Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Clarkson, Risk and Insurance

A further thought about yesterdays Jeremy Clarkson story - one thing that makes it newsworthy (apart from Clarkson getting egg on his face, which will have delighted most of the population), is the sheer brazen risk of putting your bank details in the biggest circulating 'newspaper' in the country.

It stands out because it's countercultural. Buy anything on the net now and if you don't carefully check all the little boxes on the screen you'll find you've paid an insurance premium for safe delivery, safe travel, safe sex or whatever. Buy anything electrical and the price of a warranty (insurance against it breaking down) is thrown in, because that's the main way the retailers make a profit. Insurance is a symptom of a risk-averse society. Our attitude to children is another barometer of this: we protect them from percieved risks, when in many ways it's safer for children now than it was a generation ago. In fact our very protecting of children (bundle them into the car rather than walk) creates risk for everyone else. It's a prime case of individualism working against what everybody wants.

But we also seem to have lost the middle ground on risk. It's either obsessive safety, or extreme sports. A few tentative forays, like 'the dangerous book for boys', have recognised that there was a healthy attitude to risk in previous generations that we've lost in our own. In some ways the petrolheads like Clarkson are the only prophets for risk in mainstream society. It's just a shame that it's wasted on something as boring, and dangerous, as cars. We seem to be great at taking risks in all the wrong areas - fast cars, binge drinking, excessive debt - whilst areas which deserve the odd risk or two: friendship, faith, telling the truth, standing up for the poor, protesting and campaigning, you can probably add dozens of examples - risks which pay off for the benefit of others - we have become timid.

So Jeremy, do it again. Sorry for having a pop at you for taking a risk. We need you.

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