Friday, May 14, 2010

One Day To Go, and the Biased Criticisms of Jess Watson Haven’t Let Up.

Not that I think there shouldn’t be criticism, constructive criticism, but what I’ve been reading sounds more like sour grapes, or armchair critics who haven’t done the hard yards themselves, or live in some ideological cocoon of a perfect world. From an ABC News report today:

But the Australian Families Association (AFA) says it is still worried Watson has set a bad example for young people with her record-breaking trip.
AFA spokesman Tim Cannon says while he is pleased the teenager is safe, he is worried.
"It's certainly a phenomenal achievement," he said.
"But in general, the concern is still there that when you've got people chasing these records to become the youngest person to achieve something, that is quite clearly an extremely dangerous feat - there's a certain amount of recklessness.
"We do worry about the example that it sets other children."


Last year Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg, a critic of Jessica’s round the world sail, also wrote on his blog :

The weekend death of 2 experienced sailors (Sunday Age 11/10) highlights the dangers inherent in yachting and the inadvisability of Jessica Watson's bid to sail solo around the world.

Many experienced yachties have added their voice to a growing chorus of experts which includes Queensland's Maritime Safety Bureau saying that 16 year old is too inexperienced to embark on such an 11 month voyage.


And from a recent report in the Brisbane Times (May 13, 2010), Dr. Carr-Gregg hasn’t budged from his position :

Leading Child and Adolescent Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg believes her decision to travel could set a bad example by encouraging teenagers to put themselves in harm's way. "I worry this may encourage even younger children to emulate her feat ... and I do not believe that the average teenager has the cognitive or emotional maturity to embark on such an adventure," he said.

In October, Dr Carr-Gregg said he didn't think the 16-year-old had "sufficient maturity" to do such a trip, and that he didn't "care how skilled she is".
A few days before her scheduled weekend finish and Dr Carr-Gregg was singing the same tune.
"Her achievement is without doubt truly remarkable and I offer her and her family my warm congratulations, however I still maintain that her epic adventure does have a down side," he said.


Ironically, Dr. Carr-Gregg also notes on his blog :

Last month, hundreds of teenagers dressed in black and pink fill St Francis of Assisi Church in Mill Park, 23 km north-east from Melbourne's central business district to say goodbye to Anthony Iannetta, 18, one of five young men killed when a speeding car driven by Steven Johnstone, 19, hit a tree at 140 km/h in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Of the major risk factors associated with teenage road deaths, many were present, the driver was speeding, had a blood alcohol level of .19, it was early morning, there was passenger overcrowding, and of course driver inexperience.

The horrific car smash, predictably reignited debate about penalties for hoon drivers and the Opposition and State Government began trading blows in the media over who has the toughest anti-hoon policy.


I might also add that, being a night-shift cab driver, I’m all too aware of the risk-taking that young people engage in, particularly on weekend nights, in relation to alcohol and drug abuse, and anyone who cares to visit any major Australian city after dark on weekends will see for themselves just how reckless and irresponsible youth can be, and how violent weekend nights can be. Downing lethal cocktails of alcohol and drugs, and then roaming the streets after midnight is not just risk-taking, it’s utter stupidity. This is not even “planned” risk-taking (which Jessica’s voyage was).

In an earlier post I mentioned suicide in Australia, Customer Suicides . This was in response to the suicide of a relatively young man who inherited an enormous sum of money, and squandered his life on it, ending in his suicide. Why would a young man feel that he had nothing to live for, and hang himself? Maybe he had no dreams, no hopes, no aspirations, and money came too easy? I knew this person, but obviously I want to keep his identity concealed. But his suicide bothered me greatly (he was a very kind and generous person, but totally lacking in self-confidence). If he had a dream, hope, self-confidence and aspirations, he might still be alive today. Nothing, apparently, inspired him to keep living. He felt his life was a waste, and meaningless.

In response to the above criticisms of Jessica, I again refer to the wise words of Don McIntyre:

Things are getting really grim here at the moment. Adventure is something that can be a swear word to a lot of people.

As soon as you say adventure, they say rescue. And there's a lot of people that sort of question the values of it. But the bottom line is; if we keep wrapping up our society and our young kids in cotton wool, which is what we're doing, we're changing the culture of Australia.

Australia needs heroes, Australia needs adventurers and there's a lot of real serious positive benefits from anyone that's getting out there and having a go, and chasing their dreams and really pushing themselves to the limit.


Wrapping “kids” up in “cottonwool” is no solution. It is probably no exaggeration to say that while Jess spent Christmas on the high seas, many of her same-age peers were probably imbibing in either drugs or alcohol, and the age when they start this is getting younger and younger. If Jess Watson had said to her parents, “I want to go out and try cocaine tonight”, do you think they would have supported her? If she had said, “I want to go out tonight and get pissed off my head”, do you think they would have supported her?

And now to Sail World, where opinion seems to be divided. In the latest expert revelation from the Moses on Mount Sinai of sailing, the last word according to the Gospel of Sail World (anyone who has studied the real gospels will know how contradictory they are) we have The Wetass Chronicles: Jessica Watson's 'Adventure Lost':

I don't want to take too much away from her accomplishment. Any solo, RTW voyage is a big deal, and I sincerely doubt I would have fared as well. She was knocked down multiple times, slugged her way through gales and headwinds, and, at least early in the voyage, sometimes appeared on the verge of tears.

But after following her voyage I was struck by how much the nature of this sort of adventure has completely changed. It just doesn't feel very 'solo' or 'unassisted' anymore, and that takes the blood and guts out of it.

In 1968, sailing around the world solo and non-stop was so hard Robin Knox-Johnston could barely do it. In 2010, it is so easy a 16-year old can do it. It's just not that exciting anymore. Knox-Johnston's book, 'A World Of My Own,' is one of the greatest adventure books ever written. I sincerely doubt I'll read Jessica's.


(The bold emphasis is mine.)

The author of the article is Tim Zimmerman. Well, Tim, apart from the fact that you wouldn't have the balls to do what Jessica did, would you like to compare Juan Fangio to Aryton Senna , or Michael Schumacher ? Is Formula One today “not real racing” because of modern technology and design which enables Formula One drivers to survive crashes that no one could have survived in the 1950s? Yet the great Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Fortunately, he still remains the last Formula One driver to die, thanks to improvements and “modern technology”. But according to Tim’s reasoning, we should not hold Aryton Senna, or Michael Schumacher, in the same esteem as Juan Fangio, because of "modern technology".

And the weirdness and sour grapes go on, and probably because they have all been outdone, baked and fried and humiliated by a 16 year old girl who has more courage and determination than all of them put together. My best advice to Sail World would be to stop making public asses of themselves with sarcastic headlines and commentary, and maybe do something to cure their Tall Poppy Syndrome.

PS: To the moron who has been constantly suggesting in various media that Jessica was "chaperoned" around the globe, you had better provide your evidence quickly. My suspicion is that you can't tell the difference between photos taken before, and after Jessica left (some of the "before" photos were used during her voyage). All of the "after" photos clearly show that they were taken by Jessica while on board Ella's Pink Lady. To spin out of this some weird "theory" that she was "chaperoned" is probably more a reflection of your imbecility than the truth.

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