PC rubbish allows a teen to try sailing the globe
As teenage sailor, Jessica Watson, makes a second attempt to embark on her 27,000 nautical mile journey around the world, it’s timely to reflect upon the way in which the she, her family and the notion of the trip has been discussed in the media and society. For, there’s no doubt, that on the water or land, since Jessica and her intentions were first touted, she’s been a walking headline.
Her attempt to be the youngest solo sailor almost ended before it had begun when, on her way to Sydney to commence, she collided with a Chinese cargo ship in the early hours of the morning and limped back to port with a broken mast.
The report on the collision indicates that Jessica does not have the experience everyone initially believed, and so a once very supportive tide has begun to turn against the teenager and her family.
There have even been calls for her to abandon the journey, suggestions that were met with accusations of sexism from her mother who said that a 16 year-old-boy would not have faced the same sort of doubts.
What amazes me in this furor, and even today as she sets sail once more, is the political correctness that pervades debates and discussions about young Jessica and her proposed journey. So many people have tiptoed around the heart of the issue: that is, a very attractive, 16 year old female is about to set sail on her own, over oceans, crossing borders, cultures and encountering adventures, strangers and potential problems in equal measure.
Her family condones and blesses her intention to voyage around the globe solo. So do many other sensible individuals who seem to find endless excuses and reasons as to why Jessica should go.
Has the world gone mad?
Not old enough to drive, drink or vote, we nonetheless endorse or do not prevent this act of sheer insanity and adult irresponsibility. This is a child we’re talking about, albeit on the cusp of womanhood and, while she may have wracked up more nautical miles than Jess Martin, at 16 she’s not equipped to deal with the emotional and psychological, never mind physical problems that a journey of such epic proportions will engender.
At one level, I’m more than aware that’s the point, but why? For glory, for fame? To get her face all over the media? Not surprising when we look at the cult of celebrity that exists today. Increasingly, young people are being fed the notion, through reality TV and the idolization of famous nobodies, that everyone has to make a name for themselves, be remembered, do something to ensure they attract attention. But at what cost?
Jessica’s already achieved all this. And yes, I know it’s great to chase your dreams and aspire to take risks and challenge your boundaries, but you should also, at her age, be doing this knowing adult safety nets are firmly in place. That’s so, when and if you fail, your parents or adult carers, can pick you up, dust you off and set you back on track. That’s so the consequences of your actions are not catastrophic, but life lessons that will hold you in good stead as you venture into adulthood.
Instead, a young girl has taken her life into her own hands before she’s an adult, and dictated to all and sundry, this is what I am going to do. And instead of stepping up to our responsibilities and setting age-appropriate limits, we encourage and congratulate her.
We may cite the precautions taken, the access to adults, wisdom and experience through technology – but these are no guarantees as young Jessica has already proven.
Technology and the human self can fail, and just when they’re needed most.
But instead of someone standing up and saying this is ridiculous and wrong, of talking sensibly about what’s going on here, a young girl chasing her dreams in an unsuitable and, frankly, dangerous manner, we become side-tracked by arguments about the rights of young people, sexism and politically correct claptrap.
Young people have the right to know that the adults around them care for their well-being, so much so, sometimes they say ‘no’. Sometimes, they make the young person wait to reach for the stars because in waiting, important moral and ethical lessons are learned.
As for the sexism argument – I think that card has been played well and truly by Jessica and her family. Jessica’s lovely mien has been flashed everywhere and then some, along with her Barbie-pink boat – pirate bait as one (half)wit described it. Her attractiveness has gained her, like all the other celebrity hopefuls, her fifteen minutes of fame. A less pretty girl, or perhaps even a boy (after all, Jess Martin has been there done that) would not have drawn the media throngs. So I think the Watson family has to be careful when throwing stones – they may sink the boat.
Finally, the PC brigade has had a field day with this. Comments have ranged from ‘you go, girl!’ to remarking on her grit and determination to follow her desires. In a different context, she might also be called spoiled and indulged. Up until the first accident and subsequent report that revealed negligence, fatigue and culpability on Jessica’s part, there’s not been enough people standing up and talking about children’s rights to be protected – from adult stupidity, the fleeting glory of a record, and often, from themselves.
If she breaks the record, will we then approve 15, 14 and 13 year olds making the journey for the same reasons? To fulfill their dreams? To make history?
Now, as a community we’re suddenly a little concerned, but you didn’t need an eyeglass to see the problems coming. Of course Jessica will make mistakes – she’s a teenager and, as one, she has the right to make these in her own world and with her parents nearby, not in another ocean, on the end of a radio or other digital device.
Whether she succeeds or not, I’ll say it: Jessica is too young to embark on this great adventure. The world’s not going anywhere. The journey to adulthood should be enough for now.
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