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We get told all of the time by political ideologues what kind of dangerous culture we live in; rape culture, drug culture, gun culture, gang culture, even cancel culture… there are dramatic political arguments around every one of those labels. The reality is, we live in a safety-net culture, and it’s strangling everything about humanity that makes our species great.
I would describe safety net culture as an environment where a naive, habitual or compulsive over-reliance on external enhancements for one’s sense of security is normalized, pervasive, and to some degree community enforced, often to the detriment of both the reliant and the enhancement providers.
I use the term safety net because that’s common slang for safety or security enhancements used either to prevent adverse conditions, or to minimize or manage the consequences when something goes wrong. The literal meaning of a net put into place to catch a daredevil who has fallen in the midst of a stunt provides a great way to explain what can go wrong with such measures.
You see, there are two basic kinds of safety nets: Some are controlled by the people they’re set up to protect, like growing your own vegetables so you control what chemicals you’re exposed to, or setting aside a small savings to use in case of an emergency expense of lapse in employment. Some are controlled by others, like trusting a government agency to tell you which foods are safe to eat, or to provide you with emergency supplies after a hurricane.
Across those two types are two subtypes. Some measures are reasonable, rational, and beneficial steps taken without imposing on anyone against their will. Some, not so much. They may involve unreasonable steps or imposition. They may be ineffective or dysfunctional, or they may be supported by irrational beliefs or expectations. Feminism’s rape culture narrative, for instance, leads to women and girls taking all kinds of ridiculous measures for their own purported safety, as well as demanding a right to expect the targets of sexual misconduct allegations be stripped of their due process rights in order to “protect women.” Meanwhile the risk of sexual violence faced by men and boys is totally ignored, if not actively buried by the same ideology. The result is the endangerment of both sexes in multiple ways.
Similarly, many authorities responded to the past year’s health crisis, not by identifying and enacting measures to protect vulnerable demographics, but by restricting the general population from some actions and mandating others while controlling the flow of information in such a way as to make themselves look horribly untrustworthy… and they’re still doing it.
If totalitarian governments wanted thin excuses to engage in obedience training of their citizens and authoritarian infringements on civil rights, they could ask for no better formula than the American progressive approach to risk management during the pandemic and the vaccine rollout. It is as if they had intended elicit rejection, rebellion, distrust, conflict, and polarization among the public in order to excuse concluding that people are too stupid to make our own decisions, and then cracking down. In addition, they’ve encouraged the more compliant part of the population to feel threatened by the possibility of independent thinkers making their own decisions, promoting the idea that feeling unsafe is a valid excuse to demand infringements on the rights of one’s neighbors and even become aggressive toward them.
As is becoming apparent, there are some ways in which safety nets can be detrimental to the individual’s welfare, like declining to take apparent risks to obtain worthwhile benefits if there is no perceived safety net. If nobody ever took those risks, the best parts of human history never would have happened.
Even those who do take risks can be influenced by the presence of a perceived safety net, as just recognizing the potential consequences of failure can increase one’s determination to succeed. Lowering one’s consideration for potential consequences can lead to a more lax approach to the risk at hand, increasing the chance for errors as well as the chance one may just give up.
In the other direction is the decision, influenced by the assurance of a perceived safety net, to engage in high-risk behaviors with little or no benefits. The sexual revolution is pretty much a microcosm of the drawbacks of safety net culture. Under social norms regarding women’s sexual choices, it’s not even acceptable to point out that not all of the potential consequences of carelessness can be mitigated. God forbid anyone mention that what cannot be mitigated can have profound, individual and society-wide impact. Instead, under the new, improved standards, women must be protected from any sense of being judged. To that end, they are placed on a pedestal of presumed beneficence. From there, they are expected to look down upon all cautionary advice as sexist moralizing intended to control women’s bodies. Guided by gynocentrism and feminist rhetoric, girls and women who take stupid risks end up profoundly shocked when they discover consequences from which no one is willing, or able, to protect them.
Meanwhile, we have entire government departments set up to shield women and families from the manageable consequences when women engage in indiscriminate, unprotected sex, and reliance on their programs grows annually. Two-faced feminists complain with one mouth about lack of gender-parity among CEOs and federal-level government office-holders, while the other shrieks demands for more and bigger government-administered safety nets for women. At no point do they consider the possibility that feminist-lobbied programs which make women too comfortable with failure and mediocrity might be one reason why fewer women aim for those high bars… And don’t you dare bring up the damage that ripples out when that carelessness is government-funded. If you do, defenders of Milady Jezabel, Queen of the department of human services, will be happy to correct all of your misconceptions.
Multiply all of that by similar systems in nations all over western civilization, and you have a worldwide maze of comfortable, reassuring, liberty-killing detriments to human progress: Unsafety nets. Some destroy human initiative by eroding people’s ability to feel confident without some version of a security blanket in law, policy, or social standards. Some protect against things that are not threats, at the expense of rights, freedoms, and peace within communities. Some offer only an illusion of safety, while encouraging risk that comes with only an illusory reward. Unsafety nets have become abundant everywhere humanity has erected huge government structures to act as all-encompassing safety-nets in place of more trustworthy, individually-controlled measures like diligence, ingenuity, mindfulness, personal ethics and neighborly altruism. We’re left totally unprotected against the scariest monster known to man: The hard master who uses the pretense of being more invested in your welfare than you are as an underhanded means of keeping you from becoming equal to him.
This week, HBR Talk will examine the balance between the human need for safety and security, and the human need for constructive risk-taking for the welfare and advancement of both the individual, and the greater community. We’ll look at the difference between feeling safe and being safe, and how individuals who become dependent on feeling safe can actually abuse and endanger themselves and everyone around them. The discussion streams on multiple platforms. You can tune in to the livestream via the link in the lowbar, or find other viewing and listening options on honeybadgerbrigade.com.
In the meantime, please challenge everyone’s false sense of security by clicking the like button, and sharing this video.
There are over half a million abortions performed annually in the US, and 1 in 5 citizens is infected with one or more sexually transmitted disease, with a national pool of sixteen billion dollars in associated lifetime medical costs. Programs that most people would call “welfare” spent 827 billion dollars in 2020, but this number may be underestimated because there are federal social programs that are not included in it. In 2011, the Congressional Research Service, reporting to the Senate Budget Committee, identified social services spending as the largest item in the federal budget. They found 83 overlapping welfare programs representing roughly 1.03 trillion in spending at that time.
This week, HBR Talk will examine the balance between the human need for safety and security, and the human need for constructive risk-taking for the welfare and advancement of both the individual, and the greater community. We’ll look at the difference between feeling safe and being safe, and how individuals who become dependent on feeling safe can actually abuse and endanger themselves and everyone around them. You can tune in Thursday at 7:30PM Eastern, or find other viewing and listening options for that time or later, on honeybadgerbrigade.com.
Opening Monologue transcript
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