Darwin Award winners seem to make little or no attempt at risk assessment.

By Hugh Ash

Putting up the Christmas decorations, I placed two chairs on either side of the French window to string the fairy lights across the top of the pelmet and down each side of the drapes.
   The gap between the chairs was a tad under two metres – easily jumpable, in my humble estimation, though a view not entirely shared by my lady wife, whose name escapes me.
   ‘Are you crazy?’ she queried, an inflection of disbelief in her tone. ‘You’ll break your neck.’
   If ever the gauntlet of challenge was cast down, those words were it.
   So I duly made the defiant leap, missed the second chair by a big toe’s length and fell on my…er, nether regions, emitting an involuntary ‘Ouch!’
   Feigning unhurt and disguising the bolt of pain searing through my body, I got to my feet, ignored the look of exasperation writ large on Mrs. A’s face, climbed on chair No.2 and completed the chore in womanly fashion.
   This small act of masculine hubris was, however, an example of what scientists have recently labelled Male Idiot Theory (MIT), whereby men take the sort of risks – occasionally lethal – that don’t even cross the minds of females.
   Evidence it exists has been drawn from a 20-year study of the Darwin Awards, an annual review of the craziest ways people have perished, which revealed almost 90 per cent were ‘won’ by men.
   Named after naturalist Charles Darwin, whose survival-of-the-fittest research revolutionised evolutionary thought, it recognises those who have inadvertently improved the human gene pool by eliminating themselves from it by acts of monumental folly.
   Writing in the Christmas edition of The British Medical Journal, Australian boffins admit they’re puzzled why men are willing to take unnecessary risks and wonder whether it’s driven by an irresponsible rite of passage or the pursuit of masculine social esteem – the so-called ‘bragging rights’ factor.   Examples cited included a man who decided to steal a ride home by hitching a shopping trolley to the back of a train, only to be dragged two miles to his death, and the terrorist who unthinkingly opened his own letter bomb on its return-to-sender, after he posted it with insufficient stamps.
   Then there was the bloke who shot himself in the head with the ‘spy pen’ gun, just to show his friend it worked, and the thief attempting to nick a steel hawser from a lift shaft – unbolting it while standing in said lift, which then plummeted to the ground, killing him.
   Dr Dennis Lendrem, of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, explains, ‘Idiotic risks are defined as senseless risks, where the apparent payoff is negligible or non-existent, and the outcome is often extremely negative and sometimes final.
   ‘According to MIT many of the differences in risk-seeking behaviour, emergency department admissions, and mortality may be explained by the observation that men are idiots and idiots do stupid things.’
   There can be little doubt Darwin Award winners seem to make little or no attempt at risk assessment. They just do it anyway and in some cases, the intelligence of the award winner borders the moronic.
   Lendrem also cited the role booze can play in making fellas feel invincible, as in the instance of the inebriated trio engaged in a variation of Russian roulette, alternately taking shots of alcohol, then stamping on an unexploded land mine.
   Inevitably, the mine detonated, demolishing the bar they were in and killed all three.
   Not quite a Darwin Awards contender, but worthy of mention, was the man who slipped when using a belt sander as an auto-erotic sex aid and lost a testicle.
   Only quick thinking saved the remaining one, as he repaired his scrotum with a staple gun.
   In a modest effort to balance the gender books, it’s my belief males learned to react instinctively – even if occasionally inanely – from the dawn of time, taking on woolly mammoths with a simple wooden spear to bring home dinner, while fending off sabre-toothed tigers.
   Don’t forget, either, it was mainly blokes who had to go to war – Joan of Arc being one of the rare exceptions (but she was French, which speaks volumes about Frenchmen) – and dauntlessly sailed the seven seas to expand knowledge of the then known world.
   It was Christopher, not Christine, Columbus who discovered the Americas and Captain James, not Jemima, Cook, who found an entire continent existed beyond Africa.   I could rattle on about the derring-do of us mere blokes, even if they’re occasionally tinged with lunacy, like Paris’s abduction of Helen – whose fair face launched a thousand blips, let alone ships – and caused the destruction of Troy, according to the Trojan Horse tale.  But let’s be clear: males and females are hardwired differently.
And that’s evident from early development, which is why my six grandsons believe they’re Spiderman and my lone granddaughter is busy combing My Little Pony’s tail.
   I also believe blokes get a raw deal nowadays, evidenced by a succession of TV ads portraying males at feckless twerps, like a recent Samsung commercial for a plug-in gizmo called an Evolution Kit, which even women panned as ‘sexist’.
   Then there’s all this nonsense about fellas not being ‘multi-taskers’. Well, let me tell you that while I’m writing this, I’m also eating a tuna baguette, drinking copious cups of tea, answering the phone and organising my pencils in order of the sharpest.
   Not that I haven’t the highest regard for the opposite gender. After all, my wife is a woman, so was my mother, as is my daughter. And females make far more interesting conversation companions than men, unless you want to limit chat to sport, sex, cars and more sport.
   But how many women can throw a ball straight? And have you noticed how so many of them dither on telly quiz shows, wracking their brains, getting the right answer, then talking themselves into the wrong one? That’s providing they don’t run out of time.
   Conclusion: we blokes can be idiots, but at least we’re decisive.
   I rest my case.
   PS: Don’t miss my tricky trivia Christmas Eve quiz in Wednesday’s Daily Bulletin – that’ll sort out the girls from the boys!

To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com