Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zero Intelligence

Zero Tolerance Syndrome seems to be one of the epidemics of the 2000s. In a way, it's kind of like AIDS: a viral infection compromises the immune system to the point of rendering it moot, so that any small bug that would normally pass unnoticed suddenly becomes a chronic issue. In this case, however, the "infection" is some kind of perceived evil, real or imagined, that somebody in power thinks merits a witch hunt. The "immune system" is common sense.


The problem is that the whole notion of "zero tolerance" has become something of a status symbol. Authority figures want to show how righteous they are (read "make people believe their family jewels are a bit larger than BBs") by vowing to get tough on anything that even vaguely smacks of [insert public enemy du jour here]. And since righteousness (ahem *manliness* cough) tends to be strangely competitive, you often wind up with a whole bunch of leaders trying to outdo each other in terms of just how zero their tolerance really is.

We Americans are fond of pointing at our Great Parent, Mother England, and laughing (sympathetically, of course) at the Monty Python-esque Nanny State it has become. We shake our heads at tales of 17-year-olds not being allowed to buy bicycle repair kits (lest they sniff the glue), people being fined for dropping bits of their sandwich, old ladies being told they can't tend flowerbeds without safety equipment, garbage collectors not allowed to clean up garbage in a shallow creek because they're not licensed to wear boots, or people catching repeat thief/vandals and calling the police only to wind up arrested themselves. But while we're so eager to guffaw at the speck in the eye of the Jolly Old Isles, we don't seem to be noticing the log popping up in our own.

After all, the good old US of A, while being the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave®, is also the country where:
This list could easily go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Naturally, all of these absurdities are rationalized by authority figures and experts citing the need for "drastic measures" to face a "growing problem". They boast about how they are getting "tough" on something or another by making examples (read "scapegoats") of people whose "crimes" probably wouldn't have merited a second glance a couple of decades ago. Meanwhile, the comment threads on the news articles are often punctuated with die-hards remarking that "all places have there rules" and that "Zeяo toleяanse mens zeяo toleяanse - theяs no gяay aяea". (Hmm...I wonder if they'd be half as smug if their own son were suspended because they'd gone off and left something in their car.)

However, I still have to wonder whether, far from being any kind of noble crusade, this Zero Tolerance stuff is just a way for authority figures to boast about fighting a problem while at the same time ducking it. They say they're allowing no gray areas because they don't want any complaints or accusations of discrimination, and yet at the same time they seem to be trying to turn life itself into a series of mindless "if - then" statements without any thought about the consequences. They're only too pleased to see innocent members of the community if not honor students have their whole record ruined just so the guy on top can pass judgment without having to use his head...let alone take any kind of criticism. Zero Tolerance certainly makes things a lot simpler.

Then again, "simple" can be synonymous with "brainless".

6 comments:

Arkonbey said...

You know what's funny, many who espouse 'zero tolerance' for drugs are those who talk about the need for 'smaller government', too.

On the other side, we liberals need to ease up on zero tolerance. For instance, I don't believe in spanking, but there is a wide line between a smack on the ass and a punch in the face.



Anecdote time: I once knew a guy who was almost kicked out of the USCG because a drug-sniffing dog found a single pot seed in a chair in his barracks room. However, the ancient dessicated thing disintegrated before it could be used as evidence so he was let off.

Don Snabulus said...

If we still want to see someone in Hollywood holding authority accountable, we must still watch Perry Mason. It is really no wonder that authority is all we get when authority is all we watch (most TV drama involves unrealistically noble authority figures going after the obvious bad guy(s) to protect us). The culture permeates from entertainment to how we conduct our actual affairs.

I think your conclusions are right on the money Moody.

Don Snabulus said...

Girl, 12, gets suspended for bringing party popper toys to school.

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/party_poppers_at_washington_sc.html

Pandabonium said...

Good points Moody.

Arkonbey - Some folks actually like a smack on the fanny once in a while. ;^) By the way, can you send me an email sometime at pandabonium at gmail dot com?

I think Don is right about tee-vee. Well, what do we expect from an industry that calls its product "programming"?

The only zero tolerance in schools I go along with concerns not kids, but people in authority (teachers, priests, police) abusing children.

DewKid said...

I personally have a zero tolerance rule for blog posts on zero tolerance. Such posts are met with a swift response in the comments section as follows:

I personally have a zero tolerance rule for blog posts on zero tolerance. Such posts are met with a swift response in the comments section as follows:

I personally have a zero tolerance rule for blog posts on zero tolerance. Such posts are met with a swift response in the comments section as follows:

I personally have a zero tolerance rule for blog posts on zero tolerance. Such posts are met with a swift response in the comments section as follows:

.... Orange you glad I didn't say Banana again?

The Moody Minstrel said...

Knock knock!