Monday, March 12, 2012

The Tall and the Short

It's not FAIR
Imagine this. A child is electrocuted by a faulty wire in a light switch. Public opinion swells behind a new law to raise all light switches and electrical plugs to 5’10” from the floor. Building codes are adjusted appropriately and a new world emerges – the world of the Tall and the Short.

Short people can’t reach the light switches. When this obvious point gets raised, it is quickly dismissed.  "Statistically, most adults can reach that height," people are told. “For the few affected, there is always someone taller around to help. We believe in family, community! Don't you? Are you IN FAVOUR of children being ELECTROCUTED?"  When Businesses complain, the government subsidizes the cost through tax breaks for compliance.

Over time, short people find themselves increasingly marginalized. Waiting in dark, unfamiliar rooms, afraid of bumping into things. Always having to ask for help demoralizes them. They start to believe that being short is somehow their fault. The words “short” and “height” become taboo. There are dirty jokes about short girls in the dark.

“Lots of short people have managed to learn to walk on stilts,” observes one tall politician. “Others have purchased platform shoes or prosthetics that accommodate their challenges. They could simply carry sticks, it's common sense.”

In a bar, an average-height man asks his friend, "Why should I care about short people's problems? I'm tall."

Over time, elected lawmakers get taller, until the only short MP among them becomes the butt of silent smirks when he asks someone to turn on the light. The same thing happens in board rooms across the nation. People begin assuming that short people somehow lack management potential. Science journals publish studies that correlate height and success, inferring that short people are naturally more "followers."

Eventually, the dangers involved in being stuck among short, irritable people in a dark room begin to dawn on the lawmakers. Reluctantly, they require an “emergency light switch” on each floor of every building. Now people believe that “there is an option for short people in every building.” When businesses complain, the government subsidizes the cost through tax breaks.

It is that stupid out there. It is. I didn’t believe it, either. I thought I’d do a quick dive and make sure I was satisfied with our social safety net, then get back to my life of whatever I was doing before. I thought that government was basically good, trying their best to live up to our vision of “True North Strong and Free.” I thought I could safely ignore them. 

Think again.