Steve Irwin and Crocodile Tears

I am pleased to find I am not alone in my lack of surprise at the passing of Steve Irwin, although like Jack Marx, I extend my sympathy to his friends and family who have lost a loved one.

Steve Irwin engaged in risky behaviour, and although we are assured that he went to great lengths to minimise risk, there are inherent risks in dealing with deadly animals that cannot be eliminated. It is simply not possible to be simultaneously “confronting danger” and be completely safe – and it is surely not rocket science to understand this mutually exclusive relationship between danger and safety.

The “message to children” sent by Steve Irwin seems to have been that confronting danger is fun, exhilarating, and allows you to experience things you would otherwise not know – this message has now been rounded out by adding that confronting danger may also lead to death. It is truly bizarre how parents wish to shield their children from this rather obvious conclusion – dangerous animals are dangerous and can kill you. It’s not their “fault” – it’s what they do, and there is no moral value in play when they do it. You invade their territory, they may kill you and they don’t agonise about the right or wrong of it.

I’m sure Steve Irwin knew this, but it didn’t deter him from living his life to the fullest that way accepting the consequences of risk. Perhaps if we were not so freakishly safety conscious about things that carry small risks, we would be able to learn how to assess serious risks for ourselves and accept the consequences of our choices (safe and bored, or risky and exhilarating) rather than relying on litigation and the assignment of blame after any adverse event. And if we want our kids to make informed choices, they need information about consequences of accepting risk.

I am not generally a fan of Germaine Greer, but her comments on Steve Irwin’s death balance the accolades for his “animal-loving” “conservationist” persona.

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