9/9/16: someone else’s problems

I’d forgotten how difficult it was to maintain a daily publishing schedule, especially when you’re also on deadline for the latest Phoenix Wright title and looking at wedding venues. I thought I’d kick off with some #FirstWorldProblems, because that’s what comes to mind upon reading Will Leitch’s New York Magazine (9/5-9/18/16) note about the persistent popularity of football, despite all of the continued controversy about how it leaves lifelong injuries on those who play it. Specifically, I wanted to focus on this observation:

A Bloomberg study in late 2014 showed that 62 percent of families making more than $100,000 do not want their children to play football, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that that percentage has risen since then. But there’s a big difference between not wanting your kids to play football and not wanting to watch football.

My first thought, and Leitch doesn’t disappoint in completing the connection, is that this is basically how the upper-middle class looks at military service: They’re all too happy to support the way in which others put their lives at risk for this country’s safety (or entertainment), but ask them to do the same, or even to help support our troops and athletes after they complete their contracts, and they back away. Patriotism, it seems, has a very low salary cap, and that’s especially relevant right now given the whole “Star Spangled Banner” protest currently playing out in the NFL.

Herein lies the problem: when we’re allowed to enjoy something without consequence, we have no incentive to actually fix the problem. The awful conditions in which most livestock are subjected to? Well, it keeps the meat cheap. The same can be said for the conditions imposed on a minimum-wage greeter at a Wal-Mart, and why so many people agitate against a living wage; it’s a problem that doesn’t affect them and a solution that would. (See also: Climate change. This issue of New York magazine also features some terrifying projections of New York City’s 2100 coastline.)

The easiest way to compel a change would be to remove the comfortable distance that so many of us currently and safely judge from. (Take away, for instance, the anonymity of the Internet.) Do away with private schools, or ensure that scholarships and vouchers are more readily available to ensure a diverse population. I’m not sure where I stand on magnet and specialized schools; is it actually such a good thing to keep the “smart” kids away from those who may have just gotten off to a slower start? Might not each group better inform the other and make them more well-rounded, fully accomplished individuals? Might this not teach us the most valuable social skill of all, empathy?

At the end of the day, many of us make the assumption that people freely chose to pursue football as a career, or enlisted in the military out of lofty ideals. And that’s probably true for some individuals, regardless of their backgrounds. But there are also many who enlist because they could not afford a college education without doing so, and footballers who end up playing because their athletic scholarship didn’t actually provide them with a free education so much as a narrowly focused track toward the big money of the NFL. You’d have to somehow strip all the incentives away from these activities and better provide for all of these children’s futures in order to get a real idea of who wanted to risk their health, their lives, for these pursuits. At this point, we’d essentially become their upper-middle class parents, and as the stats already suggest, we’d want to keep them safe, even if it might mean the end of a sport that we once enjoyed watching.

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