Let us reflect for a moment on a movie classic, Mary Poppins. The consummate Nanny if ever there was one. Ms. Poppins was everything young Jane and Michael Banks needed. She was punctual, well proportioned, prepared for any eventuality, caring health care provider, kind to the less fortunate (I’m of course referring to her association with Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert, the chimney sweep), nice singing voice, and she could fly. These are all quite wonderful attributes for a Nanny, anyone would agree. What modern mother or father wouldn’t want a Nanny who can pull a lamp out of her hand bag? Marketable skill if you need a lamp. Now, recall if you will why young Jane and Michael needed the Nanny. Agreed, there is the unfortunate fact that the former Nanny quit, but it’s more than just that. Well then perhaps they required a Nanny because that’s just what the British do. I digress. Back to the question at hand, why did Jane and Michael have need for a Nanny? Simply put, they were too young to take care of themselves. They hadn’t the maturity or knowledge to navigate the complex, confusing and sometimes dangerous lessons of life. Ms. Poppins was there to ensure that they safely arrived at adulthood. She was preparing them to become productive, independent and personally responsible members of society. These are wonderful things to instill in a child. As a parent, this is my role and responsibility to my own children, to raise them so they can leave my home and become gainfully employed one day. I have young children so I can make that statement without the pang of a soon to be recognized reality. It is good for Mary Poppins to dutifully care for her two young wards. It is sweet because they are young and helpless; it’s not so sweet however, when they are fully capable adults. Let us now look at what happens when Mary Poppins is charged with caring for Tina and Danny, all their children, cousins, overweight, underweight, short, tall, ugly, pretty, stupid, and smart neighbors. The image of the once attractive young governess is marred by the reality of what has turned into government babysitting. You should be disturbed by this image. But why should you be so bothered? Because at the base of your soul you know this model is wrong and ineffective. You know that regardless of what legislatures think about the food you eat, or your disgusting smoking habit, how much red meat you consume, or neutering your puppy, at the end of the day you are responsible for how you behave and the decisions you make. So why do some people tolerate the government coming in and babysitting them? I would first argue they have no shame, but that maybe to simple and incomplete an answer. A better and probably more accurate answer is that government oversight into their lives allows them to be victims of their own devising. “I’m fat because I eat too many trans-fatty acids, which are bad for me because Mayor Bloomberg says they are.” “I’m not responsible, McDonalds’s dollar value meals are.” “I can’t stop smoking because it’s addictive and the cigarette company’s tricked me by making it so attractive on billboards and Hollywood films. Never mind that I threw up the first seven times I tried smoking, eventually after all the puking and coughing I became addicted and my body craved the nicotine. It’s not my fault!”
All humor aside, there is something going on here that is more insidious than the government just babysitting victims. There is the purposeful sustainment of victimhood by the very institutions that purport to protect these “victims”. One can argue otherwise, however, the fact of the matter is that history, statistics, research, and good old fashion observation suggests that this is indeed exactly what happens when the government steps in and Nanny’s the masses. People give up their right to choose and simply accept their condition. Their hope for self-control and discipline is supplanted by government regulations that dictate how they will think and behave.
I’m quite sure this is not the world Disney envisioned when he gave us Mary Poppins. In all his creative fancy he never conceived of Ms. Poppins lecturing grown men on the evils of smoking, or red meat. That could be because Disney smoked and ate red meat. Don’t quote me on that, I don’t know that for a fact. Whether he did or not is irrelevant, what is relevant is that he still had the choice. I do believe that if fifty years ago Disney were asked what he thought of a Nanny State that regulated and controlled targeted populations of people it deemed at risk, and products it deemed harmful, he would without hesitation tell you to fire the Nanny.