“Assume that a legislator with courage, influence, intellect, vision, and perseverance manages to enact a law that goes into universal effect and employment on September 10, 2001; it imposes the continuously locked bulletproof doors in every cockpit (at high costs to the struggling airlines)– just in case terrorists decide to use planes to attack the World Trade Center in New York City … The legislation is not a popular measure among the airline personnel, as it complicates their lives. But it would certainly have prevented 9/11. The person who imposed locks on cockpit doors gets no statues in public squares, not so much as a quick mention of his contribution in his obituary. “Joe Smith, who helped avoid the disaster of 9/11, died of complications of liver disease.” Seeing how superfluous his measure was, and how it squandered resources, the public, with great help from airline pilots, might well boot him out of office … He will retire depressed, with a great sense of failure. He will die with the impression of having done nothing useful … Now consider again the events of 9/11. In their aftermath, who got the recognition? Those you saw in the media, on television performing heroic acts, and those whom you saw trying to give you the impression that they were performing heroic acts … Who is more valuable, the politician who avoids a war or the one who starts a new one (and is lucky enough to win)? It is the same logic reversal we saw earlier with the value of what we don’t know; everybody knows that you need more prevention than treatment, but few reward acts of prevention … We humans are not just a superficial race … we are a very unfair one.”
– Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan
People who fight a disaster get a lot more recognition than people who fight to prevent the disaster from happening. Because a disaster does not happen, no one sees the heroism of the people who fought to prevent that disaster. Yet, it’s much better to prevent a disaster from happening than to fix the disaster once it has already happened. Acts of prevention are no less courageous and heroic, they are simply a different kind of fight. It’s the silent fight, the unseen heroism.
But it’s still a hell of a fight!
As parents, we work hard on prevention. We try to protect our children from harm and risks. Our work goes mostly unnoticed. No parent ever gets praised by the media for preventing their child from getting in harm’s way. If nothing happens, no one sees the work it took behind the scenes to prevent it from happening. Because it did not happen, we don’t see it and don’t know about it. Often, the parents themselves never realize that their patient everyday struggle has prevented a disaster at some point. They continue their work without even knowing that they are heroes. But prevention is certainly a an effort worthy of recognition.
The heroic work of prevention takes research, thinking, planning, and patience. Some parents want to protect their babies from invasive hospital interventions at birth, so they research natural options and choose home birth. It’s a great option that typically prevents major issues and complications associated with hospital birth. Some parents do lots of research and make informed choices about medications and vaccines, which helps to protect their children’s health against side effects and dangers associated with unnecessary medications. Some parents take the time and effort to cook natural meals to protect their children’s health from toxic ingredients in processed food. Some parents homeschool to prevent indoctrination of their children in public schools. Some parents get extensive self-defense and firearms training to protect their children from crime.
Most people see the problem when it already happens. It’s much harder to plan ahead, which is why so few people think about prevention. You have to do a lot of research that most people don’t bother doing. Modern society presents us with many choices – natural food or processed food? hospital birth or home birth? public school or homeschooling? It’s much easier to be like everyone else. It’s much harder to be different and to have the courage to make unpopular choices. Your family may give you hard times if you don’t send your kids to school like everyone else does. Your friends may not like it if you don’t let your kids eat pizza with Coke at someone’s birthday party. It takes courage to say No, it takes strong will and patience to implement your decisions, it takes determination to stay the course, and it takes wisdom to see the goal that no one else sees. Sometimes, you have to go against the mainstream, stand up to peer pressure and criticism, defy negativity. It’s a hard and often lonely journey. It’s an everyday quiet fight for your kids’ health and well-being.
Prevention is a huge struggle where no one sees the results of your effort – which is precisely the point. If nothing bad happens, you have done an excellent job. Getting no recognition does not make your struggle any less heroic. Prevention is the best way to protect children, so the parents who work hard on prevention have every right to consider themselves heroes.