Were you clueless when you were young?

By skepticlawyer

… Because I was.

I don’t mean clueless in the academic or ‘achievement’ sense. I was a dab hand at Latin translation, quadratic equations and the cryptic crossword. I was probably better at the first, definitely better at the second and roughly as good at the third when I was 20 than I am now. I could put words together well (hence all those literary awards), design an awesome fitness program and do an awful lot of push-ups.

And I was utterly, utterly clueless. I didn’t know the difference between equity and debt financing. I thought that the more you drank, the more fun things would be (despite assertions to the contrary, this is not true) and that you could speak your mind. After all, Australia was a democracy, right. Right? Riiiggghhht.

[crickets chirping].

What follows is funny, but it makes a serious point: at some stage, we are going to have to deal with the fact that people — even the people we might one day want in positions of high public office — were young once, and that while it’s okay for courts to use your words (and, sometimes, your deeds) as evidence against you, if everyone else does it, all the time, then no-one will be fit for public office. Ever.

Sure, find out if someone’s a flagrant hypocrite, a criminal or a stalker. This is important. That’s why we have background and criminal history checks, why bankrupts can’t become lawyers, why there’s a public register of people disqualified from holding directorships, why we’re singularly unimpressed when some loudmouthed homophobe turns out to be secretly gay. But after that, stop with the facebook stalking and twitter-collating. Twitter turns everyone into an idiot. It would turn Marie Curie and Albert Einstein into idiots, were both of them around today … never mind the rest of us mere mortals.

And, also, because anyone who hasn’t done at least one kegstand hasn’t lived.


  1. Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure we’re all still pretty clueless when it comes down to it, or at least I still am. One thing I try to keep in mind when evaluating people, is that the worst screw ups tends to make the best lessons. People who are otherwise capable and willing to improve themselves may be better off for the shameful experiences.

    But then, if there’s one truth to be found in religion, it’s that people have such a strong aversion to being ruled by mere mortals that they will delude themselves into believing just about anything.

  2. Posted May 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    But the cluelessness when they hold public office deserves the tweets and facebook shares – like Tony Abbott’s statement (¡put up on the LNP website!) that carbon dioxide is weightless, or ANYTHING Sarah Palin said since seeking public office.

  3. Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    I missed out on all that. I’m not sure I ever really had a teenagerhood.

    I’m clueless, but in another way.

    I got drunk at age 4 – my 12 yr old sister had a party, I helped clean up, there was some woodpecker cider left, and I had over a bottle full.

    I didn’t like it, and so have never been drunk since.

    I’m allergic to Indian Hemp, and have never taken any illicit drugs. Not voluntarily, anyway. At a party, someone thought it would be a great joke to slip a half tab of LSD in my drink.

    I rather enjoyed it, it was only many hours later I realised I hadn’t been dreaming, but had been raped. I’m one of those 1% who if they take a full tab, would never come out of it, so the lesson came cheap.

    Not been to a party since then. Not in 30 years.

    Think “Sandra Dee” in “Grease” – but not nearly so licentious and debauched. Or Mary Bolkonskaya in “War and Peace”, but without the religious fanaticism, and not nearly as outgoing.

    I think I can guess from the context, but I don’t even know what a “kegstand” is.

    When I was seven, I accidentally broke a neighbour’s window. I ran away of course …….. to tell my parents what I’d done, and get their support in confessing my deed to the owner, and making amends for it.

    This vicious streak of honesty has got me into more trouble than you’d believe. Whoever said “honesty is the best policy” obviously hadn’t tried it.

    I don’t recommend this course for anyone else. It’s me though, not a pretence, it’s who I am. Fortunately few believe it. All I have to do is say “Of course I’m too young and innocent to understand” with an obviously insincere tone, and everyone laughs. Thereby sparing me the embarrassment of letting anyone know that, although I may not be young, I’m less worldly-wise than most kids of 12.

    That makes it truly ironic that such a straight-laced, so-square-she’s-hyper-cubical woman should have “changed sex”, and so been accused of all sorts of depravity and giving in to the “lusts of the flesh”. I find it hilarious.

  4. Posted May 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    ‘So square she’s cubical’ is a phrase that deserves the widest possible currency. Yes indeed.

  5. kvd
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    I guess you’re using ‘clueless’ in the jokey, ‘stupid!-if-only-you’d-stopped-and-thought-about-it’ sense? If so, then pretty well everybody does that sometime in their lives – so I agree that this shouldn’t be held against you in later life.

    But ‘clueless’ in later life is more a matter of context I think, and the self-knowledge to recognise limitations. LE’s “path to wisdom is knowing that you don’t know everything” leaves off the fact that you can never know everything. To be comfortable with that fact – both within yourself, and in representing yourself to others who might rely upon you – is much more important.

    Also, quite seriously, I have never understood the bankrupt/lawyer limitation? Clueless I am. Now if it was lawyer/politician or unionofficial/politician, well I can see some sense in that 😉

  6. Don Aitkin
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    A great post! Thank you for the fun and for the wisdom. I argue that we learn from failure rather than from success, so that ‘learning experiences’ like those mentioned above should be valued — after the event.

    Of course, there are some who go through a lifetime of learning experiences and don’t seem to have understood the point of the lesson.

  7. Ripples
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Good post, I have an exposure matter that the client claims was all just a joke. Thinking of making a submission in regards to subjective nature of jokes and playing to a crowd. (Been watching too much Boston Legal and am having delusions of grandeur again).

    I was not only clueless but I would even go so far as to suggest wilfully stupid. How I survived my youth and didn’t get caught pulling stupid stunts is often considered an act of luck and not design. Had there been today’s social media in my youth I would have been in a very different position as I would have shared my foolishness as a badge of honour. Such sharing would have likely made me ineligible for many things such as fulfilling the requirements of a fit and proper person.

    I did love the caption in the video discussing mixing up You’re and Your making you ineligible too…

  8. Posted May 2, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    This vicious streak of honesty has got me into more trouble than you’d believe. Whoever said “honesty is the best policy” obviously hadn’t tried it.

    This also strikes me as true. Unfortunately.

  9. kvd
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    The other thing about this concern is that by 2040 those voters who would be shocked (shocked I tell you) by this sort of stuff will either be dead or won’t be able to remember where they put their reading glasses to take it all in.

    Times do change. Not so long ago we were all shocked to learn of an American President who felt the need to insist he ‘didn’t inhale’ yet only a couple of days ago the current one was comfortable enough to note that the real difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom was that the pitbull was delicious.

    Who knows what will be ‘shocking’ by 2040? Probably not the stuff on that skit video.

  10. Posted May 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Yep. Put me down as another who has, before reading this post, never heard the phrase “keg stand”.

    All I can think of is something like a tankstand, only considerably smaller…..

  11. Posted May 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    SATP, for your edification:


  12. Posted May 3, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Skepti, you are a gem.

    Presumably my ignorance of this…er… cultural ritual, is one of the legacies of spending my formative years in stubby country.

    It seems to be .. ummm…. doing handstands on a beer keg?

    The 4th photo from the left, top row, is my favourite (at the link you provided). If it is representative, then I’m rather sorry to have lived my life ignorant of “keg-stands”.

  13. Adrien
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    There is an assumption underlying this (presumably satirical, these days who knows) bit of video that what is unacceptable these days will be unacceptable 28 years hence. I know it’s naive but personally anyone who didn’t do styupid shit when it was the time for such is not someone I want making laws for me. There’s something utterly sinister about eternal Mr/Ms Clean.

    Who knows by 2040 if you didn’t get wasted on Facebook you might be unelectable.

  14. John H.
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    There’s something utterly sinister about eternal Mr/Ms Clean.

    Yeah they are often anal conformists who are secretly scared of the dark and non-conformists.

    This vicious streak of honesty has got me into more trouble than you’d believe. Whoever said “honesty is the best policy” obviously hadn’t tried it.

    I have been questioned for being “too honest”(is that an oxymoron?). My typical reply: Seeking the truth is not seeking what is desirable. (Camus, The Myth).

  15. TerjeP
    Posted May 5, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    At 19 I was trying to figure out women. I figured out that working too hard to figure them out kind of freaks them out. So I learnt to live in ignorance and now I’m married.

  16. Posted May 5, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Crikey, at 19 I was trying to work out how to keep ahead of rough horses, endless mobs of cattle, and rangeland that seemingly was without boundary.

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