There is a Price for Everything

I have a number of trees on my property, when I cut them alders and thorny bushes grow in their place. I have a choice… the land will grow something. Do I wish to have thorns and alders? Trees? Or the job of continually cutting back? Covering with grass? To move? Many choices, but not the choice to cut the trees and not have a consequence.

So it is with all areas of life.

I work in the climbing industry and climbing has a major inherent risk — falling. If you make a mistake you or someone else could get hurt, possibly seriously, possibly die. I always say to a newcomer, YOU WILL FALL. You could get hurt. It is YOUR job to learn how to protect yourself.

I have to point out the obvious because of risk management policies. Just go to MacDonald’s and buy a cup of coffee. The cup will inform you that the coffee is hot and you could get burned if it spills. Why? Why does MacDonald’s have to so clearly inform you of the risk and potential consequence? Because Stella Liebeck sued MacDonalds for burns that resulted from spilling coffee in her lap and she won the lawsuit. It cost MacDonald’s… and you, the consumer… money. Ms. Liebeck’s suit cost MacDonald’s.

To be clear, this is the consequence on the larger group. To pay the suit, MacDonald’s raises prices. You the consumer are now paying the award to Ms. Liebeck.

I would say the cost was actually even higher. We, as humans living in North America, learned that even if we did not use common sense or take responsibility, we can blame someone else and be right. Consider the following few examples:

  1. You can go to the ski hill, drink and go back out skiing, and despite the warning signs, you can sue the ski hill if something happens to you. When the hill pays out the claimant, it will raise the cost of lift tickets to pay more for higher insurance coverage.
  2. Children in school can pass and move along grade after grade without completing the required work. They no longer are responsible to do the work. The cost to the larger world? Young people with a lower standard of knowledge, lower capacity for resilience, lacking critical thinking skills and more unhappiness and anxiety due to a lack of a sense of fulfillment because they have never struggled and achieved.
  3. In the climbing world, the industry practices are moving away from making the climber take responsibility for learning how to manage their personal risk in a facility. An ability to critically analyze risk and problem solve solutions, an inability to manage ones own safety.
  4. University students decide to travel home to family during a pandemic. Government restrictions require they self isolate upon return for 14 days. For some this means a hotel. Students take this complaint to the University looking for some form of intervention/compensation. Higher tuition fees.
  5. Couple go to Florida and get COVID and complain about the cost of health care. Want compassion from the Canadian government who had imposed an essential travel only ban. Taxpayers will be burdened with the cost if the government compensates the couple.
  6. A woman in PEI who collected the $2000/month of CERB payments. the threshold for eligibility being making $5000 NET. She made $5000 GROSS. When the government requested repayment, the woman argued that it wasn’t clear if she was or wasn’t eligible. Again, taxpayers just paid this woman $18,000 over 6 months and now will foot the bill of trying to reclaim the funds.

Consider the consequence of the take aways from these few examples.

No… really consider the take away.

During a global pandemic, rather than an attitude of how can I do my part for the greater good, the question is: who can I blame? How can I profit (or at the very least, suffer no inconvenience) for my job loss, personal experience?

The true cost is the attitude of not taking responsibility — for ourselves AND our community. It is a ME FIRST attitude, rather than a WE attitude.

In a recent conversation with someone who researches risk management policy and practice, he asked a great question… so how do we turn around now?

How indeed?

Rather than; what do I get? We need to ask; what price am I willing to pay?

Am I willing to pay the price of learning and doing homework to actually get into University? Are Universities willing to NOT support every student need/demand? Am I willing to loose a few thousand a year, like many folks during a pandemic in order to leave money in the government coffers for those who really need it? Am I willing to work hard for the reward I want? Am I willing to take responsibility for my choices, even if it means I may be harmed?

The current attitude of me first is a short-sighted one. It is an instant gratification response. The attitude of service is one of longer vision. There is a discomfort of going through a global pandemic. And yet with government support many are trying to avoid that discomfort. Me first. This just means higher taxes and longer restrictions in the future. Allowing young people to pass a grade without doing the work just means higher tuitions at Universities and lower quality graduates in the future.

As a society we need to be willing to be uncomfortable. That is life… moments of joy and sorrow, prosperity and scarcity. Resilience is what helps us navigate the rough terrain and get through to the other shore. But we must be willing first. And we must have governments that are elected even though they don’t offer us more comfort and promise us less discomfort. There is a price to living, there is risk. How willing are you to accept that risk?



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