Quentin Hirsinger: Nothing ventured, nothing gained
One of my best memory trigger, along with the butter croissant from Lombard Avenue, is going through the carwash. This morning my Mum asked me whether I could take her car to the carwash... The bomb! I was going to be able to relive this great moment. First to drive slowly to place the car, to make sure windows are closed and then to watch the machine come to life, the brushes turning. Then the drums roll on the body, the sound of a storm crashing down on the car, this feeling of being right in the middle of a tornado, doors vibrating... I was to relish the experience!
Unfortunately, when arrived, I discovered in dismay, written in red, that it was now «strictly forbidden to remain inside the vehicle during the washing process for security reasons». WHAT? I was denied this harmless pleasure, probably because someone died in 1996 of a heart attack caused by this overwhelming experience?
That’s where I draw the line and say stop to excessive regulations, to this will - mainly from the State, but from other spheres of the society as well - to protect themselves and us from anything and everything, all the time, everywhere. This need to legislate becomes more and more a liberty killer: obligation to have a smoke detector in your home, diving-out-of-the-marking-buoys ban... Our society slowly slides into a delusive pursuit of no risks involved, full insurance, general non-accountability... using the sacrosanct precautionary principle, badly understood and applied.
Everything is potentially dangerous, legislation intervenes in each and every aspect of our lives, even the most intimate ones, with standards, laws and decrees. It applies itself to protect us from ourselves, tracking down our vices and bad habits. Moreover, the whole society blames legislators for not being zealous enough when there is an accident despite the whole package of regulations, just as if they were to be blamed for not having covered everything.
At our modest level of ‘materiologists’, we learn that wood is dangerous because is produces fine dust; lead is now forbidden in the crystal glass manufacturing process when it had been used for centuries without raising any specific health issue; every polymer, without any distinction of ‘race or colour’, has become suspicious as a product of synthetic chemistry; the word ‘nano’ is from now on to avoid in the material world as it calls to mind invisible pernicious hidden elements, of course potentially dangerous.
Please do not mistake my words, I’m not trying to praise nano-materials, lead, asbestos or unpasteurized milk camembert! I’m not militating in favour of full deregulation, of a world without bans and without standards, I do not challenge all legal measures and safeguards, most of which are necessary but in this field as well as in others, one must keep one’s head, show moderation and above all accept that to live is dangerous, to live is even irreparably fatal and that to risk means also to act, to move forward, to innovate. By legislating in an attempt to annihilate all risks inherent in living in our society, the State infantilizes us, castrates us... besides without noticing that this wild dream may even be more dangerous than the troubles it tries to avoid.
Personally, I like the quote ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ way more than ‘when in doubt, forbear’. I therefore took advantage of a moment’s inattention of the carwash supervisor to completely ignore the excessive ban and to take responsibility for maybe risking dying in my car under a downpour of detergent. I gave myself permission to enjoy this immature pleasure and to re-live my 9 and 3 quarters years on the back seat of a Renault 16, looking at the multi-coloured brushes coming to devour me.
Quentin Hirsinger lives and works in Paris. As one of the founders of matériO, a network of material libraries, he´s been working at matériO Paris for fifteen years.
3. 4. 2015 Illustration by Barbora Tögel
30. 6. 11:08
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