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10A003 Learning to Swim by Jim Davies, 8/3/2010

This morning's tragic news was that a group of teenagers from two families enjoying a riverside outing had drowned, when a sandbar they were exploring suddenly gave way. None of them could swim, and only one survived.

It's a freaky kind of accident, but apparently the river there is known for swift currents and shifting sand. The immediate question posed by the Establishment reporters was about warning signs. Had the dangers been properly advertised, by the guardians of public safety? It's not hard to see the way these minds worked; their premise was that government is supposed to keep everyone safe by surrounding us with safety fences or at least warnings of dangers.

This very sick premise applies to all governments, but to some more than others. In a visit to South West England a few years ago I was struck by an odd contrast. The very tip of Land's End, beyond whose steep and rocky cliifs there is nothing but the Atlantic, had been turned (since my previous visit some decades earlier) from a wilderness plus a stone cottage into an amusement center; I learned the new owner was a US corporation. It was a bit sad, that the kiddies needed the distraction of video games and burgers when surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural scenery in Europe, but that's another story; the point here is that as one drew close to those cliff paths there were multiple warnings not to go any closer, for dreadful dangers lurked beyond.

The footpaths to the edge of the cliffs were as well-worn as ever, so fortunately these US-style warnings were not being heeded by any of the natives. I followed them, and drank in the wonder of it all.

Later the same day, we visited the same coast some miles away and encountered a stretch of the South West Coast Path National Trail, maintained by a venerable British charity called the National Trust. One can walk these trails for six hundred miles around the edges of Devon and Cornwall, and often they skirt the cliff edge with only a foot or two spare. I think there were a few warnings here and there to watch one's step, but no suggestions about turning back. The Trust presumed that anyone wanting to use the trails knew what he was doing. Responsibility lies with the user, and so it should be, and so it has been in those parts for all of living memory.

So my question about the tragedy in Louisiana was: why couldn't these teenagers swim? Why hadn't their parents taken the responsibility of showing them how?

That's not to suggest the government schools they attended should have taken on that job, no doubt with a taxpayer-funded swimming pool. Rather, it was a parental task; swimming is an important skill and every child should know how to stay afloat as well as how to walk. In Shreveport there is a swimmming school, I found on the Net; and elementary floating skills can be taught in a back-yard pool such as this one, available for four hundred dollars.

These children died because their parents had been taught that the State as Nanny would do everything for them, that no responsibility need be taken. Like everything else to do with the alleged need for government, it is a lie.

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