Posted by: Rob | May 26, 2008

The Demise of Common Sense

A friend sent me an “obituary” today. It’s the usual kind of viral e-mail thing that gets forwarded and forwarded to e-mail inboxes around the world. This particular one was entitled “London Times Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense”. While I appreciate the opinion regarding the apparent loss of common sense in our modern society, I do find the “obituary” presentation aspect to be in poor taste.

As is my modus operandi when it comes to the assortment of internet gems that enter my inbox, I was curious as to its source and origin. Using my usual tool – “” – brought me up short with an error page:

We’re sorry…

… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now.

We’ll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.

If you’re continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser’s online support center.

If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the Google Web Search Help Center.

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we’ll see you again on Google.

WTF? Google may have just removed themselves from the top of my list of search engines. But, I digress. Undeterred, I called up the Yahoo search page, re-entered my criteria and was immediately rewarded with pages and pages of hits. I scrolled through the first few pages and noted that the majority of them seemed to be reprints on various blog pages and other places where people post this sort of stuff. But no hint of a source.

From many of the returned hits, it would seem this bit was initially posted some time in 2007, but a stumble onto a snopes message board, appears to identify the author and the original posting.

I read the original and it would seem that it has undergone some subtle alterations and customizations to arrive at the version I received today.

While much of the piece makes perfect sense (and aligns with a saying I use quite often: “Common sense is not so common.”), there are aspects that are a bit syrupy and droll. The snopes discussion also highlighted a few aspects that bear further thinking about as well.

I can’t speak to the veracity of some of the events cited in the piece – there is likely room for skepticism or doubt – but here is the text I received today:

London Times Obituary of the late Mr. Common Sense, interesting and sadly true

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; life isn’t always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six year old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by his four stepbrothers; I know My Rights, I Want It Now; Someone Else Is To Blame; and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.


  1. snopes is my first stop when debunking glurge, warnings and “signs from God” that trickle through my e-mailbox. yes, i’m the buzzkill that sends a reply when something just isn’t accurate.

    this one seems pretty harmless. unlike the “don’t buy gas on wednesdays to show the oil companies we’re not gonna take it” type pleas… (sigh)

  2. I’m with some of the folks on the snopes board. Common Sense wasn’t all that common back in the old days either. The pendulum swings this way and that, but never seems to rest at a happy meridian. *sigh*

  3. df: I should probably just head straight to snopes for the straight dope. Or I could just simply delete the “glurge” (I love that word, BTW) that I receive instead of propagating it here. (It’s the lazy blogger’s fallback though, dontchaknow?)

    silverstar: True, common sense probably never has been that common. But, I thought it would be rude to publish my other “theory” and that is that 95% of people are idiots. (I used to say 90% but recent observations forced me to amend my figures.)

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