As we usher in the new year, we also usher in a new age of paranoia and a misguided attitude about the world we live in. Children are discouraged from roaming freely outside, doors stay locked at all times, and well-wishing mothers and fathers gripe about how none of this was necessary back in their childhoods, a time when everything was, apparently, safer. When every day’s evening news brings yet another story of child abduction, robbery, or homicide, it is understandable that one might tense up, perhaps even change his or her behavior to avoid what seem to be impending disasters. But when we allow a story like Natalee Holloway’s to paralyze us, to erode our trust and numb our logic, we deny the simple truth that the world is safer now than it ever before has been.
For me, the perfect illustration of this delusional mindset comes from conversations that I have had with, of course, my mother. She brings up from time to time the story about her taking a road trip with a friend from Wyoming to California when she was in college. And every time she does, my mother makes sure to add that she would never approve of me taking such a trip, that things were different back then. Trying not to be too condescending, I assure her that she couldn’t be more wrong. The two main reasons: GPS and cell phones. In 1975, technology as we know it today was essentially nonexistent. If my mother got lost along the country roads, she had to rely on foldout maps to correct her course. If she got in a collision on some desolate stretch of highway, there was no way of calling 911. If she and her friend had car trouble and found themselves stranded, no one would ever be able to find their whereabouts. These problems today in 2011 are, well, not really problems at all.
The simple fact is that crime and general danger have always existed and will continue to do so in the future. Criminals today are no more malevolent or prevalent than they ever have been. The only real changes that have occurred over time are population growth, which increases crime in a purely proportional fashion, and the media, which give us awareness of crimes that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. With the proliferation of mobile telephones, everyone is safer. As long as you carry a cell phone at all times, help is only three digits away.
Worried about your daughter playing in the neighborhood through strangers’ yards? Download an iPhone app that gives you a map showing the addresses of known sex offenders. Having second thoughts about letting your son take the car downtown? Cell carriers offer services that allow you to monitor your child’s location via his or her phone. Caution isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s paired with logic and reason. As 2010 turns into 2011, take comfort in the fact that while the world may be a rapidly changing place, these changes are for the better.
Tags:2011 - the Age of IPhones and GPS