Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Allegory

Once upon a time, there was a just and peaceful society. Its peace resided in the fact that the society was protected and cared for by many guardians. The guardians were strong, courageous, and devoted to the well-being of all its citizens. They also bore and nurtured most of its children.

Being a guardian was not always a pleasant job. It involved risk and self-sacrifice. It was often wearying and strenuous, and not everyone in the land was well-suited to the life of a guardian. Some were thin of build or had a timid disposition, and so they feared guardianship. Others had the athletic ability to become guardians, but the lifestyle did not appeal to them. They simply did not want to be troubled by its risks and requirements of sacrifice for the sake of others.

For many years, the people of this nation viewed their guardians as heroes. Although not everyone aspired to guardianship, they recognized that the well-being of their society depended on the guardians’ efforts. So, in an effort to support their current guardians, and to encourage the young to become guardians, the rulers of the society honored the guardians with public praise. They also gave the guardians certain legal privileges that non-guardian citizens did not have.

In the course of time, many citizens became addicted to personal pleasure. As a result, they began to lose respect for the life of guardianship. Some even began to resent not being given the same social esteem or legal privileges that the guardians had.

“It’s unfair!”  They cried to their rulers, and to anyone else who would listen. “We deserve to have everything that the guardians do! We demand equality with the guardians!”

Initially, few paid much attention to the protesters, but they pressed on with their complaints. Gradually, the protesters gained a hearing in front of the whole nation.
The guardians began reasoning with them to address their concerns:

“You have no rational basis for demanding the social status of guardians,” they said. “You have not publically committed your life to protecting and caring for our nation. You are not the ones that work day and night to keep our society safe. You do not bear and raise most of our nation’s children. We accept the lifestyle you have chosen, but the fact of the matter is that our society endures because of the work of the guardians.”

“Hateful bigots!”  The protesters screeched. “You are not treating us as equals! You are depriving us of our human rights!” 

“Wait a minute.” The guardians replied. “You already have the same rights that we do. No one is preventing you from becoming a guardian. If you were to choose the life of a guardian, would you not enjoy the social esteem that we do? As it is, you do not want to do that because it is undesirable to you.”

The protesters were unmoved, becoming ever more strident in their tone and hostile in their accusations. To the shock and dismay of the guardians, more and more non-guardian citizens began siding with the protesters. 

The guardians tried instead to reconcile and make a deal with the protesters, but they were cut off:

“We will have none of your outdated, rigid, discriminatory views in our society. People like you are not welcome in the public sphere any more.   All citizens deserve to be treated like guardians, and that is that!”

Eventually, the angry crowd prevailed; even the rulers gave in. Everyone was called a hero. Everyone was lavished with praise. All enjoyed the same benefits, regardless of their contribution to the well-being of society. The protestors rejoiced. After all, it felt good to be called a hero, even though deep down they knew it wasn’t so.

As years went by, fewer and fewer people aspired to the life guardianship. After all, being a guardian was not as pleasant as other ways of living, and by now the entire citizenry had become addicted to pleasure. Whatever they wanted but didn’t have, they demanded of their government. For a while, some of the more noble-minded citizens tried the life of guardianship, but soon they too gave it up. Eventually, everyone did as he or she pleased.

Without guardians, the once great society collapsed and disappeared forever.