Risk

Dot writes: in the current London Review of Books there’s a piece by John Lanchester on the effect of the City on British life – the impact of the disproportionate wealth of City workers, the culture of City firms, and the financial games those firms play (futures and options and Collateralized Debt Obligations and so forth). I find City trading simultaneously fascinating and utterly beyond me. I’m like a nice labrador at a tennis match – watching everything with bright-eyed attention but no idea what’s going on. The explanation that has come nearest to enlightening me is this one. Anyhow, reading about the sub-prime mortgage market and the all-but-collapse of Northern Rock I was struck by how drastically differently our society approaches different kinds of risk. On the one hand, we are (as the navel-gazing papers I read keep lamenting) extremely risk-averse. We drive children four hundred yards to school until they’re fifteen in case they get attacked by an erroneously released psychiatric patient. On the other hand, we give all our savings into the care of people who spend them gambling on whether cleaners in Mississipi can keep paying their mortgages. Personally I am not too bothered about erroneously released psychiatric patients but very cautious about money. The result is that I am rather poor, but I go for lots of healthy walks.

P.S. No offence intended towards cleaners or labradors. Or psychiatric patients.

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3 thoughts on “Risk

  1. From a midwifery point of view, I find this whole discussion about ‘risk’ a fascinating one. I cant get my head around the fact that people don’t want to ‘risk’ having a vaginal birth despite the fact its been an extremely successful ‘procedure’ that has worked for thousands of years, yet ‘risk’ having major surgery which is incredibly risky despite what doctors say (and we dont know the long term effects), in the form of elective cesareans.

  2. I was under the impression that it’s most often the [i]doctors[/i] these days who want mothers to have a cesarean — because it’s easier and quicker for the doctor. Is this not so?

  3. kenanddot

    I thought a lot about the strange contortions of risk in the approach to giving birth. Caution seems to result so often in everything getting much harder e.g. the overuse of continuous foetal monitoring – designed to catch problems but inevitably causing one because of the restriction on the mother’s movement. In Ireland it always comes back to another kind of risk that hospitals aren’t prepared to tolerate: the risk of being sued. Shortly before I had Hugh, the Rotunda had taken all the physio balls out of the labour ward because a labouring woman who was too heavy had sat on one and burst it. The ward staff were very cross about this but the management saw the legal/financial angle as more important…

    When it comes to Caesarean, elective or not, there must be an element of preferring a predictable event in which humans take conscious initiative to the unpredictable power of the body. It’s very hard to trust to the body to know what it’s doing. I started out frightened I wouldn’t be able to conceive and ended up amazed by how smoothly my body managed pregnancy and birth with seemingly very little help from me.

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