Little things can tell you a lot. For instance, the signs they used to hang by the entrance to hotel swimming pools and adjacent to the paths that led to public beaches that read:
Swim at Your Own Risk.
These signs were common before the 1990s – which is roughly the era when America began to transition into something fundamentally different, kind of like Bruce.
Whatever its faults, the America that existed before the ‘90s was a place that was still largely in favor of personal responsibility, which requires the exercise of the individual’s judgment, enlightened by the prospect of positive gain – but chastened by consequences for the exercise of poor judgment.
In the case of swimming pools, it was culturally and socially expected that you knew how to swim if you went for one and that if not, you didn’t – in the absence of a lifeguard. If you were dumb enough to go for a swim when you didn’t know how and ended up drowning, that was on you – not the hotel. Or the county where the beach happened to be.
Just as it was on you, if you happened to be a parent, to keep track of your kids. If you didn’t and one fell into an unattended pool, that was due to your irresponsible/negligent parenting – not because the hotel didn’t keep a lifeguard posted or keep the gate locked otherwise.
Other parents weren’t held responsible, either.
Probably someone who didn’t want to accept blame for their own poor judgment decided to hire a lawyer – so as to drape the blame around someone else; i.e., the hotel or whomever else could be conveniently made to pay for the “constructive hazard” they chose to avail themselves of – or allowed their children to avail themselves of, unsupervised.
The lawyers, of course, made money.
And so – for their own protection – the signs came down and the gates were closed. The pool was no longer open for swimming unless there was a lifeguard on duty. It didn’t matter that you could swim – and weren’t an idiot. You could no longer swim – unless there was a lifeguard on duty. And of course, the lifeguard was only sometimes on duty, as lifeguards cost money and most hotels cannot afford to have one on duty all the time.
Thus were the freedoms of people who did nothing to warrant them being taken away – and their persons diminished, via the implicit assumption of their incompetence an irresponsibility; of their need to be watched-over and “kept safe,” for the sake of the irresponsible and those who bank on such irresponsibility.
It provided a way for lawyers to make money and for government bureaucrats to obtain and assert more authority. These bureaucrats put forth new regulations and sent hither and yon other bureaucrats, to make sure – via threats of fines and worse – that the new regulations were complied with.
It became illegal to allow “Swim at Your Own Risk.” You could be fined – arrested – for doing so.
In a kind of social-cultural expression of Gresham’s Law about bad money (e.g., fiat currency) driving out good money (e.g., gold and silver) the exercise of judgment by the individual – and the expectation that he alone would accept the consequences for the exercise of poor judgment – began to diminish in favor of the presumption of general poor judgment and the prior restraint of the competent, responsible individual.
If some idiot backs up over his kid, every car must be equipped with a back-up camera system.
If a negligent parent leaves a loaded gun out and their kid shoots himself with it, responsible people who had nothing to do with it are ordered to turn in their guns.
Private homeowners must now take elaborate measures to assure that someone else’s kid doesn’t wander into their yard and fall into their pool. If there’s no fence or similar obstruction, the irresponsible parents of the kid who fell into the neighbor’s pool can sue the neighbors – and will likely win. That they would even consider suing is a measure of the degree of their own degraded state. Once upon a time, most people would have been mortified by their own negligence and even more mortified by the suggestion that someone else was to blame for its consequences.
Drivers who handled their cars competently were forced to stop and prove they were not “drunk” – in the complete and utter absence of any reason to suspect they were. Children were required by law to be strapped into mini-restraint buckets. Drive-thru coffee became lukewarm and festooned with warning labels because someone else put a hot cup of it between her legs and it spilled on her vitals.
It got worse after that day in September, the 20th anniversary of which fast approaches, when a handful of people did an awful thing and after which all people were presumed to be up to awful things – and treated as such at every airport in America. Well, every commercial airport. At private airports, people were (and still are) treated as presumptive human beings rather than “terrorists” and not made to spread their legs and play the role of the just-convicted; but private airports are for the people who pass the laws that cause the rest of us to be so treated – and for those rich enough to avoid being so treated. This is a subject for another time.
Now – today – the healthy are held responsible for the health of others and the unhealthy expect the healthy to submit to whatever measure they feel are necessary to . . . make them feel safe. The entire country is becoming a hospital ward in spite of the fact that 99.8 percent aren’t in need of a bed – or a syringe.
It was as inevitable as meat going bad when left out in the sun.
If the social-cultural attitude that prevailed when Swim at Your Own Risk signs were common still prevailed, responsible people would decide for themselves whether to enter a store with a “mask” on – and whether it made sense to accept the risk of rolling up their sleeves to be injected with a “vaccine,” based on their own judgment, rather than imposed by the judgment of others.
They’d accept the consequences – and be free to enjoy the rewards – of not being afraid. Others would be free to do the same. No one would be chained to the poor judgment or the fears of others – and those who judged poorly or wished to live in fear would be expected to bear the consequences of their poor judgment and their unwillingness to cope with their fears.
The pools would be open, all season – all hours. Nothing would have been “locked down.”
That was America, once. It’d be nice if it could be so, again.
. . .
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