Gongol.com Archives: January 2023

Brian Gongol

January 22, 2023

News Getting on the road

No rite of passage should escape periodic re-examination. And it would seem that, at least in some quarters, the rite of obtaining one's first driver's license is undergoing a revival of scrutiny. ■ There is an obvious case to be made that obtaining a driver's license is a relic of America's engine-obsessed past. Some would even argue that we are doing the next generation a favor by focusing their time on practices that will better serve them in a world full of mass transit and walkable spaces. Time not spent in driver's education class, the thinking goes, is time that can be spent on an extracurricular activity with better returns in the college admissions process. ■ But unlike certain specific driving-related practices (like learning how to drive a stick shift or fix a carburetor), the general need to know how to drive a vehicle has not been obviated entirely by technology. Driving is a skill that is not only widely useful in personal life, it is still often applicable in professional life, too, as well as in a wide number of trades. Whether one ends up as a long-haul trucker, a corporate attorney rushing to meet filing deadlines, or a shipping department supervisor running a forklift, the essences of a steering wheel and an accelerator pedal must be known. ■ Sure, you may choose to live in a place like New York, with lots of mass transit. But that doesn't mean you won't travel to other places -- for work or for leisure -- that won't require you to rent a car or take a long-distance road trip. For now at least, it remains inescapable that driving is a part of basic personal functioning for the vast majority of Americans. Sure, you might be able to virtualize many of your interactions, but there's no enduring substitute for being in the same time and space with your friends. ■ Even with self-driving vehicles, we may remain a car-dependent nation for some time to come. And there is no reason for anyone within a car-dependent nation who is physically and mentally capable of driving to be completely dependent upon others to do the driving. ■ Adolescence is a time for trying new things, learning how to fail safely, and figuring out how to be both resilient and self-sufficient. Parents have to encourage their children along that road: As a parent, your unconditional love and support should be both obvious and unquestionable. But everyone needs to go through a process to earn self-respect, and it's for the best if that starts by trying new things (and sometimes failing) when the stakes are low. That time is in childhood and adolescence. ■ It's a fallacy for parents to try to pack adolescent resumes in order to impress others, instead of training and guiding those adolescents to become self-sufficient and capable adults. Like it or not, your kid becomes an adult in the eyes of the law on their 18th birthday. That's some heavy, heavy reality. And at least for now (and for some time to come), American adults will need to know how to drive.

News You'd be tired of the job, too

New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, just stepped down after a surprise announcement that she had reached a state of personal burnout. Given that she has been the target of relentless online harassment, perhaps the bombshell announcement shouldn't have been that much of a bombshell. It's too easy to paint political leaders as caricatures, rather than as real people. Sure, maybe there's something more to her story...but there doesn't have to be. It's been an exhausting time to be a political leader, and anyone who doesn't freely admit that is posing as something they're not. We would do well as a society to de-normalize this caricaturization of political figures, and to treat them as the human beings they are. If done properly, that would cut both ways: We'd stop tolerating the dehumanization among our own aimed at our perceived opponents, but we'd also stop expecting them to go on doing their jobs forever.

Humor and Good News Teach your kids the classics

If necessary, we could probably reconstruct most of the pertinent canon of Western Civilization from the films of John Hughes and John Landis. Couldn't we?

News Be careful, kids!

Parents should tell their children to be careful, but always coupled with affirmative rules, like: "Be careful! Make sure your fingers are in a safe place before using a knife." Human brains want to follow constructive guidance, because it exercises the puzzle-solving part of consciousness. We don't have room for all the "don'ts".

Threats and Hazards "Extraordinary measures" deployed to pay the Federal bills

Ugh. C'mon, Congress. The debt ceiling isn't a weapon you want to turn on yourself.

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