21.092 Support: A Fable

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 08:26:54 +0100

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 21, No. 92.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 08:22:04 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: Support: A Fable

Once upon a time there was a country gentleman, who lived in a big
manor house surrounded by spacious grounds with all manner of
pleasant features. This house had a large domestic staff, which, jobs
being quite scarce, performed every service he demanded. His head
butler saw to that. The head butler kept the grumbling below stairs,
sent the occasional troublemaker packing and so on -- like the
character played by Helen Mirren in Robert Altman's Gosford Park, the
perfect servant, with no life of his own. Our gentleman was very
conservative politically, but he was not completely stupified by the
privileges of birth and the social isolation this often
brings. He knew times were a-changing, and so he invited rather
left-leaning intellectuals to his parties and gatherings from time to
time, so that he could learn from them and maintain his distinguished
role among his peers -- as a bit adventurous and youthful in his
inclinations. On more than one occasion, at one of his gatherings, a
particularly eloquent leftist intellectual would argue with him on
the subject of servitude. Generally the argument would present the
case for allowing the more capable among the servants to become
socially equal members of a collaborative society, in which he would
be a first among equals. These intellectuals were not utopians, for
they had experienced such a society in action, far away in a foreign
country where conditions were rather different. They knew what such a
society could do. Wonderful things. They had proof of this. Although
our gentleman never had an adequate comeback to the revolutionary
arguments, or at least did not present any to said leftists, he could
not bring himself to make changes. He could see that were he to act
as recommended he would be a leader among his peers, perhaps even be
better prepared for longer-term social changes. "But", he reasoned to
himself, "I'm comfortable as I am. I call for what I want, and it
comes. All the powerful people of my world respect me. Why upset a
good situation? Why make work for myself?" On their side, the leftist
guests, time after time, went away, back to their more egalitarian
world, muttering among themselves about wasting their time with this fellow.

In a comforting fable our gentleman would undergo a change of heart,
or come to a sticky end, in either case serving as a moral to the
tale. Let us leave it, however, where it is and so invite some
pondering on the situation. Any recommendations?


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London |
Received on Mon Jun 11 2007 - 03:33:15 EDT

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