Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guarding Life

Once upon a time, a long time ago, people recognized the need for there to be lifeguard - someone whose job it was to save the lives of swimmers. Of course back in the day, there were no certifications or official titles, people just did what they did. Over time it was recognized that where there was someone who was not swimming, but watching the other swimmers, people were safer and society benefited. Recognizing that these people, by giving up swimming themselves to watch others, were performing a sacrifice, they were awarded certain privileges and given a higher status in society.

After a time people developed a more formal notion of the lifeguard, and started having special training and certification of people with that calling. There was an organization, called the Wholly Sea, that among its other services, certified lifeguards. For a lifeguard to be certified by the WS, he or she had to go through training, agree to certain principles and work ethics, and take a pledge to guard the lives of swimmers. Lifeguards certified by WS were highly regarded.

Of course not everybody who was a lifeguard went through the WS, but WS acknowledged them as lifeguards in good standing, as if they had. Some people went through no official certification at all, but had themselves declared by the state to be lifeguards. Again WS recognized these people, since although they had no training they at least pledged themselves to the saving of lives. Perhaps they didn't save as many lives, or even any, but WS gave them the benefit of trying.

One day a group of beach frisbee players began a protest. They wanted to be acknowledged as lifeguards. They pointed out that lifeguards were often seen on the beach, and since they were too, they should not be denied the right to be called lifeguards. In fear of being called bigots, many states began giving the frisbee players some or all of the privileges that lifeguards were entitled to. But that did not satisfy the frisbee players.

They demanded that the definition of the word "lifeguard" be changed to mean anyone who is on the beach, even if they are just playing. Some organizations even went as far as according the frisbee players the title of lifeguard, to the detriment of the swimmers nearby. WS stood firm in denying that frisbee players were lifeguards and was brutally attacked for it. The frisbee players went as far as to have courts attempt to change laws and rulings to redefine lifeguard, but in all cases the public, when allowed input, reaffirmed that lifeguards are people who save swimmers, not just people on the beach, and especially not people who were ignoring the swimmers, playing a game.

Some think WS is wrong and that "lifeguard" means whatever you say it means. Others agree and say that you shouldn't get the title and privileges for playing, but for watching swimmers. What do you think?


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