Training Wheels

By | October 22, 2012

I was talking with a friend the other night about how much I enjoy the works of P. G. Wodehouse, especially the Jeeves novels. They are laugh-out-loud funny, even today, primarily because Wodehouse was a genius at ending a sentence differently than the reader expects. He does it dozens or hundreds of times in each book and it always works (at least it always works for me.) I went on to explain that another reason the books are great entertainment is that nothing serious happens in them: Bertie Wooster and his aristocratic pals think they are suffering huge losses and facing unbearable consequences, but their lives have training wheels, as it were.

Nobody is going to fall off.

In the end, they are all still going to be rich and they are all still going to be leading very comfortable lives.

This public service ad for Water Is Life makes the point, using Haitians to recite tweets delivered by folks living in the developed world, that quite a few of us lead lives with training wheels these days:

(The kid talking about pickles really gets to me. I don’t know why.)

A true Utopian believes we can have a world in which all problems will be solved. This is nonsense. I believe that in the future people — and I mean everybody, including people who currently live in the kind of conditions shown in the video — will face tremendous, momentous, devastating problems–most of which would be incomprehensible to us today. But if we could understand them, they would sound every bit as trivial as “I hate it when my leather seats aren’t heated” sounds to these Haitians.