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I was reading something and saw the following lines spoken by an old male artist:

船が、水の下の者どもに気を配っていて大海原を往けるだろうか?

芸術も、人生も、しょせん水もの…

水をこざいて浮き上がった者だけが勝つのだ!

Someone else then responds:

キレイな言葉でボヤかしてやがるが、『他人なんて踏み台だ』って意味じゃねーか。

This was all overlaid upon the following image: enter image description here

I have no idea what 水をこざく means. The only thing I can find is maybe it's dialectal, but that doesn't seem to make sense because if you're walking/treading (歩く) in water are you really 浮き上がる (floating) on top of water? What kind of image am I supposed to be seeing here?

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According to this it's something like "to wade through." Without further context, it sounds like it's some kind of "sink or swim" implication.

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    +1, I did not know this word, but こざく seems to be used from Hokkaido to Nigata to Shizuoka in the sense of かきわけて進む or "to plow through" (e.g., 笹原をこざいてタケノコを採る).
    – naruto
    Mar 4, 2019 at 4:20
  • Right. I used "wade" since water is involved. But if you're wading, then you're walking, so there's no question of "floating." I think we'd need more context to find a better translation.
    – Marc Adler
    Mar 4, 2019 at 21:22
  • @MarcAdler I added a bit more context
    – Ringil
    Mar 5, 2019 at 2:22
  • So “sink or swim” was right. My guess is こざく might simply mean something like “paddle” (ie みずをかく) in whatever dialect the writer’s speaking in.
    – Marc Adler
    Mar 5, 2019 at 16:26

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