Greed and the Village

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampSometimes, I like to think about society as a simple tribal village. It strips the world of its artifice, and takes us back to human-kind at it’s most basic. Raw and primitive. Simple.

And that’s exactly what many issues are from this perspective: Simple.

Without the nuance of modern day polarities, we can see things a bit more clearly. The significant moral leaps people manage to self-justify may be laid bare by a more straight-forward allegorical perspective.

For instance, we can easily agree that freedom is a virtue to be celebrated—but, not total freedom. Let’s explore that with an example. Imagine you are lying asleep on your dirt floor, above you nothing but the countless stars of the prehistoric night sky. You’re covered with a torn animal hide, and lay near enough the dying embers of the night’s fire to provide sufficient protection from the chill of night. In this scenario, you would certainly not want your neighbour to have the freedom to creep up as you slept and take a rock to your head just to obtain that crappy lion skin you call a bed.

Would you?

Most of us don’t need a cave man metaphor to get behind the basic idea of laws, no doubt. Shame on you that did.

But not everything is quite that clear, and the complexities of modern society make it far more difficult to discern the moral imperatives beneath the daily milieu. How do we suss out the decent path in something as complex as corporate economics, or systemic injustice?

Well, let’s imagine that for a moment. Take that same sleepy village of knuckle-dragging cave-people. Say that, as you sleep, one of the villagers has the initiative to wake up early, and gather up all the useful plants anywhere near your hut. Then he breaks your legs so you can’t gather the far away plants. Finally, he generously offers to sell you some of his extra plants in exchange for your wife and children.

You see, at some point, a free market which is free to extort and dominate no longer looks very much like freedom at all when you really boil things down.

Taking this analogy a bit further, we might ask: Just what do we want for our fellow savage villagers? Well, at first glance they don’t seem like an overly pleasant lot. They’re brutish and violent, and certainly don’t seem very smart.

I suppose that education would be a good place to start then.

Ensuring health and security is likely to make them less desperate and prone to violence of course, and some laws to protect from exploitation or economic coercion certainly seem sound.

But we don’t live in a village anymore, we live on a planet. And it would seem, somehow, that there is a disappointing lack of people who truly want any of those things for their neighbour. So then, what does this portend for our coming sleep beneath those countless stars?

The lion skin frays. The embers sputter and smoke.

…The night grows dark.

-Brad OH Inc.

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