Sunday, July 27, 2003


Every year, the first rays of sun come chaperoned with a host of warnings about the dangers that we face from the sun, the summer, the holidays, life at home or life in general. Most of these warnings are unnecessary; all of them are irritating. What is it about the holiday season that so attracts scaremongers and killjoys?

After skin cancer, there is the general risk of heat. In Kansas, USA, the 'SAFE KIDS coalition' has issued warnings about the dangers of leaving children unattended in cars 'even for a few minutes', and 'even with the windows down', after a 22-month-old Kansas girl who was left in an SUV for eight hours in the full sun tragically died In Britain, campaigners are generally more vocal on the issue of pets in hot places

Even in a globally warmed summer, people go on holiday - and this provides no end of opportunities for panics and advice. The journey itself, we are told, provides numerous hazards - aeroplanes carry the risk of deep-vein thrombosis, terrorists or other passengers with air rage. If you are backpacking, prepare to be warned about the dangers of everything from hitch-hiking (not that anybody does that any more) to mugging; if you're a young person just out for a fun holiday with friends, a whole string of calamities can befall you, from drinking, drug-taking, dehydrating, drowning, and generally dying as a result of irresponsible (aka carefree) behaviour.

The holiday romance has been relabelled sexual harassment and diagnosed as a cause of sexual disease, so you don't want to be getting too close to anybody else. But be careful, too, about those activities you can do on your own - from water sports to biking to swimming to sightseeing, everything from sharks to crashes to pickpockets could ruin your day.

This is by no means an exhaustive list - but it clearly shows that there's no such thing as a risk-free summer. At home and abroad, outdoors and indoors, the pleasure police and panic-merchants can turn the most banal aspects of everyday life and leisure time into a cause for alarm.

From the point of view of the safe summer killjoys, the real problem with summer is that the risk managers have no place in it.

More here.

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