No Electricity

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I’ve learned something from the two recent hurricanes, and please, Lord, I don’t need to learn anything else from another one. Sitting through four of these things (two when I was a kid) is enough for one lifetime.

What I have learned is that some young people believe that when the power goes out, and with it the computer, the television, the video games and the air conditioning, life itself stops. That’s a sad commentary.

After all, life has been going on its fruitful, interesting and wonderful ways since long before electricity, much less computers and television. Conversation, playing, most hobbies and reading don’t require electricity. As the passing parade of humanity goes, electric lights are a relatively recent phenomenon. My own late mother could recall the first time she ever saw an electric light bulb.

For all but a sliver of time, people have lived without electricity, and it’s been an even smaller sliver of time since most folks had air conditioning and certainly computers. I survived childhood quite well without television, computers or even organized recreational activities. I had a public library, the local movie house and the great outdoors, and I had a great time. I loved climbing trees on windy days and being blown about like a sailor on a mast. I also loved playing on the boxcars at the railroad yard, something I would never allow my own children to do. I walked in the woods, dammed up creeks and made water wheels.

I was never very good at making model airplanes, but I made them anyway and usually blew them up with firecrackers. Flying kites, hunting and fishing were common pastimes, as well as jousting on bicycles with padded poles. Everything we did we did on our own and unsupervised.

In those days, parents did not believe it was their duty to keep their children constantly amused. They simply said, "Go outside." If there were guests for dinner (that’s the noon meal in the South) or supper, children were usually fed at a separate table. The old phrase "Children should be seen but not heard" was heard often in those days.

And the government actually believed (at least in the rural South) that responsibility for life and safety rested with the individual. A child could buy firecrackers or bullets from the local hardware store, which also stocked dynamite, though that was off-limits to us kids. Part of growing up was learning how to handle dangerous things such as guns and knives and how to avoid breaking your neck or getting kicked by a mule or a horse. I was given my first Daisy air rifle at the age of 5 and my first .22 rifle at about age 10.

People 40 and younger have no idea what it’s like to live in a really free country. Most don’t even recognize all of the so-called health and safety regulations as a loss of freedom. They seem to them a good thing, but I still believe the main duty of government is to tote the mail and guard the coast, and nothing else.

Government talks only in the imperative. Every rule, law and regulation says either you must or you must not do something. That means your freedom of choice is denied, and choosing is all freedom is. Ninety percent of rules, laws and regulations are, in my opinion, none of the government’s business.

I really don’t think people who grow up in a welfare state are fit for freedom. I’ve noticed during the past two hurricanes that the chief topic of conversation seems to be what the government is going to do for people, and, of course, the government telling people what they can and can’t do. People seem to like that.

I’ve noticed, though, that nothing the government has said has had any effect whatsoever on the wind and the rain. Nature is still free.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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