So I’ve had this idea in my head for a while, figured I’d get it out there. It’s not as if anyone reads this blog anyway (sorry Dan). Essentially it’s an extended metaphor of diet and desire. I think the following ideas may be right on the edge of the metaphor breakdown point, the crumbling precipice if you will. I invite you to accompany me on this surreal and vertiginous stroll.
So there are several ways that I get what I want (Many examples are first person today, to avoid vague references. I think this applies to everyone though). I can take it from someone else, or make it myself. Say I want food. If I only take from others, I do so to their detriment, a carnivore. A farmer, however, harms no-one (plants are not people in this metaphor). Both end up with what they want.
One could argue that the carnivore is better off. A bandit needs only find what others have and claim it for himself. Of course, one could argue that the farmer, though he works longer, works for a better gain. A carnivore may kill all his prey and starve; A farmer can grow as much as he needs, and more.
But wait! Some good things exist, but harm no-one in the taking! An herbivore grazes on the freely available. The only harm comes in denying the food to others, not in killing; Usually, there is enough for all.
Conversely, a rancher is a kind of carnivore, but a kind of farmer too. He kills to eat, but cultivates his flock. He has enough, and creates, but lives ultimately through violence (again, metaphorically speaking here. I have nothing against real ranchers… or carnivores for that matter (note to carnivores: please stop eating people?)).
In some ways, the ultimate thief is the hunter-gatherer. I roam where I wish, killing and pillaging whatever comes to hand. I will have my desire. I will give nothing back.
In this analogy though, prey sometimes become preadators, and predators prey. We humans as “free knights” are omnivorous. We may choose to side with fox or farmer, or either as we please. In many ways, I fill all of these roles. I desire and seek to obtain. I graze, steal, herd, kill, cultivate, often simultaneously.
It seems that carnivore tendencies are idealized in our society. If you can get without paying for it, that’s great right? If you can “win big” or “stick it to the man” and somehow “get out on top” then you’re a hero. Who wouldn’t want that? I mean, who wants to work hard your whole life? Is it worth it?
Well, is it?
I have to say I’m a bit confused by your analogy. Perhaps I’m reading too much in to it, but in my mind it falls apart when you start comparing any of the food-obtaining methods you chose to moral decisions like stealing. I was also thrown off by your reference to herding and slaughter as violence, in that while I don’t necessarily disagree with that as a factual statement, it feels like you are questioning the morality of ranching, in spite of your assertion otherwise. In general, read in reverse your analogy seems to equate any killing of animals for food with wrongness or at least reprehensibility. Was this intentional?
That said, was the analogy meant to bring together a point towards your question at the end, or was it mostly prelude thereto? Your question at the end of the post seems perhaps tangentially related to my inference of the analogy, and stands on its own thus:
“Is it a worthy pursuit to work hard for one’s whole life, or should gain be gotten at the expense of others?”
If that is indeed the whole of the question you’re asking, I’ll address it as such.
Honestly, the analogy developed from some surface similarities between “predators” in both the food-chain and sexual senses. From there it ballooned into a more general form. I attempted to distill the general form into a useful analogy, which is what I wrote. I’m not really clear enough on it now to infuse more sense into it, but thought it was interesting enough to share.
Like I said, it’s right on the brink of madness, and perhaps a bit over. Any more sense you can make of it is welcome.
So the intent is to draw an analogy between the traditional food chain predator vs. prey relationship and the competing notions of “taking what isn’t yours” vs. “working for what you want”?
Labouring under that assumption, I admit to the following perplexities: I have trouble avoiding the “freely available” contingency as regards predation and the resulting inference of culpability on the carnivore, and the notion of livestock as “prey”, and then to “hard worker”.
Perhaps this is too much detail for the analogy’s purpose, but in my viewing, nature’s carnivore is not taking what isn’t his. It is simple to anthropomorphize carnivores thus: the wolf enters my yard and takes my sheep, kills, and eats it. The wolf has wronged me! In fact, this statement is a selfish rendering of one’s own entitlement to the livestock in one’s possession. When the wolf kills a rabbit in the forest, has he wronged the rabbit? No! The rabbit is freely available to the wolf, and he has taken what is his by right. The same applies for the sheep in your possession: the wolf does not have reason, and cannot think of “your” sheep as “yours” at all.
If nature’s carnivore wrongs his prey in the taking of it, we imbue the carnivore with human morality, thereby validating its representation of the sinner in the sexual predation metaphor, or the societal thief in the grander case. To me, though perhaps I have over-thought this, that seems like the inverse of the metaphors’ intent. To liken a societal predator to a wolf, attacking hapless and unsuspecting sheep serves mainly to evoke pity on behalf of the prey, rather than malice on behalf of the predator. Perhaps both are valid from a certain point of view?
Finally, while this may address the notion of a predator as a villain, I’m not certain I understand at all why you’ve lumped farming and ranching in to the formula. I suspect it is to bridge a gap between “prey” and “productive member of society,” but I don’t see it. Farmers and ranchers both work with what is theirs by right. Both of them work to further the availability of their resource, and so sustainably (to use a buzzword) continue in the acquisition of gain by taking what is theirs. Again we have to infer morality on the “prey” (if such a word can be said to apply to ranch stock at all) in order to make the rancher sin in his “violence” (if such a word can be said to apply to the slaughter of ranch stock).
I think I see where you were going, but I’m not sure I can follow.
I think maybe I was trying to say something along these lines: http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html#SECTION_G008
Of course, it was all mixed up with other stuff. Who knows.
If you work hard, you can get what you want, and you won’t have to steal. It’s good to get it quickly, so you don’t have to annoy them.
I think that you should get a job. So then you can get money. I get money! Some people give me it, because they want me to buy stuff. It would be what they would want me to give to them. It’s kind of like treat others as you would want to be treated. Like a present.