Opposing World Views – Matt and Steve at the Airport
[a short story – by Sha’Tara]
“Myself, I would not put it that way. That’s not the way I see it because that’s not the way it is. After all, a thing is what it is and it is never something else. — Matt Galloway, Wall Street banker, smiles at his friend, pleased with his retort.
“Don’t you think that a lifetime of observation and experience is worth something? What gives a person “authority” to speak on any subject, in your opinion? — Steve Dunn, professor of ethics and a philosopher in his own right, frowns but cannot hide the fact that he is pleased to have broached this subject with the reticent banker.
“Well, obviously, you have to have a position in society to claim any sort of authority on any subject. You have to have certain approved credentials; recognition, a certain public reputation, be an elected representative. A member of a recognized influential group or think tank. You have to have studied the masters on whatever subject you would claim authority to speak on. Think of the chaos that would result if anyone could claim authority in anything? How would you know fact from fiction? How could you control such a thing? Society would collapse, pure and simple.
“Don’t you think you are exaggerating a bit? I think that if people were encouraged to gain their own authority on any subject, society would not only not collapse, but it would level off, taking a kinder, gentler path through nature and through life. The reason I say this is because that is what my own life’s observation and experience has taught me. History, however biased, cannot hide the fact that individuals make better stewards of nature than do collectives. Individuals respond to a natural need to be “with” whereas collectives develop a counter force, making them become “anti” nature. Collectives see nature as merely exploitable resources. An individual thinks of his world as his home.
“I think this is a futile discussion, but I have some time before my flight so I don’t mind if you ramble on a bit on this. An interesting approach in any case. But before I let you go on with this, let’s establish a basis for the argument. While I clearly see that man has reached his high level of development because of continuity of learning and collective participation in lending authority to certain people to ensure unlimited mental development and technological growth, your point is that social development should be drawn from personal observation and experience. I hate to point out the obvious but that would mean each generation would be starting from scratch. History would be invalidated. Any great works from the past would be relegated to museums and art galleries and considered of no value. Any scientific achievements would gradually be lost and forgotten. An illiterate society would return to a state of no-growth, on par with Amazonian tribal societies as encountered by the Spaniards and Portuguese. Is that the basis of our discussion? A return to a state of “the noble savage” for Earthian (as you insist on calling it) society?
“Are you feeling threatened in some way by the idea that an individual can express autonomous thought? That an individual’s ideas could supersede those accumulated by collective effort expended over certain periods of time?
“Do I feel threatened by the concept that an individual is greater than the whole? My friend, it’s an idiotic concept which doesn’t warrant thinking about, but just for the sake of argument, can’t you see what would happen if your idea could, and did, take root in society? Where would be your point of reference in anything? What could you rely on? We have laws and rules to keep the individual in step with society. Can any driver decide one morning that driving on the right hand side of the street is not applicable to himself, and proceed to drive on the other side? What are we talking about here?
“Well, by your defensive position, I think we are talking about common sense and man’s increasing distrust of individual thought versus that of the State – whatever constitutes “the State.” In my view, individual man is imbued with common sense, whereas society is not, hence the regulations and laws proliferating like cancer cells throughout Earthian society. No sane individual, no matter how independent of thought, would think of doing what you suggest. Your argument has been presented to me many times about the concept of wearing clothes, for example. Prudes defend clothing, whereas I think that Earthians would be much more comfortable, and free-er if they could shed their clothing when the weather, or circumstances, dictate that nudity is naturally preferable. And here comes the predictable arguments: why, people would defecate on the sidewalk, just like dogs. Men would be jumping women’s bones as soon as they saw them naked, etc. These arguments are those of controlling authority versus independent thought. Individuals such as yourself never allow their mind to wander the untrodden paths of “what if” in order to find a better way for people to interact with each other. Your assumption, and I might add, the assumption of “civilized” society, is that rules and laws, no matter who made, or makes them, are the safeguards of society. You never seem to consider this question, that although it is painfully evident that your law-makers are self-serving in every way, seldom “good” rulers, never great leaders, they can unquestionably enact moral laws that benefit society in general. An incredible fallacy.
“I just don’t get it. Why would any sane person argue for the points you make about individual thought? If we assume that pre-civilized groups lived more from individual thought than group thought; that modern, civilized man lives by adherence to collective mores and codes, which is the most successful? Don’t you see that civilized man took over the planet and that your “free thinking” Neanderthals lost? Evolution takes what it needs to succeed and modern civilized man is the most successful species on this world – why? Because it learned to subjugate private thought to collective needs. Man is a collective, like it or not. Without collectivization, man reverts back to living in trees, surviving by hunting and fishing or gathering wild roots. There is no middle road where you can have what we have today while every individual’s ideas are more important than collective wisdom.
“I understand what you are saying Matt. I know why you must hold on to your idea of what makes man so successful. The problem as I see it is that cancer cells are also a very successful type of “evolutionary” growth. They are very difficult to stop and as far as they are concerned, if we anthropomorphize, they have every right to succeed because they are stronger, smarter and faster than those they are destroying. Their whole mission, as a collective, is to keep on growing. Of course, and I know the argument has been made many times, what cancer cells do not see, and would never consider since such is not in their collective nature, is that their very success equals their eventual demise: they are a collectively driven predator that refuses to consider what happens when it takes over its entire prey, or host. What happens when collectively-driven Earthians control (eat) so much of the planet’s ecosystem that it enters into a non-recoverable state of entropy? What happens to man when his society kills off its host?
“OK, you make a point, although people are waking up and looking at sustainable energy and other alternatives that are slowing down the entropic effect – isn’t that true?
“And what about you, as an individual, Matt. Are you, and your particular collective of Wall Street bankers actively supporting or promoting such alternative efforts? Are you not, rather, deliberately sabotaging such efforts and being a complete hypocrite when you say such things?
“Are you trying to make me feel guilty for my lifestyle, Steve?
“Bet your bottom dollar I am, Matt. Bet your bottom dollar. My niece’s flight has arrived and I have to meet her. She’s arriving from Denmark. Now there’s a country you should think about. Denmark. Quite a contrast to your Wall Street mentality. You should take a vacation there – take a year or two. It would do you good. Have a nice flight.
“I should know better than to engage any discussion with you, Steve. You always have such a nice way of pissing me off.
“Pissed off is good. It means you are not yet a complete robot.
Quote: Doctrine — religious, political, or economic — eventually clashes with experience because doctrine remains fixed while experience changes with circumstances and perception. (Rex Weyler)