Default Positions

I was thinking about default positions, and how they seem mired in very low expectations of humans. For example, this tragic story at the Cincinnati Zoo where Harambe was killed (unnecessarily, it would seem). The parents of the boy involved are responsible, I think, and in a perfect world they would be charged with reckless endangerment. (And yes, I know there is the even bigger issue of whether animals should be in zoos at all. I’ll save that for another time.) That said, what I have found very disturbing in the aftermath of this tragedy are the masses of people saying stuff like, “kids wander off! It happens!” Or “it’s hard to keep your eyes on your kids, you know!” And then there are the defensive (and probably crappy) parents who say, “Well I guess you’re a perfect parent, then!”

Um, no. It isn’t about being a perfect parent or about not understanding that kids can wander off. But there is a world of difference between your kid wandering off and your kid jumping into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. It seems to me that if you are at a busy, crowded place like a zoo (a place which keeps enclosed wild and dangerous animals) with a young child — your young child — you might want to be, oh, I don’t know, extra vigilant. And yet the default position here is, “Oh well, parents aren’t perfect. Kids run off! No big deal.” The default position should be that we expect vigilance — not negligence — from parents.

It reminds me of the people who say that since they don’t know what they would have done in, say, Nazi Germany, we can’t or shouldn’t criticize people who turned in their neighbours or looked away from the horrors. In other words, the accepted default position for humans is moral bankruptcy. I find this profoundly depressing.

Along similar lines, Mark Steyn wrote about this in regards the Montreal Massacre — why did the men that the murderer ordered out of the lecture hall that day meekly leave?

There’s an expression about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ an expression which refers to the tendency of the regressive left to make excuses for certain groups of people when they commit crimes, for example. We saw a lot of that nonsense after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (my column on this very topic here). But it also could be said to describe how little we expect of ourselves in so many ways. Our default positions should not be that negligence is understandable or that cowardice and moral bankruptcy are the sorry spots to which we are naturally destined.