from a university is.

For a little fun, research how many child rearing “experts” have actually successfully reared mentally healthy children. Grandma’s track record is far better. Yet, today grandma is just an old woman. We feel better listening to the USDA Approved, Grade A, licensed, Ph&d’d expert. And we listen without ever asking if perhaps he has successfully reared a child or two. We just trust the USDA stamp on his forehead.

We used to trust - not just other people - but ourselves. We trusted ourselves to locate competent help when we needed it. We trusted ourselves to make the decision to ask Grandma, or to skip Grandma because she was wine-soaked nut case.

Now, we only trust those people who have been approved by some higher authority.

How did we get to this point?

Take attorneys. Yeah I know, all of them, please, and dump them in the ocean.

Seriously, 100 years ago, if a person wanted to be an attorney, he studied law as he or she saw fit, and took the Bar exam.

Today, first that same person must attend a government approved school of law before being allowed the privilege of even trying to pass the Bar exam.


How about barbers? Does anyone really believe you need a license to be a barber? Or an accountant? Or to teach first grade?

And, we do the same thing in the professions where a government license is not yet required.

Today we try to send everybody to college to get their license of sorts. And then we tell them to take their student loans and go do the job their father and grandfather did perfectly well with a high school education or less. But, try to get that same job without your ever-so-important degree in economics or psychology and you are in trouble.

One hundred years ago we trusted people to drive teams of horses hitched to huge wagons loaded with freight - without a license. If you’ve ever handled a team you will agree that driving a wagon posed more risk to you, and those nearby, than any motor vehicle ever has.

We trusted teachers to teach, policemen to police, reporters to report, and accountants to account. We trusted people to have and use dangerous things in competent ways, and they did.

Mostly, we trusted people to learn and do their job - whatever that job was - and to govern their actions with common sense.

Now we trust no one who has not been state-certified in their narrow little field, and the idea of common sense is scoffed at as some silly notion of foolish backwards people - hardly a substitute for four years of college life.

But, apparently, our grandfathers and grandmothers were successful, despite their silly backwards notions. In the late 1800s this country enjoyed a literacy rate that should make us ashamed today. We were a nation of farmers and small businessmen more free, and more economically successful, and more educated, than any nation in recorded history.

Now, about 100 years later, we cannot hold a candle to our grandfathers and grandmothers. We have thousands of decrees, rules, laws and requirements that they would have scoffed at; we are less free, and far less wealthy.

Mostly, we do not trust each other to do anything without some expert telling us how and probably when, to do it. We seem to have decided that we are not capable of tending to our own lives like adults. We act as though we are all children and must have some super parent tell us each day what to do and how, and guarantee that our brothers and sisters conduct their lives in an acceptable manner too.

What happened? Just looking around, I would say the results are horrible.

It’s a question worth answering.

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