People are getting dumber
Aug. 11, 2014
by Ivan Raconteur

OK, It’s official. It’s not my imagination. People really are getting dumber.

I was scrolling through the latest posts on Twitter recently when I encountered a warning from the state fire marshal.

“We urge parents to talk to their teens about the dangers of the so-called ‘fire challenge,’” the post stated.

Even though I was not familiar with the “fire challenge,” I could see where this was going.

The post included a link to a story from the Fox affiliate in Kansas City, KS.

According to the story, “disturbing” videos have been appearing on YouTube depicting something called the fire challenge.

Apparently, this involves teens dousing themselves with alcohol, and, while standing in front of a shower, setting themselves on fire.

Most of us learn when we are quite young that fire is dangerous, and if we mess with it, we will get burned.

Anyone who would deliberately set himself on fire is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, so to speak.

The story included a report of a 16-year-old boy who received first- and second-degree burns after participating in the challenge.

He was hospitalized with burns on his face, neck, and hips.

The report also noted that, according to the University of Kansas Hospital, the challenge has been around for about five years, and the hospital has treated patients who have been burned as a result of participating in the challenge.

A doctor in the hospital’s burn unit recalled a person who had received third-degree burns on his leg and required skin grafting.

That’s just brilliant. Teens are out risking potentially permanent injury and disfigurement, and possibly even death, all in the name of a challenge.

Even more remarkable is they advertise their stupidity by posting videos of their idiotic behavior on YouTube for everyone to see.

How messed up does a person have to be for that to seem like a good idea?

I suppose most of us engage in some sort of risky or inadvisable behavior when we are teens.

I certainly did.

I am confident, however, that even at the height of my creative period, if someone had approached me and challenged me to douse myself with alcohol and set myself on fire, I would have told them where they could go. I may have been reckless at times, but I wasn’t a complete moron.

I also don’t understand the desire to publish one’s most foolish moments online.

It is true, there was no such thing as YouTube when I was a teen, but even so, when we did stupid stuff, we did our best to keep people from finding out about it. We certainly didn’t advertise it.

I don’t think this is a generational thing, though.

I am becoming convinced that people really are getting dumber.

They are losing their ability to distinguish between things that might be mildly uncomfortable, and things that might kill them.

Somewhere along the line, the filters that are necessary for survival are disappearing.

I’m sure if Charlie Darwin were alive today, he would have plenty to say about the subject.

I don’t know what the answer is.

I have two teenage nephews of whom I am rather fond. I can’t imagine having to sit them down and patiently explain to them, “Boys, don’t pour alcohol on yourself and set yourself on fire, because you might burn your damn face off, and you wouldn’t like that.”

I just can’t see that conversation ever happening. Based on the evidence, however, it sounds like in some households, maybe more conversations like that need to occur.

Based on recent trends, it is apparently necessary to educate teens on the dangers of diving into freezing water or setting themselves on fire.

It seems to me these things are obvious, but maybe some people learn more slowly.

The next thing you know, we will have to be telling people not to smash their thumbs with hammers. I have had that experience (not intentionally), and having done it provides an excellent incentive to avoid doing it again.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised, however, to read next year that the latest fad is the thumb smash challenge, and teens are out smashing their thumbs with hammers to see how hard they can hit them, and posting the videos on YouTube just to prove how stupid they are.

There aren’t enough warning labels in the world to protect the seriously dim-witted from themselves.

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