Escaping the Nanny State


It’s a risk, being 60, to put on your ranty-pants because you’re likely to be branded “grumpy old man,” whereas younger people can just have strong opinions on something.  Well, here goes anyway.

We snuck out of the country last week (martial law in Thailand notwithstanding) to beautiful Koh Samui.  We thought we’d have a holiday from:

  • the cold of the Leura winter
  • work (in the Squadron Leader’s case at least)
  • cooking
  • cleaning
  • the thought of those two alcohol free days per week
  • the continuous guilt trip which is the paleo diet.

We got away from all those things.  We also discovered that we were having a holiday from something else well worth fleeing for a while – the Nanny State.

Look at those electrical wires in the photo (and the lantern hanging from them).  When you need a new connection, you just hook one up wherever you can fit it.  Doesn’t look like any inspector of any sort has stuck their nose into that viper’s nest.  But the power never went out once, and we had better wifi than at home.

There were many other images conjuring a sense of freedom:

  • the standard uniform for riding your motor scooter, being singlet, shorts, thongs and your hair waving in the breeze – well, the odd bandage on knees and elbows as well.  Not for me, however: Nanny Central had required me to swear a solemn oath on my travel insurance application that I wouldn’t ride a scooter at all.
  • a four-pack of Singha beer at the 7-Eleven for 110 baht, or about $3.60; and there didn’t seem to be a multitude of drunken teenagers fighting in the gutter as a consequence
  • if you had any kind of health need, a pharmacy every 50 metres or so in Fisherman’s Village
  • seat belts?  who cares?
  • building regulations apparently based on what it looks like when the building is finished, not what is underneath, which is perhaps why they are so fast in getting the render over the ubiquitous concrete blocks they build everything with
  • workplace health and safety requirements which apparently prescribe the personal protective equipment to cut said concrete blocks with a giant angle grinder to be thongs, no helmet, no safety glasses, no dust mask, no earmuffs, and no gloves.

I know, I know, there is without doubt a degree of employee exploitation, workplace injury, road accident trauma and threats to public safety which we have mitigated to a large extent here.

But gee, it was nice to step back 50 odd years, to a time when shit might happen but it was called an “accident” – remember them? – instead of:

  • some lawyer being hell-bent on convincing a judge that ultimately everything had to be someone else’s fault except the person who had voluntarily assumed the risk and was consequently bleeding and/or broken (yes, I know I used to be a lawyer but I’m over that now)
  • some politician whipping up a media melee and demanding a legislative fix, while really being more interested in the 15 second sound bite on Nine News than the alleged victim.

I just wish I could have found a merry-go-round in Koh Samui, like the ones we used to have in the park, circa 1959, when the object was to see how fast you could get it spinning without it flinging you off and removing modest tracts of skin.  You know, the ones Nanny Central has banned in NSW for the last umpteen years.  I bet there’s one of those somewhere in Samui.

Here endeth the rant.  Call me grumpy, but that was liberating.



2 thoughts on “Escaping the Nanny State

  1. If that birds nest of electrical wiring shorts out and starts a fire burning down half the village who would you turn to? When you fall off your motor bike and need extensive hospitalisation because you’re only wearing shorts and thongs who do you go to? if your house collapses because of dodgy foundations who do you turn to? One of the reasons for such massive death tolls in natural disasters in developing countries is the poor infrastructure and lack of standards applying to construction activities. You may decry the so called nanny state of developed countries but it provides a higher standard of living that the free for all that happens in developing countries.

  2. Yep, all fair points Dave, and I agree that there are seriously adverse social consequences in developing countries from too much laissez-faire. But there’s a matter of balance in there somewhere. There’s a principle called “volenti non fit injuria” or “to the willing, no injury is done”. We seem to have lost sight of that to some extent, and judges in particular have led the charge to finding someone to blame, however bizarre or tenuous it may seem. That’s why Queenstown in the adrenalin capital of NZ, because there they understand voluntary assumption of risk. Thanks for your comments and your perspective.

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