Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cappy Talist And The Fruit Pickers

The beginning of yet another potential book:

Once upon a time there was a land without laws. And because there were no laws, there was no property, for how can one claim possession is nine-tenths of the law when there is no law? I won’t try to paint the picture as being rosy and perfect, but the situation was how God made it, rather than humans. And there was no doubt that people were both free and as equal as possible given the fact that nature gives to some more than to others.

But because there were no laws, there wasn’t even any law against making laws. Until one day somebody decided he didn’t like things as they were. You see, there was one person who decided that whatever benefits nature had endowed upon him, and let us charitably say that he was already above average, he realized that what he was able to achieve through his own efforts wasn’t enough to satisfy the needs of his ego. Whatever attributes nature had given him, it didn’t give him the ability to realize that he wasn’t the only person that mattered.

You see, this person decided he was better than the rest. And since he decided he was better than the rest, he figured he was in a position to make the laws. Of course, he didn’t call them laws, he called them rules. He decided to play a game and told everyone else how it was to be played. It was called the ownership game. Everybody would carve up the land, which previously belonged to everybody, and take a little piece for himself.

Now the happy people playing in a land with no real obligations, thought it might be a good idea to play a new game. Also, since there was one among them who had a certain fever, they may have contracted a little bit of it as well. So they all decided to play a game in which they would see who could build the biggest pile of stuff on the biggest piece of land.

Of course, since the first guy, we’ll call him Cappy Talist, made up the game, he was able to make the rules. He decided that since he was standing on a certain piece of ground, that that piece belonged to him. There were others that argued the point, but since it was he who suggested the game, he convinced the group to agree with his assertion. They were all interested in whatever amusement the game might provide and weren’t interested in quibbling over the details. After all, Cappy assured them that the game would be a most enjoyable and rewarding game for all.

The area that Cappy called his own happened to contain a rather lot of fruit trees, something nobody but Cappy had thought much about before agreeing to play the game. So it turned out that very quickly there were very many people who wanted a snack and had nothing available. Cappy was quite accommodating, however. He suggested that others could strike a deal with him. If they were willing to climb the trees and pick the fruit, Mr. Talist (as he insisted they call him) would give them a portion of the fruit.

Seeing no other option, they readily agreed to pick fruit, thinking it was a small thing to do in return for food. And so they climbed the tree, picked the fruit. Except that one of them, while scampering towards the tree to pick his fruit and so fill his belly, happened to trample upon a flower in Mr. Talist’s garden. The man, Manwell, apologized to Mr. Talist, although not with much conviction as the flower he trampled upon was a rose with many thorns and Manwell had no shoes. Nevertheless, Mr. Talist was quite upset that Manwell had deprived him of one of his great joys in life and demanded compensation.

Now none of the other players at this point blamed Manwell for this innocent blunder, but none of them were willing to risk the ire of Cappy. Already, several of the weaker members of the community, seeing where there fruit was, were quite willing to dance to the tune of Mr. Talist, thinking that while they had never amounted to much in the realm of nature, they might advance their lot by throwing their support behind the Fruit Master, as one of them, Ask Isser, called him. So Mr. Talist, by showing some slight advantage, now found himself much stronger than he started because he drew the support of Ask Isser and others like him.

Still, there was more than enough for everyone, so there was little to argue about. As a matter of fact, under the new way that society was arranged, there was more fruit available than ever before. Seeing that they now needed to work harder than ever before in order to gather fruit not only for themselves but for Mr. Talist and his cronies, those who picked the fruit devised improved methods for harvesting so that they were soon picking fruit more quickly with less effort. Mr. Talist, realizing he stood to gain by the increased productivity of the pickers, devised ways of his own to improve the productivity of the pickers. Of course, Mr. Talist had never been very good at picking fruit himself, which was one of the reasons he devised the game in the first place, so his suggestions weren’t always useful. In fact, most of them involved the pickers working harder, which Cappy urged on by what he called “motivational speeches”.

Also, Cappy Talist realized there were some among the pickers who envied Ask Isser and the others who did nothing but eat the fruits that they picked. Some of the pickers thought that they would very much like to be like Mr. Isser, and were willing to do whatever it took to curry the favor of Mr. Talist. These aspiring individuals Mr. Talist was fond of holding up as an example to the other pickers, and Toe Dee became the role model that Mr. Talist held up for the others. As the pickers spent their days in the coconut trees and date trees, the idle likes of Mr. Isser and his chums would stroll along, praising the efforts of Mr. Dee, so much so that the other pickers came to believe themselves that Mr. Dee was the epitome of what a good picker should be, despite the fact that he spent more time polishing apples than actually picking them.

So efficient was this society at harvesting fruit that Mr. Alist found he scarcely had room to walk on his own property due to all the piles of fruit that were all over. In fact, even though Mr. Alist and those who were part of his circle ate like shameless pigs, they could not put a dent in the piles of fruit that lay all over. They soon took to squeezing the juices from the fruits in order that they might not have to eat the lesser parts of the fruit and instead drink the best of what the fruit had to offer. Soon, the ground was filled with the squeezed lemons and limes and what have you, the better part of it going to waste and making the landscape uglier and more filled with vermin. And somehow they did not seem to realize that while they wasted fruit that was a gift from the gods, there were those among the pickers who did not seem to be getting enough. For not every season was bountiful, but Mr. Alist and those who were most useful to him continued to have more than they needed, more than they could ever eat., for even in the lean seasons they demanded their share, even though they could not possibly consume all that they took.

So efficient were his workers that Cappy had more of them than he needed. Now he could have simply told the bunch of them to stop working so hard, but that was not the kind of thinking that had gotten him to his successful station in life. And so instead he decided that he had too many workers and the solution to that would be to tell a few of them their effort was no longer required. The pickers felt that this went against the agreement they had initially struck, but many of the other workers were simply glad they still had the opportunity to pick fruit for Mr. Alist. All in all, it was still an okay deal. And it could be worse, it could be them who were told their labor was no longer needed. Such might be the situation if they protested too loudly.

Now those who still were actively picking took care of their brethren who were no longer permitted near the trees that were owned by Mr. Alist. Although they were working harder than ever before, they still understood that the ones who were no longer picking still needed to eat. And although they assumed Mr. Alist would throw a few bananas in the pot in order to make sure everyone had enough to eat, they soon learned that Mr. Alist had different ideas. It was not that he was indifferent to the plight of those who now had no access to the fruit of the island, it was a matter of philosophy that made him refuse to participate in the charity and sense of brotherhood that the others believed in. You see, Mr. Alist, believing himself to be the example of the ideal man, understood that those without labor should invent their own games should they wish to have a full belly. In short, they should be more like him. Mr. Alist was an idea man, on a mission to make the world a better place. Well, mostly he wanted more for himself, but somewhere in his own self-interest was a most noble and selfless philosophy.

Philosophy was a big word, bigger than any the simple fruit-picking islanders had heard before. And the way that Mr. Alist used it so freely and so confidently gave the pickers the impression that Mr. Alist had a wisdom that surpassed that of others. In fact, so wise did Mr. Alist appear that they could not even see what he was talking about. It must be beyond the minds of simple fruit-pickers, they thought. “That is what makes Mr. Alist such a great man”, said Toe Dee, Ask Isser, and others who approved of him. “He can see things that others do not.”

“For you see,” said Mr. Alist, “the system I have created is a wonderful system. It has created a wealth undreamed of before I came along.” And the pickers couldn’t help but agree that the amount of fruit being picked was now greater than before the time that Mr. Alist instituted his system. And yet they couldn’t help thinking that they had enough to eat before, and didn’t work so hard. And some part of them seemed to be nostalgic for the world as it was before progress became their standard rather than happiness. But of course, progress was so much easier to keep tabs on than happiness. One only had to look down from the trees in which they spent more and more of their time to see all the coconut shells to be able to verify their progress.
The amount of rotting fruit that now lay on the ground DID take away from the beauty that once existed on the island. Also, there were those individuals who were now no longer permitted to pick fruit who were worse off than before. But Mr. Alist was quite confident, and they were, after all, simple pickers. Who were they to argue with Cappy when he was so certain and so successful?

Now Mr. Alist, while not being overly intelligent, was nonetheless in possession of a good deal of shrewdness. He realized that by letting some of his fruit pickers go that he created a degree of uncertainty in the others. The result was that those who still worked worked harder still, afraid that they could be the next to lose their fruit-picking positions. Soon there was even more fruit piled upon the property of Mr. Alist than ever before.

This should have been a good thing, but in fact it made Mr. Alist’s problem even worse. He could only eat so much fruit. And he had far more fruit than he could eat in a lifetime. It was such a big problem that it began to affect his appetite, which made matters even worse. There was no way to consume all the fruit the pickers had given to him as his payment. He tried letting go of even more workers but was afraid that too many people with empty stomachs and idle hands might interrupt the game he had established. And while he now faced a problem, he had no desire to go back to the days when he actually had to work for his living. It wasn’t so much the work itself that he worried about: he had always been a bit of a shirker, and if the truth were known had never really earned his living. No, it was being the man who controlled things that appealed to him. He would never go back to being just one of the people again, not after tasting the power and the prestige he had acquired.

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