Friday, June 29, 2007

Fundamentally unserious and incompetent terrorists

Everyone has heard about the FAILED London car bomb by now right?

I have a real problem with this bomb not going off. Being an engineer, I favor things that work. Ineptly designed and constructed bombs are embarrassing. They demonstrate a lack of seriousness and poor craftsmanship that seems to be pandemic in the world today. Non-functioning bombs are a sort of "canary in the coal mine" indicator for general societal disfunction.

Seriously, at 12 years old I knew all sorts of things about proper bombs and explosives (thanks to encyclopedia Britannica) and could have offered a better effort than we had here. The messy terrorist aspect aside, this dud bomb concerns me because grown men who have been through any reasonable school system SHOULD be able to produce a simple bomb that actually works.

We can surely beat the terrorists eventually, but will we be able to beat the generalized level of mechanical incompetence that is permeating society these days?

Walk into any Home Depot and observe the customers for a while and what I'm saying will become readily apparent. The majority, unless they are tradesmen, don't have the slightest clue. Its really a wonder that they managed to drive their cars to get there.

50 years ago this wasn't the case. The males in our society were expected to demonstrate a certain level of mechanical competence. People changed their own oil in their cars. Having to take a car to some mechanic to have a busted fan belt replaced would have been considered embarrassing in most social circles. Decades ago, at an early age, our males were constantly exposed to information and experiences that built a modest level of competence even among those who would eventually become white collar office workers.

To a large degree this is gone today. To a large degree, society is indeed choosing to suppress this competence in our youth. How many towns have laws now that prohibit you from keeping a "junk car" around? Most of them. Junk cars, aside from being junk, were/are wonderful mechanical training grounds for youth. People don't need 10 of them, but one isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Some kid with grand hopes wrenching on some hopeless beater isn't out on the street doing drugs or mugging people - he's developing a "life skill" that will be with him for the rest of his life.

Its a loss that will be hard to replace.


h said...

Great post. I grew up in an upper-middle class community that bordered a wealthy community. EVERY family in Community One could have bought their sons a new Nova on their 16th birthday. Every family in Community Two could have bought them a new Cadillac.

NONE did. NONE. If you wanted a car, and we all did, you got something called a JOB. And did something called SAVE MONEY.

You learned how to evaluate a Car or Motorcycle in your price-range. And how to do routine repairs and maintenance. And what happens to your insurance bill if you screw up. And you learned to make your friends chip in for gas. You LEARNED a lot, engineer or not.

That Broad said...

Good point. I've never thought about it like that, but it makes a lot of sense. I remember kids who had completely taken apart cars in their garages. I suppose they eventually got them on the road.

skh.pcola said...

To further illustrate this dumbing down of society, I have a 34-year old friend that needs my help this coming weekend to "install" a window AC unit in his apartment. I told him that you basically put it in the window and plugged it in. No dice. He mentioned the "wings" that expand to fill the remaining horizontal gaps, and that he didn't know what to do.

"Instructional Manual" must look like scratch paper to him.

Purple Avenger said...

Wow. Not being able to plunk an A/C unit into a window is pretty bad.