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Oct 27 2006

Stupid young men tricks

As readers of this blog must have gleaned by now, I tend to be very wary of blanket generalizations and stereotyping. These tend to be harmful because the differences within groups are usually vastly greater than the differences between groups, making comparisons between individuals in different groups largely meaningless. But there is one generalization of which I am getting more and more convinced and that is the following: All men between the ages of 15 and 25 are idiots.

Ok, that may be a little too strong. But it definitely seems to be the case that men within that age range they have very little idea of the possible negative consequences of their actions.

Recent events have cemented this view. Here are some examples:

Exhibit A:

Howard McFarland Fish, 21, a U.S. citizen from Connecticut and a college student LaFayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania “was detained Friday after customs agents found what they suspected was dynamite in his checked luggage.”

He was returning from Buenos Aires. In addition to the dynamite, he had a blasting cap, a homemade fuse and a quarter-pound of ammonium nitrate. And why did he do this?

“The passenger said he had been exploring mines in Bolivia and purchased the dynamite as a souvenir.” (my emphasis).

Although the authorities feel that Fish is not involved with terrorism, he has been charged with breaking security laws and could face up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

How can any one in their right mind, in these days of almost paranoid fear and security, even think of taking dynamite on board a plane as a souvenir? The only explanation is that Fish is an idiot by virtue of age.

Exhibit B:

A 20-year-old grocery store clerk who authorities say amused himself by posting prank Internet warnings of terrorist attacks against NFL stadiums was arrested Friday on federal charges that could bring five years behind bars.

Jake Brahm of Wauwatosa, Wis., was accused of writing messages that said terrorists planned to set off radioactive “dirty bombs” this weekend at football stadiums in seven cities, including Cleveland. He admitted posting the threat about 40 times on various Web sites between September and Wednesday, authorities said.

Apparently Brahm was having some sort of contest with a friend to see who could post the most scary notice on the internet.

Exhibit C: Myself.

I cannot help but feel a sense of empathy with Fish and Brahm because when I was in that same age range, I was also an idiot. (Some might argue that I still am, but that does not negate the point I am making here.) I recall doing things at that age that now horrify me.

For example, when I was in high school, my friends and I repeatedly went out on a nearby lake in a small leaky rowboat. The boat did not have any life jackets and we could not swim. None of us were even experienced oarsmen and spent much of our time going around in circles. The lake also had snakes and alligator-like monitor lizards that could be up to five feet in length and there were occasions when some in the boat were alarmed by their presence nearby and rocked the boat violently, trying to get away. It would not have taken much to capsize the boat and we would all have been done for.

When I was in college, I also recall how three of us would ride on my friend’s Vespa scooter, which barely had room for two, or two of us would ride on my other friend’s moped which really could only seat one, with the passenger sitting on tiny rack over the rear wheel. We did not have helmets and Sri Lankan roads were notorious for being congested and full of bad drivers. An accident could have easily happened that could have either killed or maimed us.

Why did I do these things which, looking back, were indubitably crazy? I have no excuse to offer and can only plead insanity by virtue of age.

What is worse was that I did not even think of the things I did as particularly dangerous. I suspect that Fish and Brahm, like me, never gave the slightest thought to the possible dangers of their actions and its adverse consequences.

And the behavior gets worse when young men are in the company of other young men, which seems to have a multiplier effect on stupidity. As someone once said, if you look closely, just before a young man does something particularly stupid, his words are likely to be “Hey guys, watch this!”

Do men have a special idiocy gene that gets turned on at 15 and then gets turned off at about the age of 25?

Maybe this is why military recruiters target this age group. They are the ones who are willing, even eager, to sign on to risk death by being sent to wars at the whim of older men, and to even think of this as ‘adventure’. If armies were restricted by international treaties to not have soldiers under the age of 25, we might have far smaller armies and fewer wars.

POST SCRIPT: Bizarro cartoon

The Tuesday Plain Dealer had this funny Bizarro cartoon, illustrating the point I was making on that very same day.

bizarro.jpg

14 comments

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  1. 1
    James C

    Mano, I guess it is just something that surprises me everytime. It would seem normal for a person in that age range to relieve himself on a public building or monument just for humor. There will be instances of guys trying to do something dangerous and they look it as a rite of passage, until one of the guys get hurt, then instead of trying to make sure he is alright, they ridcule the person and absolves themselves of all personal responsibility.

  2. 2
    Tom Maley

    Mano:
    I coached high school soccer and soccer matches just to seemed to be the right environment for that age group to shine. I wish I had had a dollar for each time I said “What were you thinking?” I read somewhere online and I wished I had printed it then, but I read that this age group’s brain is not fully developed which explains for their behavior. Male anyway, females are beyond my comprehension.

  3. 3
    Ben

    I don’t think stupidity is related to age, so much as stupidity is related to…well, stupidity. To follow your example Mano (taken from the Darwin Awards):

    This Honorable Mention goes to the hiker in Scotland who picked up a grass snake so his brother could take a picture. Just as he reached for it, a black serpent slithered into view, so he grabbed that too. It was a black adder, Britain’s only venomous snake. Both reptiles sank their fangs into the 44-year-old, who went into anaphylactic shock. He recovered in the hospital. His excuse for his rash act? He didn’t think venomous snakes inhabited Scotland.

    OR

    (North Carolina) I read about this when I was in college in North Carolina back in 1993. This guy, Salome Vedejas, I’ll never forget his name. He wanted to make a withdrawal from his bank account. Salome was about 35, a little slow, and he lived with his mother. It was cold out, so he went to the bank wearing a ski mask. He pulled up to the drive through and gave the teller his withdrawal form. The woman panicked, thinking he was a thief, and gave him over $10,000. He had no clue what had happened, and just drove off. The bank called the cops and they chased him all the way into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The guy must have been scared, because he ended up driving right off a cliff. I remember a quote from his mother: “My son always wears his ski mask when it’s cold. The police killed my son.” Crazy huh?

    So, I propose something else. Perhaps it is just that the reason you hear about more stupid antics from the young is that if you survive past 25, you’re probably gonna make it the rest of the way. After all, it’s a third of the average life expectency of males in the United States.

    To quote Insoo Hyun at Case “I don’t think I’ve gotten any wiser as I’ve gotten older. Instead, the risky activities I engage in have just become more expensive.”

    This is very true for myself. I used to ride my bike too fast, and now I drive a car too fast. Given that the car is much more massive, can explode, and is about 6 times faster, I think I was actually safer at 14.

    -Ben

  4. 4
    Rand

    The earth has 6Bn+ people on it. With genetic variability, we’re bound to see some true duds. It’s usually better if they self extinguish, for society and the planet’s well being.

    Males in particular seem prone to stupidity at a young age, but most seem to survive.

  5. 5
    Shruti

    My friends and I used to call this phenomenon “testosterone poisoning” although I am not convinced it ends at 25. :)

  6. 6
    dave

    Humans are stupid. Once you start with that premise everything else follows nicely.

    I no longer am surprised by stupidity, but seeing intelligence makes me smile.

  7. 7
    Greg Lowell

    I was surprised that the guy maing half-baked threats to football stadiums got any attention at all, since one close reading of it by any football fan tells you it’s fake. It mentions stadiums in many cities, including the stadium in New York. Problem is that there IS no NFL stadium in New York; the Giants and Jets play in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Close, but not quite. Anyone actually planning this is going to know IN WHAT STATE the stadiums are located. It was dumb if him to say, but probably even dumber of the authorities to take it seriously.

  8. 8
    volunteer abroad medical

    Very nice post. The idea that humans have an innate idiocy gene is classic. You just have to meet my family to realize that’s the God’s truth. I support that assertion 110%.

  9. 9
    abhay

    Your story about going into lake with a leaky rowboat is very amusing, reminds me of my own stupidity when as a young man i set out to cross a high speed stream of water on foot with no knowledge of swimming, fortunately I gave up the idea after realizing the water was cold!

  10. 10
    Sharon

    Do you realy think all men etween the ages 15 and 25 are idiots?

    I don’t agree with you.

    I think it’s an indevidul problem, not colective.

    Thanks,
    Sharon

  11. 11
    Elizabeth Mark

    I find your comment about military recuiters seeking boys aged 15-25 thought provoking. What are we as parents not giving our kids at this age to help them through those tricky years. Having 2 young boys and having read around this subject as I understand it at around 15 years old boys really need a good mentor. This should not be thier mother or father but male, perhaps an uncle or close family friend who can guide and support without to much judgement. With the closure of so many youth clubs and boys clubs with the recession and government cuts support for teenage boys is dismal in the UK.

  12. 12
    Joselyn

    Certainly not all young men are moronic. However, the younger generations do seem to get duller and duller.

    Maybe im just a bitter old lady :(

  13. 13
    Henry Gale

    @Mano

    Your memory of riding on a Vespa scooter with 3 friends reminds me of this photo I took while in China:

    http://img824.imageshack.us/img824/7039/p5040145.jpg

  14. 14
    Henry Gale

    I meant 3 people in total :D

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