The Sainting of Baden Powell..

You would, possibly, be forgiven for thinking the BBC is leading a campaign to deify Baden-Powell. In the magazine section (so named to avoid having to publish news, one suspects) there is an article titled “What Would Baden-Powell Do?” It seems the BBC editor has enough humour to equate the racist, misogynistic Baden-Powell with Jesus. Seems about right to me. Too add to this allusion, there is breathless references to how Baden-Powell’s “wisdom” has stood the test of time… Seriously.

Once you finish reading the comments, you would expect good old Benedict to be writing a Papal Bull as we speak (I will ignore any Church of England issues…) and the image of a collection of crusty old fools sitting around saying how the youth of today, aided by soft government and human rights legislation, have destroyed the country will be permanently etched in your mind.

Before I properly rant, I need to make clear something. The Scout movement is wonderful. I have nothing but admiration for the people involved, leaders and members, who often give up huge amounts of their personal time for no reward other than the feeling of “Job Well Done.” Despite my dislike for Baden-Powell, the fact remains that Scouts are wonderful thing the world over. However, Baden-Powell simply started the movement and gave it impetus. He does not act from beyond the grave guiding scouts (pun intended) towards a “moral” future.

Early on, the BBC show which way this article is going with this:

And while some of Baden-Powell’s advice seems out of place in today’s risk-averse society, much of it seems prescient.

Here, we see a combination of the crackpot idea that people today are “risk adverse” as a society (pretty meaningless, but it ticks the boxes of the tabloid readers) with some major cherry picking and spin on Baden-Powell’s writing. Comically, even the selected bits published by the BBC fail to show that “much” of it is prescient — unless you have an oddly literal way of using the word much. In a way, this is somewhat like reading a theists blog about the Jesus and the bible.

Basically, the BBC reprint ten snippets of Baden-Powell’s (ahem) wisdom, out of which three remain valid today. If you see that as “much” then, as I said, I think you have an odd understanding of much. I am reasonably sure you could extract ten commandments out of any historical document and find two or three which were still valid today.

Where he is in keeping with modern thoughts, he is pretty wet for want of a better word – for example, he says people shouldn’t harm animals, shouldn’t smoke until they are adults and shouldn’t drink huge quantities. Today we would be happy with teaching the first to children, but the second two are not quite in keeping with modern standards.

Better still, when he strays from the current thinking he really goes off the rails. We get some wonderful snippets like:

The shape of the face gives a good guide to the man’s character.

(on bees) They are a quite a model community for they respect their Queen and kill their unemployed.

(on saving people about to be hit by a train) Lie flat and make him lie flat too between the rails, and let the train go over us both

And my personal favourite bit of nonsense:

(on saving people from drowning) Plunge in boldly and look to the object you are trying to attain and don’t bother about your own safety.

Wow. Risk averse or not – if you follow his advice on these topics not only are you an idiot, but you are more than likely to end up dead (or in prison). Trying to copy Harold Lloyd and letting a train run over you is a short cut to ending up dead. The is not some stupid rule pushed upon a care free society by evil Health and Safety people but a simple fact.

If you don’t bother about your own safety when you try to save someone else — in water or not — then the reality is you are more than likely to become a casualty yourself. Not only does this mean you fail to save the “object” you are after, but it means when (if) the emergency services arrive they have two people to deal with. It really is stupid, yet it is a common thing all over the world.

As for the phrenology and obscure social judgements, well, I hope I don’t need to explain why they are mad.

Showing how the idea that we are a “risk averse” society as the result of Health and Safety (and RoSPA) molly coddling, the comments give the ranting-tabloid readers the chance to mouth off, without considering the double standards of their complaints. It is somewhat infuriating that these people who rant about “taking risks” are the first to demand “public enquiries” whenever someone gets injured — or god-forbid a criminal moves into their neighbourhood…

The comments range from the somewhat confusing to the complete misunderstanding. Take this example:

If everyone selfishly followed ROSPA’s advice we would have no heroes.

Now, I know I have been having trouble getting my head round sayings lately, but this has stumped me as well. This person seems to want people to be put in harms way, often die, so that others can be hailed as a hero. Wow. How selfish…

We also get the predictable nonsense about how all anti-social behaviour is linked to (insert topic of choice) which is typified by these two:

Baden Powell was a real man, not like the Beckham boys generation of today. When was the last time anyone went out and fought a bear? Society should take notice of these true words of wisdom.

Perhaps if more of Baden-Powells philosophies on life were in place in todays world we wouldnt need so many ASBOs. As a former Cub, Scout and Venture Scout I beleive that the scouting movement helped to mould me and my attitudes towards others and we desperatly need more empathy towards others in our selfish modern age.

Yes, I am sure it is entirely down the scouting movement. Obviously, just like Christianity, without it people would be un-restrained murdering rapists… As for having to wrestle a bear to be a real man, well… I am sure in some neolithic community that would be good criteria for making your “wisdom” wise, but I doubt it is the case in modern times..

Thankfully, one commenter points out the problem with relying too heavily on “common sense” approaches to problems or dangerous situations. By and large, as humans, we have not yet adapted the proper “sense” responses to some situations, especially living in a temperate climate as the UK should be. This is why people make the mistake of trying to crawl out on breaking ice, or jump into raging torrent rivers, to save someone and often end up casualties themselves.

A very recent example of people making a mistake because they were in a situation they had no idea about has been during the recent floods in England and Wales. People here are not used to having to pump out their houses so end up using petrol powered pumps without ventilation and die. This is the sort of thing the HSE and RoSPA try to prevent.

Why do people have a problem with trying to save lives and prevent accidents?

[tags]HSE, Health, Safety, Society, Culture, Risk, Scouts, Baden-Powell, Nonsense, BBC, Idiocy, Belief, Risk averse, Risk Taking, RoSPA, HSE, Common Sense, Floods, Death, Accident, Injury[/tags]