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:
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.
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.