Splashed across the papers today was the story of plucky 9 year old, Stella Noble who has climbed the sheer face of the notoriously difficult Colorado mountain known as ‘The Diamond.’ Her dad, Forrest (no, I’m not making this up) claimed his little girl wasn’t at all nervous and thought the whole experience was ‘cool.’ Now, I’m not one to be a spoil sport (ahem) but Swine thinks Forrest should be jailed for placing his daughter’s life in danger rather than being celebrated in the global media. Similarly, any kid who attempts to singlehandedly sail around the world should be placed in care to protect them for their over-zealous, attention-seeking parents.
When Ellen McArthur ‘saved up her pocket money’ to buy her first yacht and then went off on a lonely round the world cruise, she became a national icon, a symbol of True Brit grit n’ determination that other spoiled rich kids could look up to and emulate. The attention and acclamation ‘Dame’ Ellen achieved unleashed an armada of gung ho nippers taking to their sponsored sailboats (with their pushy fathers usually in tow ofcourse) each trying to out-do each other by being the youngest person to ever attempt a solo Atlantic crossing whilst chained to a radiator or whatever wacky scheme their mams and dads had dreamt up.
This type of parent, those who seek to glorify their children’s exploits as explorers or adventurers or mathematical/artistic geniuses only really care about themselves by wallowing in the reflected glory of their mini-me experiments. They should recieve our condemnation not our admiration. Sure they crack on that it’s all about teaching their offspring ‘valuable life lessons’ y’know like ‘determination,’ ‘discipline’ and ‘self-reliance’ and other buzzwords of the control freak. This feeds into the obsessive ‘winning’ culture of the west, especially in the US, where each and every act has to be treated as if it’s a life or death competition.
Now let’s pretend for a moment that a dad from a council estate had placed their kid’s life in such danger, the right-wing media would be lining up to condemn such parental irresponsibility and be asking why these kids aren’t in school anyway. It’s OK for Tabitha and Leopold to take 7 months out of junior school to circumnavigate the globe but if little Tracey or Lee (are kids still called Tracey and Lee?) take two weeks off to go to Spain outside the summer holidays, it’s visits from the school attendence officer and a lecture on morality from the politicians and self-elected moral guardians of the press.
Let’s face it, very few working class kids will ever the opportunity to climb obscure mountain ranges or sail the ocean blue because these are the preserve of the wealthy, those who can afford to take the weeks and months or preparation and then actually embark on the ‘expedition’ itself. Pricks like Ranulph Fiennes and Richard Branson like to pretend they’re doing something noble and admirable (it’s all for charidee folks) but unlike their forebears who really did risk life and limb out in the jungles and iceflows and mountain peaks, these gentlemen explorers are really just idle rich hobbyists with more money than sense. They seem emotionally empty and crave our adulation for whatever deep psychological reason.
Something really terrible must’ve happened to Dickie Branson in his childhood. Maybe his mummy never kissed him nighty night but left it to the nanny or perhaps his papa never gave him that paternal pat on the back he felt he deserved and told him ‘I’m proud of you son.’ Maybe this explains the self-glorifying uber-bore’s attempts to fly balloons to Mars or whatever hair-brained scheme he comes up with next. Ofcourse all the free publicity his stunts attract from the media also allow him to plug his ever-expanding Virgin empire too for no cost, which is a nice bonus. Branson and co aren’t providing us with any new scientific or anthropological information, simply indulging their own childish obsessions.
Perhaps the sight of these kids happily smiling for the cameras should fill us with admiration and I’m sure young Stella really did enjoy herself and felt a tremendous sense of achievement. Yet, imagine for a minute if the weather had changed or the ropes had snapped, imagine if little Stella never came down from ‘The Diamond’ alive, then maybe Forrest Gump would be facing a serious change of neglect or even involuntary manslaughter for placing his young daughter in such a dangerous position in the first place.
Maybe the child welfare authorities should protect those who too young to take decisions for themselves and weigh up the dangers that their so-called parents as responsible adults, are supposed to make on their behalf. Or maybe whatever sports associations cover mountaineering and sailing and other dangerous activities should perhaps step in and place ‘No ball games’ signs on every mountain and stretch of water.
The last true explorers were the astronauts of the 60s, who really were ‘boldly going where no man had gone before.’ Space is our final frontier as we continue to destroy the planet and Dickie and Ranulph and Sefton The Brave Police Horse and Stella the nine year old rocky mountain conqueror and a souwester clad foetus crossing the pacific on a pedallo is not going to change that.