A tale of two Rabbit clans
The Land and The Tradition of the Rabbit Catchers
So, the tribe of Rabbit Catchers live north of a river. To the west of their lands there is a sun-beaten sandy desert. To the north of their lands there is a mountain range. And to the east of their lands there is an ocean. Since Shyge introduced new hunting methods, the Rabbit Catcher population has been steadily increasing, until there is no more no-mans land to conquer. Even the tiniest spot of woodlands belongs to this or that family, and each family is allowed to hunt in their own lands only. Also, the deal between Shyge, Ottoro and Hinto families was that all the hunting grounds were transferred to the Shyge family.
Some other successful Rabbit Catchers saw that no matter how much they hunt, they will never get as wealthy and prosperous as Shyge is. So they decided to adopt new methods, too. They hired poorer families, gaining their hunting grounds also, and forming hunting parties effectively chasing down deer and moose. But some Rabbit Catchers shook their heads, thinking that the new ways erode the traditional values of Rabbit Catcher culture. They called a meeting of the Tribal Council. Everybody came to the council meeting - that is, everybody expect those families who were working for bosses, they simply didn't have that much time to attend a council meeting, as they were busy either hunting or processing the catch. The council meeting was opened by Feppo, a skilled and prosperous Rabbit Catcher who had not adopted the new hunting strategies. He said:
- Dear fellow members of The Rabbit Catcher tribe! We are honoured followers of the sacred tradition of The Rabbit, and that is what has kept us strong and prosperous so far! Should we abandon that good tradition, should we allow chaos and anarchy to wash over our established traditions? Never! We can't allow the tribe to fail, as we are committed to maintaining the vigour of our tribe! And The Tribe is strong when the strongest families are allowed to prosper. That is how it has always been, and that is how it should always be. Now, I must say that lately i have been concerned about the introduction of un-orthodox hunting methods. Methods which abandon The Rabbit, and favour bigger animals. Methods which require collective work, abandoning the prided individualistic strategy. What is that? Why should a leader of a collectivist hunting party be more prosperous than a hard-working individualistic Rabbit Catcher?
- You are only saying that because you are jealous! Besides, we are not abandoning the Sacred Tradition of The Rabbit, we are just extending it in the true spirit of the tradition - which is the seek of the prosperity of an individual family. We have made use of our private courage and talent, we have been working hard to ensure a prosperous future for our families. So what is wrong with that? If you want to have your share of this increased prosperity, then employ people to hunt for you! But if you don't want to pride your skills in planning and management, then don't complain about being less prosperous than we are!
- Your arrogance offends me! Don't you know there are things like manners and morals? Without them we are doomed to indignity and chaos! For example, if there was a family of bandits, stealing the catch of other families, they couldn't claim that they have a right to their prosperity, simply because they earned it with their hard work of stealing and robbing. Stealing and robbing don't produce anything, only hunting does. And now you are saying that your shady unorthodox hunting methods should be considered as a legitimate way of gaining wealth? No way! I demand that the Tribal Council will unanimously ban collectivist hunting methods! We must all stick to the traditional pride of individualistic hunting!
- WHAT? And you say it is us violating the Sacred Tradition of The Rabbit? Don't you know that since the ancient times we have favoured a slim Tribal Council? A collectivist decision of the Tribal Council should not rule over the liberty of individual families! If we today allow the Tribal Council to decide on what hunting methods are allowed, then tomorrow we allow the Tribal Council to decide what colour of clothes any individual is allowed to wear, and the next we know is that we have the Tribal Council enslaving individual families and consfiscating private property. We can't allow that to happen! That would be a sure way to betray the Sacred Tradition of The Rabbit. Only in an extreme case should the collective decision of The Tribal Council be allowed to rule over the individualistic liberty of a family.
- Individualistic liberty! You said that! So tell me why are you tricking individual families to hand over their ancestral lands to you, and selling their individualistic liberty to work under the enslavement of your control?
- That's plain mockery and ignorance! We aren't enslaving anyone, it is all based on voluntary agreements! Besides, the families working for us are now earning better than what they did when they still were individualistic hunters with poor skills in catching rabbits. We are not enslaving anyone, we are giving people better opportunities to choose from!
- Can't you see the contradiction in your line of thinking? The Sacred Tradition of The Rabbit says that those who are lazy or have poor skills should not be more prosperous than those who are hard-working and talented. You are perverting the tradition, you are bringing the chaos among us!
- No, The Tradition only says that the individual is responsible for the consequences of the decisions he makes. If one makes the decision to join a hunting party, then the consequence is increased prosperity. Simple as that!
- Seems like everything has been said. It is time for the Tribal Council to decide!
The decision of The Tribal Council was far from unanimous. They had to vote. But the result was clear - Feppo and three other traditional Rabbit Catchers voted for banning collectivist hunting methods, while seventy-six families voted for Tribal Council not restricting the liberty of individual families. "After all, everyone has to be free to make their own decisions", they said.
The rise and fall of the clans
Eventually, more and more of the Rabbit Catchers started a hunting party chasing bigger animals. And many of the lesser families gladly joined a hunting party, for they saw it an opportunity to gain more wealth than they would do sticking to mere rabbit catching only. Eventually two major families emerged. Shyge family controlled about 45% of the Rabbit Catcher lands, while Labbo family controlled about 35%. 2% of the lands was for Feppo and the three other remaining old-school individualistic hunters catching rabbits only. And the remaining 18% was divided among other families running hunting parties of their own. But it must be said that the 18% grew slowly smaller, as both Shyge and Labbo families sought to expand their lands. Since there no more was no-mans land to expand to, they only way of growth was to gain rights to lands previously controlled by lesser families.
In the mean time, the Mammoth Hunters had been wondering what happened to Shyge - they were alarmed if Shyge went back to his own tribe and they are now busy assembling a raiding party to loot the collective wealth of The Mammoth Hunters. So they send two spies named Jummi and Jammi to track Shyge. For a long time Jummi and Jammi had been succesfully hiding in the bushes, keeping track of Rabbit Catcher activity. They soon learned that there were no sings of a raiding party being prepared. Instead they saw their collectivist hunting methods adopted in the tribe of Rabbit Catchers, and they saw some families being incredibly wealthy because of that. They returned back to their own tribe to report. Most of the Mammoth Hunters were relieved to hear that, but some started to think: Why is our tribe so severely restricting our possibilities of private prosperity? And since they wanted to make it big, they decided to emigrate into the land of the Rabbit Catchers.
The immigrants soon found work in Shyge and Labbo hunting parties, as they were constantly hiring. For a while things went smooth, and there was increased prosperity for everyone. But at some point the immigrants started talking. They realized that no matter how hard they work, they will never be able to buy rights to a parcel of hunting grounds. They will never be able to start a hunting party of their own. The promise of incredible individual wealth is out of their reach. Instead, they are doomed to working long days doing hard work while watching the master to keep 90% of the profit of their work. What kind of liberty is that? Why shouldn't a hunting party declare their hunting grounds as their collective property, and then sharing the profit a lot more even, the way they did in their Mammoth hunt? After all, doesn't liberty mean that you are free to keep what you earn - and in the case of collective hunting it should be the collective who owns and decides on the sharing of the profit, not some arbitrary private person who doesn't even participate in the actual hunting. So the immigrants started talking about these ideas to their fellow members of hunting parties. No-one was that interested.
Over the time the earnings of hunting party employees started to decrease, in myriad subtle ways. Both Shyge and Labbo families started asking the workers to pay a rent for their housing. Some workers were offended and switched to work for an another boss. But since the smaller bosses only controlled less than 18% of all the lands, they couldn't really compete against the big families. Practically speaking, the Shyge and Labbo families had a monopoly over hunting. Citing this and that reasons they asked their workers to work longer days for the same wage. They banned their private rabbit catching in their free time. All in all, more and more of the hunting party employees started to feel that being a member of the hunting party is no more a way to gain more wealth, but a long dull enslavement. Some of the hunting party families had to pay high rents and on top of that they also owed wealth to the boss, so that they just had to keep on working long days merely to pay their bills. "I can't afford to die" one of them said, sighing at his fate of life-long forced labour. And it was then when the ideas of Mammoth Hunter immigrants started to sound more appealing.
Soon there were more and more workers at the meetings listening to the speeches of Mammoth Hunter immigrants. "Liberty means that everybody owns the fruits of their labour! No private boss, no king, no duke should reap the harvest of the labour of others! Just like we don't allow thieves stealing private belongings, so we don't allow dukes and princes to steal that which rightfully belongs to the working families! We produce the catch, we keep the catch! We roam the hunting grounds, we risk our lives facing the beasts, so the hunting grounds belong to us! And when we can decide, we give evenly to everybody who has participated in the hunt. Everyone should be rewarded for their efforts! That is justice! That is liberty! Don't be sheep who allow the shepherd to control the flock! Wake up to your innate rights! Your labour belongs to you and to no-one else!"
A lot of workers found these speeches inspiring. They formed The Clan of Rabbits. The Clan demanded better working conditions, increased wages, cancellation of housing rents, and the liberty to catch rabbits for private profit. They threatened that if these demands are not met, they will stop working. And if that doesn't work, there will be an armed uprising, them taking the control by force. Then the hunting grounds will be owned by The Clan of Workers, and so the Clan could decide on the terms and conditions of work and housing.
The heads of Shyge and Labbo families were shocked. They gathered together to discuss if they should negotiate increased wages and all. But they decided that they are going to stand their ground - if they step back an inch now, soon they will have to step back a yard, and the next thing they know they are executed by the Clan militia. So they went to talk to the workers, telling them that everything is based on voluntary agreements, and the workers can't complain about the agreements they have voluntarily signed. "Hah! If the alternative is to starve to death, then what kind of voluntary decision is that? We haven't voluntarily signed these contracts, we have been forced to sign these contracts! Therefore the contracts are void and we have every right to protest!". The crowd cheered. The bosses replied: "You intend at a rebellion? Do you realize that a rebellion will be met with a lethal force?". The crowd replied: "You said that! That only proves that our contracts are not based on a voluntary decision. We are being forced by a threat of physical violence! We will respond!". The bosses said "Very well!"
The bosses called a meeting of the Tribal Council. Since the working families didn't have time to attend the meeting, it was only the heads of Shyge and Labbo families, an odd bunc of smaller bosses, and Feppo and three other traditional Rabbit Catchers. The discussion went like this:
- We have traitors among our tribe. There is an unlawful militia of thieves, threatening to violate the sacred tradition of private ownership. Their aim is to confiscate private belongings, and redistribute them collectively. It is an outright attack against the central values of our tribe. They are so un-rabbitful!
- That is outrageous! We can't afford to allow an armed mob of thieves confiscating private property!
- There are many of them and they are armed. We need to reply with force.
- Absolutely! We join forces!
- We see that the problem is mostly among your workers, Shyge and Labbo families. In our smaller groups workers are still loyal to the Tribal Values. We will tell them the news, and orded them to join the unified front against the militia of thieves!
- Good! We call this The True Clan of The Rabbit!
- The True Clan of The Rabbit! We need to defend the core values of our tribe!
In the meantime the workers Clan of Rabbits had a meeting of their own. Their discussion went like this:
- We have traitors among our tribe. There is an unlawful militia of thieves, effectively violating the sacred tradition of private ownership of labour. They routinely confiscate what belongs to a hard-working hunter, and redistribute the wealth. It is an outright attack against the central values of our tribe. They are so un-rabbitful!
- That is outrageous! We can't afford to allow an armed mob of thieves confiscating private property!
- There are many of them and they are armed. We need to reply with force.
- Absolutely! United we stand!
- Good! We are The Clan of The Rabbit!
- The Clan of The Rabbit! We need to defend the core values of our tribe!
The Clan of the Rabbit stood on a forest clearing, to the east of a path leading to the river. The True Clan of The Rabbit stood to the west of the path. And then they clashed, both defending the true core values of the sacred tradition of The Rabbit. Since The True Clan of The Rabbit was stronger and had better spears, they beat the workers Clan of Rabbits. The peace was restored, the armed rebellion was halted, and the Tribe of Rabbit Catchers went on with their sacred values. Kind of, yes?
Despite their wealth, the Shyge and Labbo families constantly sought to accumulate more and more wealth. Managing all the wealth required things like book-keeping, which lead to development in gathering of information, archiving and calculating. One day a group of the best book-keepers came to talk with the head of Labbo family. They said:
- Dear respected Great Leader, we beg your attention to consider a fact we think needs your attention.
- My book-keepers, tell me what it is?
- Our scouts have been scanning all the Rabbit Catcher lands, and they keep on doing that, to track the fluctuation of animal populations.
- That is good!
- Yes. It is good. And we have gathered the results.
- That is good!
- Yes, gathering the results is good. But the results in itself are alarming.
- Alarming! What?
- See, the current population of moose and deer is 1000 units each. Every year 400 units are born. And every year we, the Rabbit Catchers, hunt 600 units. That means an annual decrease of 200 units. At this rate it means that after five years there will be no more animals to hunt.
- Five years! It is a long time, how can you predict that far?
- We beg your pardon? Didn't we just explain it in a plain clear mathematical model? What part of the explanation you didn't understand?
- WHAT!!!?! Do you dare to challenge my intelligence! So sad! You idiots do a little book-keeping and think that you are somehow above me? You fools! Get back to your work, or I will fire you!
- Sir, if you fire us, it won't change anything. If we keep on hunting at this rate, after five years there will be nothing left to hunt and then we all go hungry.
- And how many units are the Shyges hunting a year?
- Shyges hunt 300 units a year, we hunt 200 units a year, and the other families combined hunt 100 units a year. We need to restrict the total units hunted.
- Restrict? That is just plain stupid? Are you traitors or what? You are working for the Shyge family, aren't you? See, they are hunting 100 units more than we are, and you tell that we should restrict our hunting! What is the logic in that?
- Sir, the thing is that every family should restrict their hunting. We should call a meeting of The Tribal Council to discuss the question. It affects us all, and we need to decide together.
- WHAT! You want the collectivist tribal council to decide on restricting the liberty of individual families! How un-rabbitful is that! I will not only fire you, I will KILL YOU!
- That doesn't change anything, sir. If you fail to understand what we say, everyone will die after five years.
- Little fear-mongering, aren't you! You try to make me panic, so that you could control my mind, you try to push your secret agenda! I won't go into that stupid brainwashing! Besides, the central values of our Rabbit Catcher tradition says that a collective decision should not restrict the liberty of individual families.
- Sir, it is not about the collective decision. It is about nature. It is things like facts and mathematics. They are what they are, like it or not.
- I don' like that! You are fired!
After five years the entire tribe of Rabbit Catchers faced starvation. Only some survived.
Some thoughts of my own
OK, so who are the heroes and who are the villains of this story? Again, I don't care that much. Although I mostly agree with the book-keepers. And many of my own views lean more to the side of the workers demanding better terms and conditions. But most of all, the main point of this story is to illustrate how slogans like liberty can be used to justify rather opposing views. About the exact same line of argumentation can be used by rival gangs, each believing that the other is evil and they are rightfully defending the Good Values. Or something, I don't know =) Also, I drew a picture of the rival clans. To me it seems that neither of them is so very individualistic. They are both tribal, in the sense that it is a faceless mass of militia, banding together to repel The Enemy. In this kind of conflict, I'm not that eager to take sides. Although I do think that there are situations when the only option is to defend yourself with violent means, I still think that in the real world it would be often better to find a way of negotiation. But that is not easy, especially when many people are so committed to non-negotiable Holy Values. So, seems like our saga will continue with further examination in how our tribal minds function, and how our tribal traditions play tricks on us.
Ah, and yes - this fictional conflict of two clans is loosely based on the real world West Virginia Coal Wars. So let me stress that my story is purely fictional - I do not intend to express any accurate interpretation of the historical events of workers uprising in early 20th century USA. My intention is not to take sides regarding the historical events. My intention is to show how the exact same thing can be easily interpreted in opposing ways. And this, I think, has gives rise to many of the historical conflicts.
Also, I'm not an expert in the history of USA, but let me mention an interesting little detail; In early 20th century many Finnish people emigrating to USA often had strong socialistic views. They had those horrible(?) ideas of workers self-organized management and more even distribution of the profits of the collective effort of the workers. These people often ended up working in the mining industry, spreading their ideas to fellow workers. Mining company bosses didn't like that, and often tried to keep Finnish people working in separate places to reduce the influence of their dangerous ideology.
Then one final note: When I studied Philosophy at The University I wasn't that much interested in political or economical questions. So I'm not an expert on these issues. But, to me it seems that questions like these, they seldom are as simple as they might appear at first sight. Take, for example John Stuart Mill, a well known English philosopher and political economist of 19th century. He strongly defended the individual freedom against the government rule. As he went on in his studies, he thought that where a group of workers labour together to achieve something bigger, the whole thing would be best managed and owned by those very working people themselves. So was Mill a socialist, then? Not quite, as even before Marx, he warned against the ideas of trying to put all the industry under a nation-wide central government. He seemed to prefer smaller, grass-roots self-organized units - with a lot of empirical experiments. Testing one way of self-organization at one factory, and another way of self-organization at another factory, and exchanging the experiences, enabling working people to learn and to develop new and better ways of just management. Although, I'm not quite sure if Mill was in favour of workers' armed uprising as a viable means of bringing about the order of 'hunters collectively owning the huntings grounds they hunt on'. Hehe, also, Mill wrote in 1850's or so, and there have been some technological advancement since those times, so all of his ideas might not be directly applicable in the world of today. Oh well. Personally, as an independent coder and massage therapist, I sell my own work directly to my customers, so I need not think about different models of distributing the profit. I do the work alone, I keep the profit alone, it is easy for me. I am not here to say what anyone else should do, or how other people should organize themselves. But what I want to say is to encourage people to ask questions, to think freely and to discuss =)