We should, of course, rejoice that Abby Sunderland, the sixteen-year-old Magellan wannabe, was rescued bobbing in the Indian Ocean-even if it nearly cost her rescuer his life. But I am appalled at the sheer recklessness of her adventure, not just for Sunderland but for others. Her stage-door father says Abby may try to circumnavigate the globe again. No doubt, the Sunderlands will expect a second rescue, if Abby once again proves that a sixteen-year-old shouldn’t be out in the ocean alone after curfew.

What the Sunderland adventure has made me think about is a certain kind of self-centered recklessness, the carelessness of spoiled brats who expect others, lesser folk, to pick up the pieces for them. The great statement of this kind of behavior was found in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (which truly is the great American novel): 

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”

Tom and Daisy, of course, were rich-they might be able to give you a good tip for picking up the pieces for them (though, of course, there comes a time when the pieces are so smashed that nobody can pick them up again).

I think that what we see in the vast carelessness of Abby Sunderland and her father is the democratization of brattiness.

Abby feels she can make a mess again and some kindly fisherman will risk his life to save hers. We see lots of careless people today who make choices that ultimately rely on somebody who will come along and rescue them. I was delighted to see that the Chicago Tribune has a harsh editorial on Abby and her parents. I say: Give the whole family a curfew until at least one member attains adulthood.