THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART NINE B

Gardener – The garden where the Youth lived. That’s my beginning. I’ve spent my life looking for it.
Writer – Aren’t you already inside?
Gardener – It never feels that way.
Writer – I see the Youth’s garden out there where you work. You’re recreating it.
Gardener – Even if I could recreate that garden, I wouldn’t.
Writer – Why’s that?
Gardener – It’s not mine, not his either.
Writer – More like our mother’s.
Gardener – I run into folks here, who tell me how lovely the gardens look now. They’re standing in front of the Azaleas we planted two years ago, the two Renee Michelle and the Aphrodite, all in full bloom. The blue, sharp leafed Campanula portenschlagiana is bursting its seams nearby. They smile and tell me how much they enjoy the blue violas. They’ve survived the years of neglect. The azaleas are spectacular, but what they see are the blue violas growing in their mothers’ gardens. Or it might be the invasive lily of the valley at the other end of the bed, which I struggle to keep in check. I ask them what they think of the Azaleas. Oh, yes, they say, yes, they’re nice too.
Writer – Even if they don’t see all that’s in front of them now, they’ll see it in the future. We always draw on the past to help us through the present.
Gardener – Last autumn when we planted the Pleasant White Azaleas in the distance over there on the slope, I didn’t know they would bloom at the same time as the slow budding pink Renees here in the foreground. I didn’t know the white azaleas would bond with the white flowering Viburnum dentatum scattered through the Rhododendron? The Viburnum might have come in too late. And Aphrodite, brash red between them all, might have clashed with the Renees in front. I didn’t even think of the Campanulas! Gardeners have to be patient. In some cases we never see the final outcome. We’ll be dead before that elm reaches its glorious heights. Look, Renee’s pink blossoms are dropping already.
Writer – They’ll bloom again next year.
Gardener – A whole year.
Writer – Still the opportunity remains ahead of us. That’s exciting. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
Gardener – It should. It does. . . sometimes. I sometimes wonder if I don’t want to feel good.
Writer – Like Martha.
Gardener – Martha?
Writer – Of George and Martha in Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. The Youth’s girlfriend wanted to see the Mike Nichols’ film, so she took him when it first came out.
Gardener – The wife?
Writer – No, this was a high school girlfriend. The film was stranger to him than anything he’d seen before. This couple and their violent games. It was a keyhole view of the adult world. He understood physical violence, but found the intellectual violence over his head.
Gardener – But he left us images, didn’t he?
Writer – Can you see Elizabeth Taylor at the screen door, world-weary, realizing her emptiness? The youthful George Segal can’t fill it with his virility. Remember her words? I do, as if the Youth is whispering them to me now, her incantation: “George, who can make me happy and I don’t wish to be happy. I do wish to be happy. George and Martha, sad, sad, sad.”
Gardener – Writer and Gardener, sad, sad, sad.
Writer – Do you remember Three Sisters?
Gardener – What three sisters?
Writer – The play by Anton Chekhov.
Gardener – Oh, those sisters.
Writer – The past and future swinging wildly around like the hands of a clock gone mad. There, the violence is latent, tightly compressed like the mainspring under the surface of things. The veneer of good manners begins to wear. We barely register the sound of a gun shot in the last act.
Gardener – I had a hard time staying awake the last time we all saw it in Brooklyn.
Writer – It’s the battery commander, Alexander Vershinin, who clings to the hope that one day several hundred years from now, the world will find peace and happiness. He puts it mathematically. Today there are three lovely, talented sisters; tomorrow, there’ll be six, the day after twelve, until one day in the future everyone will be like them.
Gardener – If I remember correctly, he and his optimism are in retreat at the end.
Writer – His wife is sick and his children depend on him for stability. He believes the sisters grew up in the kind of home he’s failed to provide his own children.
Gardener – Perhaps their home only seemed perfect.
Writer – The old colonel was his commander in Moscow and his home was open to all his officers. Vershinin knew the colonel’s wife and remembers the sisters as Colonel Prozorov’s three little girls. He’s surprised to hear Irina, the youngest, planning her return to Moscow which she remembers as a place of happiness.
Gardener – Considering the sisters don’t have any kids, his calculations are groundless.
Writer – He sleeps with Masha, the middle sister.
Gardener – There’s no future there since she’s married like him.
Writer – The sisters dote on Andrei Sergeevich, their younger brother as if he will save them from life’s tedium with his brilliant career.
Gardener – He’s the least talented of the bunch!
Writer – But he has children. And his wife, a local woman, is ambitious. She’s seems best prepared to meet the future.
Gardener – She gets her husband a government job by sleeping with the head of the county council. In the end she’s appropriated Colonel Prozorov’s house for her children.
Writer – And everyone is telling themselves that someday their suffering will be understood. Irina claims there will be no more secrets.
Gardener – What secrets?
Writer – Perhaps the same secrets that keep Martha and George from being happy.
Gardener – We don’t all have the same secrets.
Writer – Perhaps she means the secrets that undermine our efforts.
Gardener – Well, something undermines my efforts.
Writer –What are you looking at?
Gardener – The Galanthus are gone.
Writer – Give us the English.
Gardener – The snowdrops! Galanthus nivalis. I’m talking about the bulbs I dug up and divided last spring after they bloomed. I moved them around, so their white lanterns would nod cheerfully along the walkways when everything else was still dormant. I set them in clumps among the narrow black leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and the golden Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ – I don’t know the common name!
Writer – Sorry.
Gardener – I do know the common name, creeping gold Jenny. They’ve disappeared.
Writer – The creeping what’s its name?
Gardener – The Galanthus, the snowdrops, went to seed while I was in here with you. I even missed the Crocus and Tulip species that remind me of Asia minor.
Writer – Where the writers of the ancient world placed the first garden!
Garden – Now it’s the late blooming Azaleas that are coming out. No matter. We can see them next year. Didn’t you just say that? Next year when our neighbors step out the door, they’ll see the difference a snowdrop makes?
Writer – The potential is there.
Gardener – For those that notice. But why isn’t that enough?
Writer – McMahon presents Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views on the subject of perfection on pages 240 -1 of Happiness. We’ve never read Rousseau’s Second Discourse so we must take this as McMahon’s interpretation. May I read this section in full?
Gardener – Why are you asking me?
Writer – Just being polite.
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Just keep in mind what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
Gardener – Please!
Writer – Ok, to quote McMahon, “. . . what Rousseau calls ‘the faculty of self-perfection,’ or simply ‘perfectibility. . .’ is the fatal quality that lies in reserve in the depth of the soul, the very quality that is at the root of all progress. When called forth, it enables human beings to do extraordinary things: to strive constantly to improve their circumstances, to conquer nature, to organize themselves, to control, develop, and exploit. Yet at the same time, this faculty cultivates a ceaseless restlessness, breeding disaffection with our present state. It urges us to summon ever new desires and to place our reason in the service of their fulfillment. It urges us to compare ourselves invidiously to our fellow men, to strive to outdo them. It urges us constantly to outdo ourselves.”
Gardener – And where can this restlessness lead Adam, remaking his garden again and again!
Writer – Always lacking.
Gardener – This lacking – we can’t put our finger on it – causes all our unhappiness. On the other hand Adam keeps trying because he always feel this close to succeeding.
Writer – Doesn’t that mean he has the potential for happiness?
Gardener – If that’s so wouldn’t that also make him self-sufficient?
Writer – I’ve been rereading Ernest Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful. If you remember the Youth first read the book when it came out in1973.
Gardener – I know, I know, I see the ratty copy there, falling to pieces.
Writer – While their conclusions are different, there are a great many places where both Ernst Schumacher and Ayn Rand agree. For example both found reprehensible the idea that humans could be interpreted as nothing more than a corpus of atoms. Both valued the world of ideas and criticized those who claimed that ideas are relative. Both deplored our failure to solve problems that were once easily solved. Anyway there’s a reference to Burma in the chapter on Buddhist Economics. I wanted to see what had become of Burma. It seems it has been a completely failed economic system when viewed statistically. Not only that it has suffered years of military repression. But this is how I discovered the recent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech of Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. Actually she was awarded the prize in 1991 when she was under house arrest in Burma.
Gardener – It’s been in the news. She spent 15 years under arrest.
Writer – In her speech she said, “absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation.” Earlier she had explained, “the Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome.” Here I was reading an old book that had paraphrased the hopes and dreams of a newly liberated nation. Like the Congo the dream for Burma goes off the tracks after a charismatic leader is killed. Now I find myself caught up in the on-going events. We have to keep trying.
Gardener – The Youth taught us that.
Writer – Do you remember, around puberty he began suffering from acute pain on the right side near the stomach? A doctor told his mother the attacks would eventually pass. But when they struck, he’d doubled over. If he was playing baseball he’d curl up on the ground wherever he was on the field. At home he’d lie on the nearest couch or bed, even the floor. He imagined an imperfection festering inside him. For relief he imagined taking a knife and cutting the evil sore from its place. As the doctor promised, the painful episodes disappeared. But he could still feel this imperfection growing inside of him. The Old Man seemed to confirm this whenever he sent him up to his room for an infraction. There he punched the soft, low inclined ceiling with his fist. These outbursts of anger never brought permanent relief. But at least he had tangible evidence of his suffering right there on the ceiling, proof that he had something to complain about. When he was older he had his little sister and her friend lock him in a small closet on the second floor until his legs went numb. In high school, after classes, he ran bare foot up and down a rock strewn hill behind the football field, hoping that would make him tougher. The summer before his senior year, he was required to read Tolstoy’s War And Peace, which he never finished, losing his way in the infinity of characters, and a depth of feelings he couldn’t understand. But he imagined he was like the one character he thought he understood, Dolokhov. He met him sitting on a window sill downing a bottle of rum, in Part I, Chapter 9. He thought that was cool. On Friday and Saturday nights he downed pints of vodka with friends. “Bold ass moves” they called it. He had learned in 9th grade that vodka didn’t leave a scent on his breath. Years later, when he finally finished the Russian epic, he found Pierre and Denisov far more appealing. But at the time he hadn’t found the ability to shape words into images. They baffled him and Dolokhov was a man of action. One day, eight or ten years before I appeared, and having by then embraced the counter culture in reaction to the Old Man’s views, he was typing on his grandmother’s Remington in the apartment he shared with his girl friend and their friends, when his lack of articulation unleashed a potent dose of violence. Like a flash flood his anger immersed everything around him. He threw his grandmother’s typewriter against the desk, smashing her cherished teapot which his mother had given him after she died. I can still see it, the cracked lid, the broken spout, which later he tried to glue together. Just then the Siamese cat, Thor, freaked out, and leaped on the desk. He grabbed Thor before his thoughts could catch up to him and threw him against the wall.
Gardener – The cat, he threw the cat?
Writer – Thor ran under the bed and wouldn’t come out until the Youth’s True Heart had returned from classes.
Gardener – It was her cat?
Writer – It was the first time she learned of this other side of him.
Gardener – Was the cat hurt?
Writer – Shaken. The Youth saw himself throwing Thor as he had thrown the typewriter. He saw the fear in the cat’s wild eyes. Almost immediately after he threw him against the wall, his fury receded, like water flowing down the drain, leaving him empty. He was ashamed. From that day on, whenever this anger burst from it’s place, it became an act of will not to hurt anyone else.
Gardener – For all we know the Good Samaritan was struggling just like him when he came up to the naked man.
Writer – Jesus never tells us. He says he had pity.
Gardener – The night before, he might have argued with his wife over the way she was raising the kids. Perhaps that morning he argued with his son about doing his share around the house, maybe it was his daughter he yelled at because she smiled at a boy.
Writer – Our Christian theologian is optimistic. Everything wants to be good. It can’t be helped since goodness is the source of all things. Evil is nothing more than the lack of good. He calls it a privation. Even if the Samaritan was angry at his son the night before, he still had the potential to get something right. I think that’s what Aung San means about never losing sight of peace. This potential that we spoke of earlier must have kept the Youth, in spite of his failings, from quitting.
Gardener – The Youth must have loved the cat.
Writer – Knowing who we are, we can assume so.
Gardener – But the moment he threw the cat, he must have lacked love for him.
Writer – I don’t think he was thinking of love or hate at that moment.
Gardener – But throwing the cat wasn’t good and if the lack of good is evil then the lack of love must be hate.
Writer – So you’re saying because he lacked goodness the moment he threw the cat, he therefore hated it.
Gardener – I’m saying that must have been the reason for his shame, the realization of what it means to hate something, even momentarily.
Writer –We already know the Christian believes his god is perfect and good. He also believes that god is love. In Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20, he quotes the evangelist, John from the New Testament, chapter 4: verse 16, where John says “God is love.”
Gardener – But he sensed something else, didn’t he? Hitting the wall was one thing. He could blame others for his anger. Everyone was against him. He hated the Old Man who sent him up to his room. And what about that Sister Mary Ursula? He hated her too.
Writer – She actually told the 3rd grade class that anyone living outside the true faith would not enter Heaven. Instead they would suffer the flames of hell. The boy was horrified. At the Old Man’s request our mother had raised us as Catholics, but she had remained an Episcopalian. Unable to reveal his sorrow, the Youth suffered quietly as if he himself had taken her place in the inferno.
Gardener – I mean this is something we can understand. He had a reason to hate her. And under ASS you had “reasons” to hate everyone who was impeding your efforts to accomplish something great.
Writer – Long Live Galt! Let the cities rot! Let the country go to hell! We’re taking our business to Shangri-La. Actually I just heard that Remington Arms Company is threatening to pull its business out of New York State if the government insists on microstamping gun casing to help law enforcement.
Gardener – But as soon as he threw the cat, he could only blame himself. He was no better than those he hated. Sister Mary Ursula always blamed him for things he didn’t do. She was stupid and lazy – that’s why he hated her. But when he threw the cat it was because he was inarticulate, because he was stupid, because he was weak. Thor was innocent. He had to assume responsibility. He was no different than she was.
Writer – You’re right. His lack of love left him with an incomplete view of himself. It was like looking into the mirror and being unable to see his nose. It’s there but he can’t see it. Instead there’s a hole. Most of us spend a lot of time and money trying to find our nose.
Gardener – The problem is we often want a nose that’s popular. The Youth wanted straight hair. He wanted ears that didn’t stick out. But even going out and buying stove pipe pants and cabana socks, and lathering his hair with cream couldn’t fill the hole in the center of his face.
Writer – That’s when he must have begun to empathize.
Gardener – But do you think he was ready to use the word, love? I mean there was a canker still growing inside of him. He could love his mother, even The Old Man, when he didn’t hate him, but love himself?
Writer – The Youth was fascinated by Shakespeare’s use of that word in the Sonnets.
Gardener – Love?
Writer – Canker. He rode his bicycle to work and on his way home he often visited the Shakespeare Garden beneath Belvedere Castle. I suspect his interest in the word was tied to his fascination of rosebuds which reminded him of medieval spires. But Sonnet 54 was different. The context was unusual and aided his understanding of his problem. The poet describes a canker rose, a rose without a scent. The Youth, who was even then learning to convert his views of the natural world into words, had come to think of a canker as a worm.
Gardener – I think of stem problems. . . rose stems.
Writer – But that didn’t seem to be the case here. I quote the bard: “The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye/as the perfumed tincture of the roses. . . But,” as the poet later adds, “for their virtue only is their show.” In my words, when they fade, that’s it; no one remembers them; while perfumes from the redolent roses are distilled in bottles and remembered. The poet is comparing his sonnet to perfume by which his lover or is it his youth, can be remembered after beauty has faded.
Gardener – Shakespeare is putting a value on scented roses. There are many exquisite roses that aren’t sweet scented.
Writer – It’s his metaphor for something intangible. The Youth realized he no longer needed a knife to remove his pain.
Gardener – Why does this never end?
Writer – In San Francisco, years before he discovered Shakespeare, the fog lifted sometime around noon and the sun found him in its glare. He began feeling the bright blue sky was weighing down on him. He had nowhere to hide from himself. It was as if the sun at noon was casting its searching rays straight into the center of his emptiness. At the time he was reading the Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead. He couldn’t wait for dark so he could fall into the cool night as into a pool of water.
Gardener – I feel that today, cooped up with you.
Writer – He was struggling out of this emptiness, this lack of success.
Gardener – The blue sky’s chiding me. Why am I inside? That’s why I garden.
Writer – That’s why I read Chekhov!
Gardener – Nothing is more lovely and perfect than a bright sky on a lovely day, and nothing more hideous!
Writer – Perhaps this hole in all of us is what the believers in gods call original sin.
Gardener – Is this the reason for their holy wars? Filling the privation with blood and gore?
Writer – It makes our emptiness a fault. Love they neighbor as thyself, but if we can’t love ourselves, how can we love our neighbors.
Gardener – We’re not as perfect as the congressman from Wisconsin.
Writer – I never expected to find this emptiness here in the middle of the rock pile.
Gardener – He never doubts himself.
Writer – We were going to build something solid.
Gardener – Never questions himself.
Writer – I mean these rocks are all we have.
Gardener – He has all the answers.
Writer – A place both wild and domesticated, like the mind.
Gardener – Does that mean he loves himself?
Writer – Instead we’ve uncovered a black hole in the center of our universe.
Gardener – I feel awful.
Writer – I’ve thrown more words than there are stars into this singularity without ever stopping up the pain. And all because we can’t “be.”
Gardener – What about our potential?
Writer – But we can do the right thing.
Gardener – When we succeed, we find happiness.
Writer – It’s short lived!
Gardener – What are you moaning about? You’re in your element, here in this world of all consuming illumination. They’re sending ships to the arctic circle to bring you light. They’re blowing tops off mountains to brighten your day. Your computer is saving paper but still burning on the carboniferous. It took every ounce of energy for the Youth to control his anger. Are we his reward?
Writer – You and I.
Gardener – Sad, sad Youth. Besides he doesn’t know us. And we don’t know him.
Writer – I remember when he disappeared. We were standing by the window on the second floor of Castalia, the Greek Restaurant where he worked. He was looking out onto Madison Avenue. He realized he was thirty. That something had changed. And then I was alone, myself. But anyway, you know him more than you know anyone else.
Gardener – I remember this vaguely. But I can’t take credit for his struggle.
Writer – Isn’t that why you’re here now?
Gardener – It never ends, converting this hatred into motion, into work.
Writer – As the Pagan said, we must exert ourselves!
Gardener – Why can’t we pat ourselves on the back now and then when we get it right? I mean the placement of those far off Pleasant Whites was perfect.
Writer – We always forget. We rush on.
Gardener – Tomorrow all this will start again.
Writer – Sad, sad Gardener.
Gardener – Do you think the Youth felt good every time he weathered a storm?
Writer – If relief is good, he must have felt good.
Gardener – How about self-sufficient?
Writer – If he felt good, then he needed nothing more.
Gardener – Still I’ve never thrown a cat!
Writer – Should we blame our Youth?
Gardener – I didn’t do it! I couldn’t live with that.
Writer –How about that kid in Florida? He sure looks like he threw the cat. Blame him!
Gardener – He’s dead.
Writer – Can we live with that?
Gardener – I’m ashamed of what we’re capable of.
Writer – Not me, blame the devil. The devil made us do it.
Gardener – Yeah, Hitler made us kill the Jews.
Writer – That’s easy.
Gardener – Charlie Manson made us shoot those people up Cielo Drive.
Writer – See how easy it is!
Gardener – Why do we always go back to his time? We can’t change anything back there.
Writer – That’s right. We can’t. But we’re going forward! I told you that.
Gardener – But why are we capable of such atrocities? I didn’t kill the Jews. And it was the Youth who threw a cat against the wall. So why am I ashamed?
Writer – It’s the hole in us, our privation.
Gardener – We need to move on, like the seasons.
Writer – There are people working in food factories who treat animals as if they were nothing more than bags of cement and pallets of brick. They kick chickens. They punch pigs.
Gardener – But we don’t. We threw a cat, once!
Writer – That’s right we did!
Gardener – If I could only get outside.
Writer – You always start moping when you stand by the window.
Gardener – I see the weeds growing. If plants acted like people, consciously refining the Pooh Principle we’d be gone by now, the human species, smothered in weeds.
Writer – Remember Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
Gardener – I know I’d feel good again, pulling weeds. It’s as simple as that.
Writer – I work with my hand too!
Gardener – On that infernal keyboard, pounding rock.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I was too important to stop by the naked man.
Gardener – The silent pulling of weeds.
Writer – I wouldn’t help the stranger.
Gardener – Before too long a patch of bare earth, waiting for new ideas, a hardy gardenia perhaps, against the brick wall, the pale white flowers, the sweet scent nurturing our memories.
Writer – Why didn’t he come to me earlier, why did he go on believing in big government.
Gardener – That’s all it takes, bending down, pulling green dross. That leaves room for dreaming.
Writer – As John Galt warned, by helping this man I was helping a dysfunctional government and its corporate cronies survive.
Gardener – Piling dross on the compost.
Writer – I realized people must die until they see clearly.
Gardener –Editing what isn’t valued at that moment, in that place. That’s gardening.
Writer – When I was suffering from ASS I called myself objective.
Gardener –Like the congressman from Wisconsin, what’s his name. . .
Writer – Paul Lie’en?
Gardener – Yeah, Paul Lie’en, with a lion’s halo, another victim of ASS.
Writer – Not any more. Haven’t you heard? In his words “like millions of young people in America,” he attributes his ASS to his youth.
Gardener – In other words, he was a Galt groupie like you but not any more.
Writer – Yep, he came of age and went public. He’s disowned his hero like St Peter denying Jesus before the cock crowed.
Gardener – Why do we never hear about Daggy Taggert? Wasn’t she struggling against the same torpid system as the congressman.
Writer – It’s never been about Taggert, even if she was the vehicle of change.
Gardener – Didn’t she feed the beggar on the train and give him a job?
Writer – I think the hobo had news of her mysterious inventor.
Gardener – She’d still have done it. The way you’ve described her she’s the most real.
Writer – Oddly enough, the author believed she was egocentric, because she believed she could fight entropy all by herself. Anyway, the hero from Wisconsin now claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas!
Gardener – Then the congressman from Wisconsin, like you and I, agrees with Aquinas, that none of us can ever be good.
Writer – According to his advocates in our congressional brain trust his budget is based on moral principles. Through sacrifice we all, in the future, will become self-sufficient, like the congressman. And as you and I know being self sufficient makes us good.
Gardener – Too bad the Youth isn’t around to see this ASS. He might have understood why he was doomed from the beginning.
Writer –In St Mary’s the good kids got good marks and gold stars. They seemed endowed with grace. He felt he lacked something.
Gardener – Earlier we said the Good Samaritan had to help the stranger. Right? Had to!
Writer – He took pity on the man.
Gardener – His pity compelled him.
Writer – Right.
Gardener – When he helped the stranger it was an act of goodness.
Writer – Everyone agrees.
Gardener – But who can see the Youth’s act of goodness?
Writer – I see your point. Not throwing the cat is equal to the Samaritan’s well applauded act.
Gardener – The Youth is angry and violent, but of his own free accord he wills himself to not act. He restrains himself. He does not throw his true heart’s cat against the wall any more.
Writer – It’s a turbulence I still feel.
Gardener – Does everyone struggle this way?
Writer – In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt said we’re all different genetically, metabolically.
Gardener – When we see the Samaritan, we say, “he’s one of the good guys.” But when we see the Youth, hood on his head, walking aimlessly around, hanging out on the corner, when we see him, we say “that kid’s up to no good.”
Writer – But we know differently.
Gardener – Only because we know our Youth.
Writer – Of course, it helps to have a moral code in place.
Gardener – But it means nothing unless we wrestle with ourselves.
Writer – A moral code is passed down through millenniums because it makes sense, because it’s practical.
Gardener – Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal.
Writer – Still we must earn them.
Gardener – Aren’t we ridding the high horse again?
Writer – It’s not about retribution. It’s knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Gardener – What are you talking about? Of course it’s about retribution!
Writer – We don’t believe in heaven!
Gardener – Sometimes we do the right thing because we do fear getting caught. Sometimes we do the right thing because we’re afraid someone is watching! Like that time you accidentally backed the pickup into the car behind you and cracked the front fender.
Writer – What do you mean, me, that was you, you were tired after that long drive down the Taconic.
Gardener – I wasn’t driving.
Writer – You had plenty of room to park. You admitted that yourself. You thought you were in first gear but you were in reverse.
Gardener – It was your idea to go upstate with the wife.
Writer – I don’t drive! I never leave this room.
Gardener – Oh, I guess all these stories come from inside your head, no influence from the outside.
Writer – The internet, newspapers, books, music.
Gardener – I remember one evening, after working late, trying to squeeze into the only parking space I could find, me. The dam hitch plate rode up on top of the fender of the car in back. I told myself if someone parks on the street, shit happens. It’s expected. Still, after all that work I decided to find another spot. I didn’t want the owner of the car to do something to my truck in revenge. . . Having admitted this, will you agree “we” were driving this time?
Writer – Well alright, but I can’t see how I could have been there. If it eases things, yes.
Gardener – No sooner “we” hit the car behind us we realized we had a problem.
Writer – We were parking right in front of the building where we lived. We cracked the fender.
Gardener – I said, damn, we live here. I figured for sure someone saw us from the window.
Writer – I said, damn we live here. What if somebody smashed our car? Wouldn’t we appreciate knowing?
Gardener – No one told us who stole our cargo bay cover. Nobody confessed to messing up the door lock on the passenger’s side or cracking the side view mirror, I mean. . .
Writer – Stuff like that helped us turn a corner.
Gardener – I’ve worked hard for a living. I looked at that cracked fender and knew this was going to be costly.
Writer – Old habits die hard.
Gardener – We left a note on the windshield with our phone number. Shit.
Writer – A few days later a parole officer who lived down the block called us. He said he and the fellas down at the office had talked about us around the water cooler. They couldn’t believe we’d left a note admitting fault!
Gardener – They thought we were crazy.
Writer – He praised our honesty. It was his daughter’s car.
Gardener – Well I told him to save his compliments. I told him it took everything I had to not walk away. Cost us $800. I wrote the check myself.
Writer – But we did it, the right thing. In spite of all those feelings, we still did it. We could see ourselves doing it. And we felt good about it.
Gardener – Not completely. It hurt writing that check.
Writer – I was relieved.
Gardener – I don’t know. 800 bucks.
Writer – No one forced us to leave the note under the windshield wiper. . . Look we both agreed with the theologian that all things strive to be good. We wanted to do the right thing. But we must, as the philosopher said, exert ourselves. We both know it’s not easy.
Gardener – It’s not easy.
Writer – We smashed the bumper. To make good we admitted out fault.
Gardener – When I think of the money it hurts. When I think of right and wrong it feels good.
Writer – In Small Is Beautiful, Economics As If People Mattered, Ernst Schumacher emphasized two point views, one was economical, the other metaphysical. In our global culture, the economical view takes precedence over the metaphysical view. In Part I, Chapter 3 he writes “it would be ‘uneconomic’ for a buyer to give preference to home-produced goods if imported goods are cheaper. He does not, and is not expected to, accept responsibility for the country’s balance of payments.” Today we can add unemployment as well as a castrated national identity. When the metaphysical view supersedes the economical, we acknowledge some things standing outside of monetary value. It would be immoral to rip families apart with the economic strains caused by foreclosures, deportations, and the unregulated investment policies of Kings who bring on these economic hardships. Wherever we can, we should decide what is best for people and not for the Kings who knowingly gamble with the national security since economic downturns create national insecurity. Schumacher argued that when meta-economics are applied, anything people-made can be treated economically, but anything people can’t make must be treated reverently. He uses the word, “sacred.” In Part II, Chapter 2, he gives the example of someone deciding it will be more economical running the car into the ground than spending X dollars keeping it going. With the money saved the consumer can buy a new car. But one shouldn’t demand the same economic calculus for the earth where we grow our food and raise our animals, and from the animals themselves. Pigs and chickens aren’t TVs and toasters.
Gardener – That was written a long time ago. No one remembers Schumacher. They remember Galt because we all want a hero!
Writer – But we aren’t any further away from success. We’re just as close today to being good stewards of the real world than we were 40 years a ago.
Gardener – That’s almost a half century.
Writer – The potential for success is still in our hands. We have the capability of producing goods and preserving the home planet as a self sustaining unit for everyone.
Gardener – What about the Kings and their vassals? These masters of deception are thinking only of what they can make for themselves in their own life times. They don’t give a hoot about the life time of the planet.
Writer – Schumacher laments in Part I, Chapter 2, that “a man driven by greed or envy loses the power of seeing things as they really are, of seeing things in their roundness and wholeness, and his success become failures. If whole societies become infected by these vices, they become increasingly incapable of solving the most elementary problems of everyday existence. . .”
Gardener – Is this supposed to make me feel better. He’s not simply describing Kings but all of us. That could be a description of you and me!”
Writer – It is. He continues, “The Gross National Product may rise rapidly: as measured by statisticians but not as experienced by actual people, who find themselves oppressed by increasing frustration, alienation, insecurity, and so forth. After awhile, even the Gross National Product refuses to rise any further, not because of scientific or technological failure, but because” and the emphasis is mine, “of a creeping paralysis of non-cooperation, as expressed in various types of escapism on the part, not only of the oppressed and the exploited, but even of the highly privileged groups.” I would add the non-cooperation caused by the adherence to dogma. Now he said this 40 years ago and if ever there was a prophesy made that’s come true, this is one of them!
Gardener – I’m not consoled. We’re all in the same boat, the Kings, their vassals and the rest of us.
Writer – I was just reading an article this morning in the New York Times. . .
Gardener – I was here! I saw you reading it.
Writer – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal which describes a suburban community near Atlanta, Georgia.
Gardener – Sandy Springs.
Writer – That’s right. When I was reading it I thought there are some good points here. For one the brief description of the 19th century tax code. Taxpayers paid taxes for specific services needed by the taxpayers. Nothing new here, even the Roman emperor Hadrian said the only purpose of government was to clean the streets and pick up the trash. I think I read that in Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.
Gardener – There’s a lot to be said for that!
Writer – I can easily image a governing body hiring a local company to do something for them. But most of the companies mentioned in the article are national with home offices in other states. That means tax dollars are leaving the state. On top of that the manager in another state is telling his manager in Sandy Springs what to do with local workers. Naturally the local manager. . .
Gardener – Was he born there?
Writer – Not sure but I assume he has the responsibility of making the right decisions, the right decisions being the most profitable for the company. But all this aside, where I feel the idealism goes off the tracks is when the author paraphrases Mr. McDonough the Sandy Springs city manager, by telling us “The privatized approach saves money because corporations hire superior workers and give them better training.” The emphasis is mine. That’s a dangerous statement. It borders on an act of faith. The author continues paraphrasing the city manager: “Work handled by 15 public employees can be done by 12 privately employed workers, he says” that is Mr. McDonough according to David Segal who then actually quotes the Manager: “It’s all about the caliber of employee and the customer focus that comes out of the private sector.’”
Gardener – That’s scary.
Writer- Exactly what I thought. Not scary because of the actual process which is worthy of experimentation but because of the evangelical tone of its believers.
Gardeners – Pureliners. One size fits all.
Writer – Near the end of the article the author describes an encounter between , Mr. McDonough and Kevin Walter, the deputy director of public works, who works under contract for URS. “Mr. Walker has good news. Currently, Sandy Springs pays for two people to operate two road maintenance trucks five days a week — in effect, 10 days of work every two weeks. Well, Mr. Walker has just figured out a way to reduce the number to nine days every two weeks, saving $50,000 a year.” Mr. McDonough is happy and Mr. Walter is happy.
Gardener – Yeah, it’s not coming out of their pockets.
Writer – Exactly. It’s obvious it’s coming out of the pocket of one of the drivers. That’s a demotion. Not because of work done badly but because the Kingdom wants to save $50,000. Now we can rest assured that this demoted worker wasn’t making $50,000 for 52 days of work, nor was his truck consuming that much fuel and need that many repairs for 52 days of use.
Gardener – Let’s hope not.
Writer – What would running a tuck and paying a worker cost the home office of URS in San Francisco? $200 tops? $300?
Gardener – On the ground floor that’s a good estimate, even if we consider a union contract with the teamsters, which is unlikely considering the tenor of these evangelical managers.
Writer – Let’s round it off, $500 for one worker and his truck a day. That’s $26,000. So who’s making the remaining $24,000?
Gardener – Maybe it is coming out of Mr. Walker’s pocket.
Writer – Maybe. We could tally up salaries for secretaries at the home office as well as the cost of upkeep of the buildings and the possible mortgages pending on operations and real estate at the home office in San Francisco. It’s more likely that by demoting a worker, Walker is insuring that his salary stays the same or is raised.
Gardener – Maybe we should ask the experts at Bane Capital?
Writer – Yeah, I’m sure they could tell us. But Schumacher is clear on the goals of Sandy Marsh. . .
Gardener – Springs, Sandy Springs.
Writer – In Part 1 Chap 3, he claims that “the judgment of economics. . . is an extremely fragmentary judgment; out of the large number of aspects which in real life have to be seen and judged together before a decision can be taken, economics supplies only one – whether a thing yields a money profit to those who undertake it or not.” The emphasis is his. The King keeps the Miller’s daughter locked inside his sweat shop spinning gold for him because it’s in his best interests. The King rationalizes doing this for the good of the Kingdom. The consumers of the Kingdom are happy as long as they have enough gold to buy goods as basement prices. But the bottom line is, the King’s getting his desired return for locking her up.
Gardener – One could argue that it’s in her best interest to marry the King.
Writer – But we’ve discussed her liability since she was using an outside source. The King holds all the cards. When he marries her, he monopolizes what he believes to be her skill. If she can’t make gold, she can still put out.
Gardener – What about the critics? Isn’t there always a revolution around the corner?
Writer – According to the King, his critics are just envious.
Gardener – There’s truth in that. We all want to live like the King.
Writer – Think of Cinderella and her shoe.
Gardener – Yes we’re all willing to squeeze in if only to marry the prince.
Writer – The Kings have caste their spell over us using the gold we’ve made for them. We fall asleep dreaming of the Dogmateers who sally forth from their castle ideology with sword and shield to fight the windmills of differing views. Oh yes they tell us, we’ll put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Gardener – Wolves in sheep’s’ clothing or should I say grandma’s dress and shawl.
Writer – We carry this too far! We’ve heard what Rousseau had to say about why we can’t be happy. Our striving’s to blame; but I suspect that for most of us the Marquis de Sade is closer to the truth. Do you remember what he said Act One, Scene 22, in Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/Sade
Gardener – I thought the analogy fit, using wolves and you know Little Red Ridding Hood
Writer – “That’s how it is Marat/That’s how she sees your revolution/they have toothache/and their teeth should be pulled/Their soup’s burnt/They shout for better soup/A woman finds her husband too short/she wants a taller one/A man finds his wife too skinny/he wants a plumper one/A man’s shoes pinch/but his neighbor’s shoes fit comfortably/A poet runs out of poetry/and desperately gropes for new images/For hours an angler casts his line/Why aren’t the fish biting/And so they join the revolution/thinking the revolution will give them everything. . .”
Gardener – Anything to make me happy. Like a new nose I can stick into everyone’s business.
Writer – Is it a wonder we want to believe them, these master of deception. Even when we like them they can come up short. On page 432 in Happiness, in McMahon’s discussion of Friedrich Nietzsche, we discovered a passage the Christian wrote in the Supplement to the Third Part of Summa Theologica, which we’ve never read because of its references to heaven.
Gardener – And you don’t mean Sandy Springs.
Writer – It would seem that the long promised eternal happiness we can’t find permanently on Earth, is made more exquisite, if that’s possible, in heaven when the blessed watch the suffering of the eternally dammed! How in this eternal world of perfect good is their room for, yes, still more good? The Christian explains: “Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”
Gardener – Are the taxpayers of Sandy Springs enjoying the privation out beyond the castle walls?
Writer – This is troubling.
Gardener – Not to the congressman from Wisconsin. He’s pushes back that devilish debt caused by those of us who’ve been improvident, squandering our assets on pleasures’ imitation. . .
Writer – Don’t bring in the Prodigal Son
Gardener – I’m just getting the hang of this.
Writer – Don’t.
Gardener – While the congressman and those of us who’ve nurtured our resources, sit back in our hard earned leisure enjoying the revelers suffering privation!
Writer – I don’t think his congressional benefits add relish to his congressional happiness. I think he’s blind to the suffering of others.
Gardener – According to Sister Mary Ursula when the Youth died he could sit on his heavenly perch watching his poor mother burn in hell for all eternity.
Writer – Fortunately a more exacting teacher, the stern Sister Mary Estelle, sensed his crisis. She took the boy aside and asked him what was wrong. When she learned what it was, she told him that was nonsense, that anyone who believed in the goodness of Jesus would enter heaven no matter what their church.
Gardener – Was Sister Mary Estelle a heretic in the eyes of contemporary church teachings?
Writer – A heretic? Because of her wider christian views? This Sister of Mercy brought solace and comfort to the Youth, just as the Samaritan had to the wayfarer lying on the road. She stepped outside dogma and saved the boy from torment. Had she been a Jew or a Muslim she would have done the same.
Gardener – We don’t need to be Christians to follow Jesus.
Writer – Nor Buddhists to follow Buddha? Buddha was a Hindu.
Gardener – Jesus was a Jew. There were no Christians in his day.
Writer – When Mohammed heard his angel, Gabriel, he could have been a Jew or a Christian or a Hanif. It doesn’t matter, does it? He stepped outside and became something new.
Gardener – Maybe he was a descendent of the Good Samaritan?
Writer – It doesn’t matter. Like other great people he steps outside of his time, becomes the outsider.
Gardener – Still, after these great people die, humans will be humans and the great efforts of unification crumble.
Writer – Shiites and Sunnis appeared just the way Lutherans and Calvinists did in Europe. Just the way Theravada and Mahayana appeared after Buddha.
Gardener – If prophets unite, their followers always lead to disunification. Have we come all this way only to find ourselves still searching for John Galt?
Writer – Remember those two apprentices working for the baker?
Gardener – Are we back on Main Street again?
Writer – Every town has a Main Street, even in Syria where towns are blown to bits. In this town, on this Main Street, the baker had a shop where he lived with his family and the two apprentices before it was destroyed by government artillery. . .
Gardener – Is this another fairy tale or a news bulletin?
Writer – The day after the government destroyed the town, the militia of the ruling minority, the Alawite, entered the shattered village and killed the baker and his wife and children. Our two young apprentices, hiding in the rubble, waited until dark to escape on the road north. We find them each carrying a loaf of bread. Each prays to Allah to help him evade the marauding gangs of the Alawite. At dawn one apprentice tells the other they should share the bread in common. The other agrees and offers his loaf. When they’ve satisfied their hunger and finished the man’s bread they continue on.
Gardener – I smell something rotten.
Writer –Naturally the other apprentice who offered up his bread first doesn’t think of himself as generous because he was acting for the common good. But they have walked all day and now evening is coming. He’s hungry and he sees his associate nibbling on the remaining loaf of bread. So he asks him for his share.
Gardener – King Lear again.
Writer – The apprentice who suggested dividing the bread between them in the first place continues walking. The hungry apprentice asks him again for his share. Now the apprentice with the bread quickens his pace. It’s almost dark now and the other man is well ahead of his comrade. So the hungry apprentice runs after him. The well-fed apprentice starts running too, until he is even farther ahead.
Gardener – I would have beat the shit out of him.
Writer – Soon it’s dark. The hungry apprentice is tired and can’t keep up. The other apprentice disappears into the night with the remaining loaf. It’s getting cold, winter is setting in. The hungry apprentice staggers off the road and up a hill to avoid an army convoy. On the hill he discovers an orchard of fig trees. Although it’s nearly winter they are heavy with fruit, so he eats to his stomach’s content.
Gardener – Figs can produce fruit twice in a single year, but generally the first crop is in late winter or early spring and the second crop in summer.
Writer – He hears the sound of running water. In the middle of the orchard there’s a well overflowing with sweet water, so the apprentice drinks his fill. He’s no longer cold and hungry. He lays down in the dark and dozes off beneath one of the trees. He’s not sure he’s dreaming but he overhears doves talking on the branches above. They’re talking about a poor, blind cobbler who could be rich if only he knew about the three pots of gold buried beneath his shop floor. They gossip how the people in Damascus pay great sums to their leader to import their water when there’s water for all just a few feet beneath the city’s main gates. And then there’s a king living in a far off land, who could save his dying daughter if he killed his precious dog and fed her the meat.
Gardener – Blah, blah and just the way the King got the miller’s daughter, the apprentice goes out and finds his fortune and a princess too.
Writer – Remember, that King was thinking only of himself when he locked the miller’s daughter in a room full of straw. Yes, the generous apprentice finds the pots of gold where the doves said they’d be but he takes only enough of the gold to get him to Damascus, leaving the rest for the poor cobbler, his wife and his many ill-fed children. In Damascus he discovers water under the gates just where the doves said it would be; the people want to make him President but he takes only enough money from the grateful people to get him to the land of the dying princess. And there he saves the King’s daughter. Naturally the King gives him his daughter in marriage. But feeling his son-in-law will leave his services if he doesn’t offer him a bonus, he asks what more he can do for him in gratitude. The apprentice tells him he’s a baker and would like to open a bakery. The King thinks this venture would be a good investment. Bread has been something his people have made at home. Opening such a business would lock up his monopoly of the food industry. But on one condition, continues the apprentice. And what is that, asks the King, not used to beneficiaries giving conditions. That the bread we make will be free to those too poor to buy it. The King looks over at his daughter. Without a moment’s hesitation he consents. And here is where the apprentice and his new wife, the princess, can be found, their aprons dusty with flour, their hands sticky with dough, distributing good bread and sweet water to anyone who have fallen prey to bad times.
Gardener – How about the other apprentice who left his friend behind?
Writer – Oh, he doesn’t matter any more.

Footnotes

1 – Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who%27s_Afraid_of_Virginia_Woolf%3F

2 – Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_%28play%29

3 – what Aristotle and Aquinas said regarding desire and perfect happiness. . .
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Nine A

4 – self-sufficient?
The Gardener Returns, Part Nine A

5 – Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize recipient for 1991 Acceptance Speech
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1991/kyi-acceptance_en.html

6 – Summa Theologica, Part 1:Question 20: God is Love
http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP/FP020.html#FPQ20A2THEP1

7 – Method to Track Firearm Use Is Stalled by Foes/ By Erica Goode Published: June 12, 2012

8 – Budge Translation of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/egy/ebod/

9 – Charlie Manson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson

10 – Little Shop Of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Shop_of_Horrors_%28musical%29

11 – St Peter denying Jesus http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+26%3A31-35&version=NKJV

12 – the hero from Wisconsin claims to be a follower of Thomas Aquinas
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/297023/ryan-shrugged-robert-costa?pg=1

13 – Good Samaritan
The Gardener Returns, Part Eight

14 – A Georgia Town Takes the People’s Business Private by David Segal

15 – Pureliners.
I:1 WHERE THE GARDENER FAILS TO MOLLIFY THE WRITER WHO DECRIES THE NOTORIOUS PURE LINE DISCOVERED BY THE YOUTH IN HIS BALLAD OF THE BANKBOOK

15 – the Miller’s daughter
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART THREE

16 – Humpty Dumpty
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FIVE

17 – Peter Weiss’ play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed By The Inmates Of The Asylum Of Charenton Under The Direction Of The Marquis De Sade
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marat/Sade

18 – The Christian explains in Supplement (xp): to the third part of the Summa Theologica
Treatise On The Last Things (qq[86]-99)
Of the relations of the saints towards the damned (three articles)
http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/aquinas/summa/sum641.htm

19 – Main Street/Apprentices
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART NINE A

Gardener – How many Christians follow the example of the Good Samaritan?
Writer – Jesus never called him good; he simply said he was a Samaritan. Everyone commenting on the story has called him good.
Gardener – But we agree what he did was good.
Writer – That’s why everyone calls him good.
Gardener – It’s easier helping someone when they’re lying like that right in front of you.
Writer – The Pharisee and the Levite didn’t.
Gardener – We all have a bit of Pharisee and Levite in us.
Writer –We call it self–interest in the narrow sense.
Gardener – But you and I said the stranger from Samaria helped the wounded man because he had to!
Writer – He had no choice. If he ignored the stranger, he’d have carried the stranger’s suffering in the form of shame.
Gardener – Something the Levite and the Pharisee could manage.
Writer – We do it all the time, convince ourselves it’s not our problem.
Gardener – Especially when the stranger isn’t lying on the road in front of us but is a foreigner on a dusty road in some far off land.
Writer – The Samaritan was a foreigner.
Gardener – Doesn’t matter where he was from. We’re all the same species, Homo sapiens.
Writer – Only this human would have found it hard to live with himself had he passed by.
Gardener – You mean he’d be miserable, unhappy.
Writer – According to Aristotle, the pagan philosopher, happiness and goodness are connected. The ancient philosopher says in Ethics I:7, “the final good is thought to be self-sufficient.” He defines “self-sufficient. . . as that which when isolated makes life desirable and lacking in nothing; and such we think happiness to be; and further we think it most desirable of all things.” Like goodness, happiness is, to quote the pagan, “something final and self-sufficient. . .”
Gardener – In other words the Samaritan was self-sufficient, he needed nothing more when he helped the stranger.
Writer – I think the pagan philosopher means more than that. Being self-sufficient is possessing all we need to be happy inside ourselves, in spite of what is happening around us. The pagan mentions the shoemaker. . .
Gardener – Not the cobbler on main street?
Writer – Why not? After all every town has a main street where people are hard at work making a living. We’ve known the bakers and shoemakers Adam Smith describes. Aristotle knew them, too. He writes in Ethics I:10 “If activities are, as we said, what gives life its character, no happy man can become miserable; for he will never do the acts that are hateful and mean. For the man who is truly good and wise, we think,” my emphasis, ok, “ bears all the chances of life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and” again my emphasis! “a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen.”
Gardener – A man who’s good and wise will bear all the chances of life becomingly – he means stoically?
Writer – Let me put it this way: if a shipment of leather is of poor quality, the shoemaker will do whatever he must to continue making good shoes. He won’t pass the poor quality onto the customer. If he can’t afford to ship the leather back to the original vendor he will find a way to work the leather to produce good shoes, or perhaps it will be belts or wallets or purses. The same can be said for the baker, the butcher, and the brewer! They won’t cut corners. Their own integrity is tied to the integrity of their work.
Gardener – And so it is for the gardener and the writer!
Writer – “And if this is the case,” Aristotle concludes, “the happy man can never become miserable; though he will not reach blessedness, if he meet with fortunes like those of Priam.”
Gardener – Priam, like in the Iliad.
Writer – King of Troy, lost everything to the Greeks. In other words the self-sufficient person will make the best of any situation, no matter what happens to him.
Gardener – Which means, I guess, if we follow a good path through thick and thin we’ve a good chance of being happy.
Writer – At least content.
Gardener – Easier said than done.
Writer – I know. That’s why in Ethics, X:6, the philosopher qualifies by saying, “The happy life is thought to be virtuous; now a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.” In other words, it seems those who’ve worked hard being virtuous, who’ve worked hard doing the right thing, are better prepared to deal with adversity, since they’re aware of their own failings.
Gardener – Being virtuous? In other words being good? Didn’t the Sisters of Mercy tell the Youth “ to be good?”
Writer – He failed, didn’t he? Let’s say, if we exert ourselves the chances of dealing with adversity improve. Some 1500 years after the pagan philosopher, the christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas, accepts the pagan’s understanding that happiness is “the perfect and sufficient good.” But he adds that “since happiness is ‘perfect and sufficient good,’ it excludes every evil, and fulfills every desire.” An impossibility for humans in this world.
Gardener – In a perfect world no one would ignore the stranger lying in the road. In fact no one would have robbed him.
Writer – That why christians believe in two worlds, our imperfect one, where, to quote the theologian, “every evil cannot,” my emphasis, “be excluded” and the one to come, which is perfect.
Gardener – In our world people do rob each other and people do walk by without helping.
Writer – “This present life,” explains the christian, “is subject to many unavoidable evils; to ignorance on the part of the intellect; to inordinate affection on the part of appetite, and to many penalties on the part of the body.”
Gardener – We don’t see our happiness linked to the man lying on the road, unless it’s to our financial advantage.
Writer – Narrow self interest inflicts a great deal of pain. It’s difficult for us to be happy when we think only of ourselves. For the theologian and other believers in after life, god is the supreme good and this good is the ultimate happiness of eternal paradise. When they die they hope to rest in god’s presence which is everlasting happiness. But this all depends on how they behave in the present life.
Gardener – This eternal life that many believe in. . .
Writer – And desire.
Gardener – Belongs only to believers who’ve died. I don’t care if there’s a heaven or not.
Writer – Me either. You and I can disagree on many subjects, but we both agree we must live up to our own standards of what is good because it’s something our hearts and minds demand of us now. We don’t do the right thing because it’s the key to everlasting paradise.
Gardener – We do our best to live a good life. . .
Writer – A virtuous life.
Gardener – Since this makes us happy now.
Writer – Unfortunately, for believers and non-believers alike, most of us can’t maintain a moral standard.
Gardener – It’s a roller coaster ride beginning to end.
Writer – Darrin McMahon in his excellent history, Happiness, follows the human search for happiness in the western hemisphere, from the early Greeks to the present. According to McMahon even John Locke, one of the pillars of the enlightenment, an influence on Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and whose central concern was the here and now, felt that a reward of eternal happiness in the hereafter was the best inducement for being good now.
Gardener – But even if you and I aren’t concerned with this heaven. . .
Writer – It doesn’t concern us.
Gardener – We still have a problem. You and I may agree that the man from Samaria did the right thing.
Writer- Not just you and I, everyone. That’s why they call him good.
Gardener – What if the stranger lying on the road was the robber, you know, the “perp” foiled by the victim in his attempt?
Writer – It wouldn’t have mattered.
Gardener – What if the stranger had been raping a small girl and been caught and beaten by her parents?
Writer – There was no way the man from Samaria could have known these things.
Gardener – Nonetheless one person’s good is another person’s evil. What can this ‘perfect and sufficient good’ that we call Happiness mean to a child molester or a glutton or a drug addict? Or to a crusader or jihadist seeking everlasting happiness by killing others in a temporal cause. Or worse to a manager who makes billions off the misery of others? Do you think the Syrian ruling class believes in this hereafter?
Writer – Self interest begins with self preservation. The ruling class will do anything to stay alive, whether they’re Kings or their lackeys. They consider their own well being the ultimate good of the moment even if it’s not in the best long term interests of the common good.
Gardener – I’m sure Hitler wasn’t thinking of the hereafter when he decided to punish the German people after his hopes of conquering the world failed.
Writer – For all his global ambitions, his world was small. He couldn’t imagine a world greater than his medieval vision of Europe. What is frightening is how the imagination and drive of a single human can sweep up the random fears and frustrations of an entire nation and lead them to Armageddon.
Gardener – The cold blooded murderer doesn’t believe in divine justice.
Writer – As Giovanni says in the first scene of John Ford’s T’is a Pity She’s a Whore,
“Shall a peevish sound,/A customary form, from man to man,/Of brother and of sister, be a bar/’Twixt my perpetual happiness and me?
Gardener – That bloody play we saw in the Brooklyn Academy of Music the other night reeks of the voyeur’s world. I saw Charles Manson, Helter Skelter and that whole mad crew bubbling out of the cauldron of individual freedom in the time of the Youth.
Writer – You’re right! We could compare this Jacobean view of Parma to the final years of Age of Aquarius. Our wife, the English Teacher, gave me an essay to read from ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore: A Critical Guide edited by Lisa Hopkins. It was titled New Direction: Identifying the Real Whore of Parma by Corinne Abate, who describes the permissive environment of the city. John Ford wrote the play sometime around 1633. It’s as relevant today as it was then. The Cheek by Jowl production took liberties with the script but it illustrated our ongoing concern of the right of the individual to do as he or she pleases, even if the victim is innocent, like Giovanni’s sister.
Gardener – The Youth showed poor judgment; but unlike Annabella, he was helped by the true concern of older people.
Writer – Lydia Wilson played Annabella perfectly. Even though she was attracting everyone’s sexual interest, she jumped around like a tomboy. I thought of that black kid in Sanford, Florida, killed by the gun bearing vigilant volunteering for the police.
Gardener – The vigilante was blinded by self-interest. He wanted to catch somebody so badly, he knew exactly what that somebody looked like.
Writer – As if guided by fate, some of us are swept along by the chemistry of our body. In another fascinating book on happiness, The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt informed me in Chapter Two, page 32, how each of us is endowed with a particular genetic blueprint that describes how we will act in different situations. We may instinctively laugh at adversity or scream. In extreme cases some of us must take medicines to live normal lives. Sometimes I wonder if we can’t change the code in a crisis. I just read in our wife’s Nutrition Action, an article called Food And Addiction, by Bonnie Liebman. She says, in my words, that among addicts dopamine screams for happiness at the sight of something we want, but goes mute on delivery, leaving us totally dissatisfied. Are we slaves to our neurotransmitters or can we break the pattern of desire? In Sylvia Nasar’s Beautiful Mind we learned that the mathematician, John Nash, defied his schizophrenia by an act of will, once he understood it. That’s not the same thing as defying a chocolate cake, but we are talking about the genetic code and destiny. In a New York Times article, Can You Call a 9-Year Old A Psychopath the author, Jennifer Kahn, quotes Dan Waschbusch, of Florida International University, on the efficacy of treating youngsters diagnosed with psychopathy. He says “‘But to take the attitude that psychopathy is untreatable because it’s genetic (is) not accurate. There’s a stigma that psychopaths are the hardest of the hardened criminals. My fear is that if we call these kids ‘prepsychopathic,’ people are going to draw that inference: that this is a quality that can’t be changed, that it’s immutable. I don’t believe that. Physiology isn’t destiny.’” Essentially Haidt and all the rest agree with Aristotle, we must exert ourselves, some much harder than others because of our inheritance, to live good lives.
Gardener – Are you calling the vigilante a psychopath?
Writer – No, the word, psychopath, refers to the degree of effort needed by some people to make a change through choice. But whatever his reason, when the vigilante chose to carry a hand gun, his action that night when he killed the boy was pre-ordained in his psyche. Had he chosen not to carry a gun, it would have been different. He claims the boy attacked him. In that case, they would have wrestled around, possibly bruised themselves, maybe a broken arm, a concussion, but death? Unlikely. When he chose to carry a gun, he made that possible.
Gardener – That’s what I realized the morning I wrestled with that crazy driver on the overpass at 246th St. What if he had been carrying a gun? Neither he nor I were thinking of heaven!
Writer – Once Giovanni decides to seduce his sister – and the language he uses to describe his illicit love is gorgeous – he narrows his ability to escape his choice.
Gardener – Of his own free will, the vigilante gave up his free will.
Writer – Think of King Lear. Macbeth! All of Shakespeare’s tragedies begin with a decision.
Gardener – So much for the here after to curb the bloody minded in the here and now!
Writer – Annabella acknowledges her error and asks forgiveness. But in the end there is no one to snatch her from the madman’s revenge. Except for the Friar who has left town, everyone in Parma is jaded. She dies gruesomely, like Sharon Tate.
Gardener – We’re back to the robber barons and survival of the fittest. Our happiness imperfect.
Writer – On page 224 of Happiness, McMahon quotes from Rousseau’s Reveries “All our plans of happiness in this life are therefore empty dreams.”
Gardener – And yet the man from Samaria, a pagan, who lived without hope of everlasting happiness, did the right thing.
Writer – Because helping the stranger makes him happy now.
Gardener – Self-sufficient. He doesn’t need to judge the stranger.
Writer – Nor does he need the law of stand your ground to protect himself from those he judges.
Gardener – On the other hand, what I do for and to myself is my own concern.
Writer – That’s the essence of the Pooh Principle, which according to McMahon is Jonathan Stuart Mills’ philosophy as well. He quotes the philosopher on page 350 of Happiness, “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
Gardener – I must read that for myself someday.
Writer – Me too. The quote is from Mills book On Liberty.
Gardener – After a difficult day at work, it’s time for a little something! It’s an American Ideal.
Writer – I’d say doing what one wants to do is fine until it takes advantage of another’s weakness.
Gardener – Like shooting an unarmed kid.
Writer – Or forcing others to act against their will or their understanding. A pimp can convince a rebellious fifteen year old girl that hanging out with him is cool, and only later does this inexperienced person realize she’s been used.
Gardener – What if it’s the pimp lying on the road?
Writer – Without knowing who he is, we assume he’s innocent.
Gardener- What if the stranger is Hitler?
Writer – Assuming we don’t know he’s Hitler, we assume he is good. We base our judgment on the stranger’s highest potential good. Supposedly in our judicial system one is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of peers. It’s a marvelous idea.
Gardener – What if we know the stranger is Hitler?
Writer – According to Traudl Junge, the youngest of Hitler’s Secretaries in the documentary directed by André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer, Hitler was sweet. A great many people were taken in by his gentle behavior.
Gardener – But we know what Hitler did to the Jews, and to the Poles and the Russians. We know how many died because of him. We must judge him. He’s a terrorist.
Writer – Even if we know the stranger on the road is Hitler, can you and I ignore him?
Gardener – Is there is no end here, no right or wrong, only what is good?
Writer – Look Osama bin laden is responsible for masterminding the killing of nearly three thousand people. To avenge three thousand people the land of the free went to war and millions more people were killed, people who had nothing to do with Osama bin laden. On the other hand King Union Carbide and all the King’s people and all of the King’s shareholders living right here in this land of the free killed 4000 people in a single night in Bhopal, India. In a New York Times editorial, here it is, dated December 3, 2009, Suketu Mehta wrote “Half a million more fell ill, many with severely damaged lungs and eyes. An additional 15,000 people have since died from the after effects, and 10 to 30 people are said to die every month from exposure to the hundreds of tons of toxic waste left over in the former factory.” So where’s the outcry here in the land of the free? Where’s the indignation? Twenty five years pass. King Dow of Napalm fame buys out King Carbide. When the victims finally have their day in court, the King’s people are each fined $2100. Lo! for Kings, that’s less than the tab for a night on the town!
Gardener – You can’t compare King Carbide to Hitler.
Writer – Why not? Everyone is comparing everyone to Hitler these days!
Gardener – For one, more than 20 million Russians alone died because of that maniac. Stalin was bad enough. Hitler makes him look like a saint!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union
Writer – And I guess you would agree that it’s unfair of me to compare King Carbide to Al Qaeda?
Gardener – Their intentions were entirely different. Bhopal was an accident. The Trade Towers was premeditated.
Writer – You’d agree that the collateral damage in all of these examples was tremendous.
Gardener – Naturally.
Writer – And you’d agree that most of victims in the trade tower were as innocent as the sleeping residents in Bhopal or the millions who died on the eastern front during Operation Barbarossa.
Gardener – They were all swept up by tragic events.
Writer – But you’d agree that all of them lived in terror.
Gardener – You can’t compare intentions.
Writer – I’m not! I’m simply saying the victims, if they had time to think, experienced sheer terror. In fact the actuaries at work on the Tower disasters figured it all out. Those legally connected to those at the top of the buildings deserved more money because their loved ones suffered more at the hands of Al Qaeda, than those living at the bottom of the buildings. I mean in dollars and cents some people who were legally connected to those who died made fortunes based on this accounting. We know one such person who in fact didn’t love her estranged husband!
Gardener – Yes, and we know of another who didn’t visit his son, then living with his mother in his grandmother’s house, until the boy’s mother died.
Writer – Imagine if we calculated an entire night of terror as the poisonous fumes settled over everyone. Imagine if we calculated terror lasting an entire winter of cold and starvation, buildings exploding. Imagine the terror of waiting 25 years for justice!
Gardener – An accident is still different than an intention!
Writer – Hitler’s intention according to a great many people both in Germany and in the land of the free was admirable. Many Kings admired Hitler’s organizational skills. He mobilized the people, and created a docile work force. And he was ridding us of Communism. What could be better for the land of the free. He just didn’t finish the job. One could almost assume he was one of the Kings’ vassals, only he got too big for his britches! Now Al Qaeda makes no bones about it. They’re out to get us! But King Carbide. Hum!
Gardener – The King mishandled the disaster. But. . .
Writer – But nothing. We need to look at this the way the Trade Tower actuaries looked at it. Profit motive seems to sneak its way into our democratic system the way sugar sneaks into all our food. We like the taste of it.
Gardener – The Pooh Principle.
Writer – Should we go into unscrupulous foreign managers overlooking safety codes in the King’s India operations to help increase profit? If the King and the King’s people were counting on making a profit in exchange for someone else’s labor, you know, calculating so many poor people in the third world working at such and such a wage, under poor conditions to make poison the King can mark up and sell at a much higher price, why I’d say that’s premeditated. Planning ahead to make profit is always premeditated. Cutting corners is always premeditated.
Gardener – It doesn’t always work out as planned.
Writer – Of course not, Hitler didn’t expect to bog down in winter! When everything is going according to plan everyone seems to benefit. If the means to profit, by cutting corners in safety, or other unscrupulous measures, accidently kills 4000 people and mains another 15,000, can’t we call that premeditated terror?
Gardener – Everything gets fuzzy here.
Writer – No, we’re back with the shoemaker and his leather. The King’s people didn’t do their best under the current circumstances. They ran away! According to the actuaries something along the line of a financial settlement is required to make an honest person out of the King – you know, to make the King feel good. If we can put a financial value on the victims in the Trade Towers terrorized by Al Qaeda, don’t you think we should do this all the time, you know, value all life? I don’t think the actuaries ever worked on any other disasters, Oklahoma, Hiroshima, Hanoi. I mean I’m using the same accounting values that were used to return people to happiness in regard to the Trade Towers tragedy. Imagine suffering 25 years with ruined lungs. With birth defects. 25 years! Imagine 40 years, a good biblical number, suffering the affects of Agent Orange. That makes a 110 story building a piece of cake!
Gardener – You’re cynicism is getting on my nerves.
Writer – I’m only pointing out that there are two accounting books, one for Kings and one for Terrorists. . . No, that’s not the right word since we’ve seen that Bhopal was sheer terror. Let’s just say one book for Kings and one for those they don’t like.
Gardener – I’m no supporter of Kings, but to put them on the same level as Hitler or Al Qaeda is unfair. The cold bloodedness of Hitler or bin Laden, defies comparison.
Writer – No. Who profited from all the guns that Hitler needed, who made money on the poisons for his torture chambers and the analog computing machines that kept all the records straight, you know, this many killed in this chamber, that much gold extracted from those teeth! Hitler is gone, but the Kings always remain. Napoleon is gone but the Kings are still here. Stalin is gone, and Khrushchev and all the rest of them but the Kings have reemerged there. Need I mention China! I mean the King promised the citizens of Bhopal jobs. Instead the King brought terror. Why can’t King Carbide make them happy?
Gardener – You’re mocking everyone who suffered. It’s childish, don’t you think, demanding happiness from Kings?
Writer – Then why do we do it? Believe everything they tell us?
Gardener – Because we’re tired. I’m tired. The long winter is over and I’m still sitting here with you, debating our rights to happiness. And why hasn’t the big Norway Maple leafed out? The others have.
Writer – I’ll tell you why. We still feel we were created in a god’s likeness. We still feel we were cheated at the gates of Eden. We believe the Pooh Principle is an inordinate right. And all along those who’ve been terrorize simply want a normal day.
Gardener – When will it rain? It hasn’t rained in months.
Writer – Thomas Jefferson summarized the beliefs of the Enlightenment when he claimed that the pursuit of happiness was an unalienable right.
Gardener – The hypocrite!
Writer – Aren’t we all?
Gardener – If he believed we were all created equal why didn’t he liberated his slaves?
Writer – As McMahon’s points out in his history of Happiness, the equation for happiness is resolved when we add the word pursuit. I suppose Thomas J never felt comfortable about the idea of equality. He realized from the start he could never be happy, that is self sufficient, but he could pursue it through his many mercantile projects. In Ron Chernov’s Alexander Hamilton, page 212, I learned that of all the slave owners at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, George Washington was the only one who liberated his slaves. And I think I read in the same book that when slavery was outlawed in New York, thanks to the efforts of people like Alexander Hamilton, many New York slave owners, rather than take “the loss” by liberating their slaves, sold them to the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Gardener – Ok, so all of us are hypocrites.
Writer – A month before the Continental Convention in Philadelphia, The Virginia State Constitutional Convention ratified their own constitution in which our landed fathers of democracy stated that no government could deprive us of our natural rights which included, and I’m quoting from McMahon’s history of Happiness, chapter 6, page 318, “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” Apparently this wasn’t unique to Virginia.
Gardener – They just couldn’t bring the idea into focus, could they, the inalienable rights of all men and their own right to acquire property, including people.
Writer – Which is why we must blame Adam and Eve! Whatever perfection we seek, we’ve already experienced it, somewhere in the past, our first breath of fresh air, our first taste of sugar; the sweet scent of honeysuckle, the bright color of the blue sky, the first time ever; none can be repeated again with the same intensity of that first experience. That’s our Garden of Eden.

FOOTNOTES:

1) Aristotle, Ethics I:7,
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.1.i.html

2) Not the cobbler on main street?
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Four

3) Aristotle, Ethics, X:6
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.10.x.html

4) Thomas Aquinas On Happiness
http://www.op.org/summa/letter/summa-I-IIq5.pdf

5) John Ford’s T’is a Pity She’s a Whore http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/ford/john/pity/act1.html

6) New York Times, Can You Call a 9-Year Old A Psychopath

7) What if he had been carrying a gun?
2: WHERE THE GARDENER OFFERS A DIFFERENT STORY IN WHICH HIS LUCK IS PROVIDENTIAL

8) The Pooh Principle,
The Gardener Returns, A Dialogue, Part Six

9) Traudl Junge, Blind Spot, directed by André Heller and Othmar Schmiderer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Im_toten_Winkel

10) New York Times editorial, December 3, 2009, Suketu Mehta, Bhopal

11) Bhopal Victims, . . . the King’s people are each fined $2100.

12) WWII, 20 million Russians died http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union

13) Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness, an unalienable right.
http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

14) many New York slave owners sold them to the sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Slavery In The North, Emancipation In New York, 12th & 13th paragraph
http://www.slavenorth.com/nyemancip.htm

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART EIGHT

Writer – Where am I?
Gardener – In your room.
Writer – I’m in a cold sweat.
Gardener – You thought you were the Fisherman’s Wife.
Writer – What’s this? Ah, my Trustee Of The Toolroom.
Gardener – Reminding you of Keith Stewart calmed you down.
Writer – I can’t understand what comes over me. Suddenly I believe I have all the answers.
Gardener – Clearly you’ve had another ASS attack. You had all the symptoms. I’m afraid your strain is virulent.
Writer – Whew, I’m exhausted, but I can see again. I owe you an apology. I must admit it was exhilarating, being almighty, feeling my universe expanding outward, encompassing all things. My influence filled every niche and void of the expanse. If the question why entered my thoughts, I plunged forward, regardless. I never looked back. . . Then it was too late to turn back. I was helpless. The desire for more was that intense. As the kingdom grew, everything around me grew smaller and smaller. Everything and everyone was racing away from me. Even though I, the universe, was expanding outward, I remained in the center, unmoved. By the time I realized it, all my minions, even those close to me, had become points of cold light in the darkness. It was frightening. My power was immense, but it was in the hands of strangers. If they hadn’t been wearing name tags with the corporate logo of the flounder, I wouldn’t have known who they were. Even though they smiled at me as if we were friends, I sensed and feared their own desires. They were like me. They wanted to get ahead. Here I was believing I was the center of the universe, wanting the sun and moon to rise and fall at my command and all the while these millions of people, filling countless positions out to the farthest ends of my kingdom, believed they were the centers of their own universes. Naturally, that’s where it all begins.
Gardener – With each of us.
Writer – They were working for me because they needed a job. That was their central concern. As Richard III said in Shakespeare’s play, “Richard loves Richard, that is, I am I.” As long as every hungry I believed my rules were just, they stayed in line. But sooner or later, somewhere farther out from me. . .
Gardener – Or further down.
Writer – Someone wasn’t just. It’s obvious to those working under this individual, that management didn’t care.
Gardener – Care? What is care? What about competence, don’t you mean competence?
Writer – Being competent helps you control others. They see you know what you’re doing, they trust your decisions. But care puts everyone at ease.
Gardener – I can tell you this, and it can’t be helped, there are those I dislike, and caring for them is a chore.
Writer – But the manager must never show sides, never have favorites. It might be a pretense, a relationship limited to the workplace, but it’s crucial, almost as crucial as being just, which is another way of saying you treat everyone as equals, encouraging those who can do better and rewarding those who have done their best.
Gardener – Don’t get high and mighty with me. All this you learned from me. You never managed anyone.
Writer – No, I’m the creative one.
Gardener – With words maybe but not with plants, and certainly not with people if your ASS is any indication.
Writer – That’s the Syndrome; you can’t blame me.
Gardener – Why are you so susceptible? It’s as if you have no immunity to it.
Writer – I’m an idealist. I’m always looking for a solution that will solve everyone’s problems. That’s why I detest these managers who fail in their duties. They should be discarded!
Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
Gardener – And I’m sure he knows them all. That would explain why the Kingdom’s riddled with scandal.
Writer – Once the staff realizes they count for nothing in the eyes of those above them, they begin pressing their own advantage and the kingdom starts unraveling. Without justice it’s everyone for him or herself.
Gardener – Still Murkydoc insists he is the best judge over the King’s troubles.
Writer – He’s no different than the Fisherman’s Wife. Like her he didn’t want government meddling in his affairs. And we saw what happened to her when a higher power intervened.
Gardener – Murkydoc’s standard of right and wrong is particular to his kingdom. His moral standard is not mine. He created the environment that permitted the invasion of privacy. Murkydoc should look to himself.
Writer – The last I heard he was eliminating all the bad apples!
Gardener – Bad apples?
Writer – Managers and staff alike who’ve tarnished the name of the King.
Gardener – Didn’t he know these bad apples?
Writer – You said yourself he knows all the King’s employees.
Gardener – Well then, why didn’t he deal with the bad apples before it became a crisis?
Writer – Bad apples don’t tell you they’re bad apples! They’re rogues. They keep their rottenness to themselves. Take those people over there.
Gardener – In that line up?
Writer – We don’t call it “a line up!”
Gardener – Then what is it?
Writer –It’s just a line.
Gardener – Are they rogues?
Writer – I wouldn’t know? I don’t know any of them.
Gardener – I’m sorry, they look like criminals under the glaring lights.
Writer – There’s nothing to be sorry about.
Gardener – Then why did you want me to look at them?
Writer – Because they’re numbers.
Gardener – They look like people to me, lots of them. Are they all rotten apples?
Writer – They’re on the dole. They’re waiting for a government handout.
Gardener – Wait! See that one, don’t you recognize him?
Writer – Stand back!
Gardener – We know him! That’s one of our neighbors.
Writer – You don’t want to know them.
Gardener – So they are criminals?
Writer – Well, they do want our money since the Kings’ people are required to pay Unemployment Tax.
Gardener – The last I heard he had a job.
Writer – I warned you about getting too close to them.
Gardener – Some say his wife was important, I mean really important.
Writer – I thought you knew him.
Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
Writer – That’s the fisherman who brought about the collapse of his wife’s Kingdom.
Gardener – The Wife’s Fisherman?
Writer – I wouldn’t admit knowing him or any of them. Some of them have caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Who told you that?
Writer – Our vassals in Intelligence.
Gardener – Last I heard he was a healthcare assistant, cleaning bedpans for old veterans in a nursing home. The State paid him well. He was doing fine. Paying his bills.
Writer – Then you haven’t heard. On our advise, the Kings’ vassals fired him. He was making too much money.
Gardener – So that’s why he’s on that line.
Writer – Don’t feel sorry for him. The King bought Outsource, and Outsource took over the operation of the nursing facility for the state. In other words we rehired him, that is after he pledged allegiance to the King and swore off unions.
Gardener – You’re under the ASS again, aren’t you?
Writer – He said the same thing to her. “You’re under the ASS again.”
Gardener – He was simply trying to get her to come to her senses.
Writer – I see you’ve spoken with him.
Gardener – I read this! In your own copy of The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales published by Pantheon.
Writer – Fairy Tales are not to be trusted! And after all she did for him.
Gardener – She used him.
Writer – She lost everything. He was too stupid to realize he was up to his neck in mortgages like everybody else.
Gardener – You can’t blame him for her failure. She wouldn’t listen to reason. Merging Church and State under her corporate logo was an outrage!
Writer – As Matthew puts it in chapter 18, verse 18 of The New English Bible published by Oxford in 1970: “whatever you forbid on earth shall be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you allow on earth shall be allowed in heaven.” How else could she have capitalized on the infinite market potential of heaven?
Gardener – I prefer Mathew 6:10: “Our Father in heaven, thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” Narrows the interpretation.
Writer – I see you’ve been boning up on your scripture. Then you know Mark 12:17: “Pay Caesar what is due to Caesar, and pay God what is due to God.”
Gardener – Yeah, that separates the earthly kingdom from the heavenly one for sure.
Writer – But if you combine them, what better way to eliminate both tithe and tax at the same time! It was a stroke of genius to unite the two. Simplifies things, I’d say. Once a shopper always a shopper on earth as in heaven. It’s the holy power of the market.
Gardener – And when the earthly market came tumbling down, the fisherman ended up right back where he started, eking out his living by the sea. Only the flounder was gone. She had assumed she could use the sea for personal gain without repercussions.
Writer – Don’t be a fool. There’s plenty of fish in the sea! The federal quota on fishing stopped him. Big government is what put him out of business.
Gardener – I thought she was the government.
Writer – Her kingdom was entrepreneurial, real estate, marketing and media, which you might call the spiritual end of it. But she understood that the genius of the market works for everything, including the sea. Why shouldn’t the sea provide her the means of building her real estate empire? That’s why she eliminated regulations.
Gardener – Which put on board every vessel self-interest above the common interest. It was only a matter of time before the fishing beds were depleted. It’s interesting that she did regulate wolves to preserve elk for hunters. Seems to be a conflict of means inside her so called philosophy of de-regulation.
Writer – Oh, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. It’s much too complicated. Even though she was the government she was actually against the government. Her principles of rule were based on the ideal that the state is run like a non–profit corporation following the time tested vagaries of the market. That way it never interferes with the money making enterprises of all the Kings’ people. The elk hunters take precedence over wolves because wolves don’t shop!
Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we? Imagine the state run by philosophers! Almost as bad as waiting for John Galt. No, the market belongs to the people. It is the people. Their desires create the Kings’ wealth. When the market fails, the people are to blame. It means they’re not shopping. Plato was not very practical.
Gardener – If the fisherman had been practical he would have asked the flounder to ease his days by increasing the bounty of the sea.
Writer – Water under the bridge. Let bygones be bygones. At least we were able to provide him with a good job.
Gardener – The Wife’s fisherman cleaning bed pans!
Writer – A man possessing that attribute will go places.
Gardener – What attribute?
Writer – An indifference to strong odors. You know, being a fisherman There’s no telling to what heights such a man could go. A man with that attribute, of all people, shouldn’t be on that line.
Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.
Writer – We pay the market rate for bed pan cleaners. We don’t run a charity. It’s not in our best interest.
Gardener – Nor his, I suspect.
Writer – If he can’t pay his bills, he should be out looking for more work. Instead he expects me to support him.
Gardener – Maybe his eight hour shift doesn’t leave much time to look for work.
Writer – What eight hour shift? Our professionals are hired strictly on a part time basis. This eliminates the need for health insurance.
Gardener – You mean people working part time are healthier?
Writer – You can’t expect the taxpayers to provide health care on top of the market wages for part time workers! Big government says only full times workers deserve that. They’ve put in the time. My lord I hope you haven’t caught Bolshevikitis!
Gardener – Why not make him full time?
Writer – We don’t employ anyone full time. Besides all this is irrelevant.
Gardener – What do you mean?
Writer – We’re selling the company.
Gardener – You mean disappear like John Galt.
Writer – No, that requires an ideal. Nothing ideal about business. You saw what happened to 112’s wife. She didn’t get out in time. Ka boom!
Gardener – But sell? You’re providing a service. Think of all the old veterans needing your help since the state forfeited responsibility to the King’s subsidiary.
Writer – There are underling problems.
Gardener – You mean like 112, our neighbor.
Writer – Look, the King wants to unload a subsidiary. Don’t worry, another King will buy it. It happens all the time. It’s the American way.
Gardener – It already happened once when the vassals abandoned their responsibility to old veterans by handing them over to the King. Now the King is going to abandon them again by selling Outsource!
Writer – No one abandons anyone. The market dictates our course. Private enterprise is the American way. It doesn’t make any difference to our senior veterans whether the state provides the service or a private company.
Gardener – As long as good people are involved, I agree. A good person is going to do a good job for the vets no matter who employs him or her. That being the case why did the Kings’ vassals eliminate the government jobs in the first place, if not for the sake of Kings?
Writer – Because Kings can do the job for less. After all we pay what the market dictates, not what unions demand.
Gardener – I suppose the market dictates the bonuses of the Kings’ people. Why must we, the people, pay the spiraling costs for the upward mobility of these people?
Writer – It’s the heavenly nature of the market. Especially in this land of opportunity on earth as it is in heaven. God bless America.
Gardener – Not for those who just lost their jobs. Not for 112. Why should his American dream be a nightmare?
Writer – We’ve done what we can. Like Uncle Sam with his All American campaign, the King wanted Outsource to do its all American best to help both the old soldiers and the unemployed! We hired anyone, including those recently cut from the work force, like applicant #112. All they had to do was swear allegiance to the King and sign an affidavit swearing never to join this union or any union advocating higher wages and better benefits so help them god! What could be better?
Gardener – Get two birds with one stone.
Writer – Exactly. We helped the old veterans and hired the unemployed.
Gardener – So why is the King selling Outsource to the highest bidder, if the King is serving such a patriotic purpose?
Writer – We’ve done our job. It’s in the King’s best interest that we pass on our humanitarian torch to the next King. After all there’s plenty to go around. Our investors, who provided the money to buy Outsource, and fund its operation at a profit, think it’s time to recoup the investment at the promised return. Our efficiency experts analyzed our success. They don’t need an understanding of the day to day mechanisms of the production line. They’re purpose is to “rectify” errors on paper. . .
Gardener – You mean the “underlying problems.”
Writer – Precisely. As you yourself said, the company serves a purpose.
Gardener – Help the vets and hire the unemployed.
Writer – Rehiring 112 to clean bed pans at market rate was the least we could do at the time.
Gardener – I’m sure he was relieved.
Writer – As I said earlier his previous line of work had prepared him well. His acclimation to strong odors was noted on his application; on top of that he had previous experience cleaning bed pans.
Gardener – At the same facility.
Writer – Precisely.
Gardener – So why sell?
Writer – Once our investors had helped Accounting reach the necessary figures we were seeking, the King could, to avoid a conflict of interest, recuse itself in good faith, from any further interest in Veteran affairs.
Gardener – By reaching “the necessary figures” you mean through the money the investors pumped into the system?
Writer – That’s right..
Gardener – Sounds fishy, like a ponzi.
Writer – We prefer calling our economic model the pyramid since the investors – and they’re from all walks of life, pensioners and bankers alike – are all the King’s people, or should I call the King Pharaoh, you know, because of the pyramid. Anyway it’s in everyone’s best interests to have faith. . . You keep fiddling around in that pile of books.
Gardener – Just looking for. . . So why sell the company?
Writer – And you keep asking me that.
Gardener – I mean now, why sell the company now. . , and not tomorrow or next year.
Writer – Time is right. We’ve done what we can.
Gardener – Will there be anything left after you leave?
Writer – What a question. The company, naturally.
Gardener – But doesn’t the company need capital to pay its employees?
Writer – The company has a product. It derives its income from that. You yourself said the company served . . .
Gardener – Yes, yes, but in the meantime. . .
Writer – You didn’t expect our money to work for nothing.
Gardener – The money wasn’t yours to begin with.
Writer – The life of an investor isn’t easy. We, I mean, they take chances. There are no unemployment checks for them!
Gardener – You saw an opportunity.
Writer – That’s the name of the game. We pumped investor money into the system, submitted the system to an austerity program – look we do this with governments too! -the books look good, especially since, as you observed, the product has promise which is why we also amortized the intellectual property.
Gardener – Cleaning bedpans!
Writer – Somebody had to design the bedpan.
Gardener – You’re taking the principle and running.
Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?
Gardener – No one can work for nothing!
Writer – Welcome to the natural world. Back in the time of the Robber Barrons the Kings had the good sense to agree with science. They translated “survival of the fittest” into economic growth!
Gardener – So what becomes of 112?
Writer – He has nothing to worry about. He’s already lost his job. Resources recommended 112 for the first cut.
Gardener – And that’s why he’s here!
Writer – Maybe a pre-existing condition.
Gardener – Like the need for food and clothing! I can’t believe I’m arguing with your ASS!
Writer – Maybe he has an aptitude for failure.
Gardener – Why, because he’s been thrown out of work three times?
Writer – Maybe he wanted to improve things. We got complaints.
Gardener – How does one improve cleaning bed pans?
Writer – Exactly. What are you doing?
Gardener – Where did you put the Trustee?
Writer – I hid the book.
Gardener – Why?
Writer – I don’t believe in placebos. And I rather enjoy solving problems of society.
Gardener – Adolf Hitler felt the same.
Writer – There’s something to be said about simple solutions.
Gardener – I could say the same for a simple declarative sentence.
Writer – That’s different. Literature should open its doors to complexity. But Kings should follow the simplest path laid down by the market. The market is made up of people. Our desires are time tested, and easily tracked using algorithms. We are part of the great cosmic plan. Physicists believe that somewhere in our midst a comprehensive theory unites all the disparate laws under one simple equation. Simple is best.
Gardener – They haven’t succeeded in solving the theory for everything. The data gets more and more confusing.
Writer – You’re just stirring things up the way 112 did.
Gardener – But why make him a ward of the state?
Writer –You said yourself 112 couldn’t make ends meet even while cleaning bedpans.
Gardener – That’s no reason to fire him.
Writer – He was overqualified.
Gardener – I thought his sense of smell was an asset.
Writer – It was. Until it bumped him up to a higher wage bracket.
Gardener – I thought the market dictated his salary.
Writer – Actually the market dictates what we’re willing to pay. But we gave him a break. We asked him if he would take a higher title in lieu of a salary.
Gardener – Like Vice President of Bed Pan Divisions.
Writer – Exactly. When he later complained of hunger, we encouraged him to take his new and improved CV and seek a still higher plane of employment with one of the other Kings.
Gardener – You mean you showed him the door.
Writer – On the contrary we showed him the ladder of upward mobility. Remember, his indifference to strong odors was an asset. But he said he was dizzy and afraid of heights and complained of stomach pains. He said he was a fisherman. In other words he belly ached. 112 was a whiner.
Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
Writer – He had three chances at bat. But as you know, three strikes and you’re out.
Gardener – So what becomes of our neighbor, of all our neighbors?
Writer – They’d have lost their jobs anyway. Remember, the company was about to go belly up when we stepped in, you know, underlying problems.
Gardener – Like 112 and his living wage.
Writer – For a time we spared them the inevitable. It was a swell opportunity.
Gardener – I don’t think the Good Samaritan was looking for a swell opportunity.
Writer – Ah yes, I was wondering if you’d ever get around to him. You know socialists try keeping religion out of government, where it belongs, while insisting government interfere with the Kings’ business, where it doesn’t belong. Kings prefer our spiritual leaders use The Old Testament when referring to the good book, but The New Testament with all its socialist ideas is like junk science. Looking after one’s neighbor without a return is an untested ideal. On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Old Testament shows life as it is, everyone out for himself, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, real exchanges. Think of the improvements in the human condition, Abraham putting an end to human sacrifice with only a slight setback in the story of Jephthah. But The New Testament, especially this Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 10, Verses 25-37, well then, where does profit motive enter into it? It’s not relevant to real life which is the story of the human condition which can’t be separated from self-interest. What’s this?
Gardener – Just look at it.
Writer – Oh my god. Not again. The Trustee.
Gardener –You’re having another relapse of ASS. Think! Keith Stewart!
Writer – Ok. Keith Stewart.
Gardener – That’s better. Say it again.
Writer – Keith Stewart.
Gardener – I’m just the gardener. You of all people know the story of the Good Samaritan. You told it to me.
Writer – I don’t know why I keep losing my way. But as you probably know, it’s been in the news lately, the carpenter’s son, some call him everyman – he and his ragged followers have been preaching economic parity and nonviolence, annoying those with power, especially the money changers out in front of the temples and churches. More and more people clamor for change. Jesus, that’s his name, and all these unemployed people, whom you insist on calling your neighbors, have been occupying the public square where Humpty Dumpty once sat before he was abducted. Beating on drums, singing at the top of their voices, they’re getting on people’s nerves. What do you want, cries out an exasperated man, a lawyer, who has spent his whole life defending Kings and whose apartment overlooks the park where Jesus is preaching. He confronts Jesus near the medical tent, where Jesus is healing a man possessed of fear, and starts cross-examining him. He wants to catch the itinerate preacher in a contradiction, you know, embarrass him. He asks Jesus how he, who has worked so hard in this life, can have eternal life. Jesus in turn asks the lawyer how he interprets the law. The lawyer knows what is required and answers, love God without question and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus tells him if he follows these simple rules, he’ll have eternal life. Not satisfied, the lawyer seeks confirmation. Who is my neighbor, he asks. Jesus understands. The lawyer is wondering how an unemployed, homeless man like Jesus can possibly understand the word, neighbor. After all a neighbor is someone who lives next door or in the house down the street. He is a member of the community, often seen praying in the temple or giving to a favorite charity. It’s easier to love someone you see daily than the outsider who passes through without paying taxes, someone who must feel entitled to the welfare of the community. Jesus tells the lawyer about a man who was on his way down to Jericho from Jerusalem. Highwaymen robbed him of his clothes and his money and beat him unconscious, leaving him for dead on the side of the road. Jesus doesn’t say the man is a Jew because it doesn’t matter. To us he is a stranger, lying naked, bleeding to death. Perhaps he’s a penniless drunk, who has come to no good, like one of our neighbors in the line back there. The first man to see him is a high priest. But he’s too important to get involved, so he crosses over to the other side of the road to avoid him. If later someone in the congregation mentions the plight of the stranger, he will recommend a committee to investigate the homeless. They will no doubt hire one of his friends to help these people off the streets for a nominal fee. A Levite is the next man to see him. He’s a prosperous man, has important business in Jericho. Like the high priest he looks the other way. He will no doubt be the right man to deal with these homeless when the committee contracts the services of his company. The next man to come along is a man from Samaria, an outsider from another culture, a pagan. Jesus says the outsider pities the man bleeding by the roadside. That’s why he stops to see if he’s alive. Since the unconscious man is still breathing, the Samaritan washes his wounds with the wine and oil he carries with him. He wraps the wounds with strips of cloth he tears from his own clothes. Then he lifts the man up and carries him to a roadside inn where he cares for the stranger. Did he have a choice? He too is a busy man like the high priest and the Levite. He too, like them, has business in Jericho. He can’t call 911. There’s no government sponsored health net to catch this man stripped of his clothes and left for dead. No insurance card to cover the costs. No profit to be made. Not even the lawyer’s favorite charity was there to help him. No, but this man from Samaria, who is an outsider, has no choice. Something inside of him tells him he must care for this man. Is this compassion for others instilled in him by his parents? Did he learn to respect all life in his place of worship? Possibly. But like you I think it’s what he’s made of. He’s compelled by his nature. He is compelled by the need to help a stranger, no matter who he is. There are people like this who stand outside their culture, outside the conflicts incited by their culture, who will help a stranger. There are Jews who will help a Palestinian, and Palestinians who will help a Jew. These special people are the neighbors Jesus praises.

FOOTNOTES:

Gardener – Like the scrap pile of Murkydoc, full of personnel.
Writer – He employs an impressive 51,000 employees.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation

Gardener – Of course I know him. That’s # 112.
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

Gardener – A government run like a corporation. Not exactly what Plato had in mind.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosopher-kings

Writer – We’ve been through all this, haven’t we?
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

Gardener – Well, why is he on that line if he has a good job. Maybe he’s not making enough to live on.

Writer – We are paid for our work. Do you work for nothing?

Gardener – That’s why Humpty Dumpty landed on him when your men dropped him!
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the story of Pharaoh,
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART SEVEN

Gardener – The founders of some kingdoms understand their connection with people. They identify with the public. At least in the beginning.
Writer – They believe people will like what they like.
Gardener – Then something happens.
Writer – The co-founder of A&P. . .
Gardener – Which bought Sussel’s butcher shop on Main Street. . .
Writer – John Augustine Hartford, told Time Magazine in 1950, “I don’t know any grocer who wants to stay small. I don’t see how any businessman can limit his growth and stay healthy.”
Gardener – That’s an alarming statement.
Writer – It’s an assumption of a particular breed of people.
Gardener – There’re a lot of small grocers, especially in cities where local populations need something close and convenient.
Writer – And there’d be more in smaller towns if they weren’t put out of business by the rule of One Size Fits All. Unfortunately the one size operations are big, very big.
Gardener – Like the A&P.
Writer – According to Forbes one of the richest man in the United States before he died was Frederik G. H. Meijer
Gardener – Never heard of him.
Writer – Neither had I, but you’ve heard of Sam Walton, who was the richest man in the US for nearly a decade, almost up to the year he died in 1992.
Gardener – Wal-Mart.
Writer – In 2006 Wal-Mart was the largest super market in the USA, according to the Information Service Food Marketing Institute. And that’s just the Kingdom’s grocery end!
Gardener – I’ve never been in one.
Writer – Meijer’s super market style influenced Walton.
Gardener – It’s hard to fault people who work hard even if they go on to create monolithic businesses that swallow up everyone else.
Writer – Walton knew what he liked when he went shopping!
Gardener – The lowest price in town.
Writer – He never spent a penny he didn’t have to spend. According to the American National Business Hall of Fame, he continued driving to work “ in his beat-up 1978 Ford pickup with balding tires” right up to the time he retired.
Gardener – My pickup is 16 years old.
Writer – We’ve all heard phrases like “we pass our savings on to you, the customer.”
Gardener – The idea’s not new.
Writer – Sam Walton found producers willing to sell him produce at reduced rates as long as he bought vast amounts. That way he. . .
Gardener – Passed his savings on to me!
Writer – Correct and the more we save.
Gardener – You mean the more we spend. Fortunately, I take after my mother. I never spend a dime on something I don’t need.
Writer – That makes you, the consumer, like Walton. Only Walton, the vendor, didn’t make his goods “more affordable” because he wanted you to be like him and spend less. He kept finding ways to drop the price, until even you, a skin flint, could “afford” spending your last dime.
Gardener – It’s a topsy turvy world when a snake starts swallowing its own tail.
Writer – In Sweetness And Power, Sidney Mintz describes a world not unlike our own. He quotes an English cleric, David Davies, who describes how rural poor living in the heart of the British empire could no longer drink fresh milk because they couldn’t afford a cow nor drink home brewed beer because they couldn’t afford the malt. But as Davies puts it, and I quote him from Sweetness And Power, Chapter 3, page 116, “. . . it appears a very strange thing, that the common people of any European nation should be obliged to use, as part of their daily diet, two articles imported from opposite sides of the earth.” – he’s referring to Tea and Sugar, the same products the American colonies boycotted ten years earlier. Most Brits in the heart of their own Empire were no better off than the colonists in 1774. They could buy exotic goods produced cheaply by slave labor in tropical islands but were too poor to afford things grown in their own back yard. So much for nationalism.
Gardener – When I started work as a professional gardener at Wave Hill I remember hearing a lot about Sam Walton’s ‘Buying American’ campaign.
Writer – Uncle Sam was the number one all-American guy during the reign of the Kings’ patriotic vassal, Ronald Regal.
Gardener – Maybe Uncle Sam was just trying to get something in country for the same price he could get it from the third world.
Writer – According to the American National Business Hall of Fame: “Between March, 1985 and 1988 Wal-Mart claims to have purchased over $1.2 billion worth of goods under this program, producing 22, 3000 jobs in the United States.”
Gardener – That was in everybody’s best interest.
Writer – But when push comes to shove and keeping costs down means more than being patriotic. . .
Gardener – Flags waving in the breeze, smiling faces, white teeth gleaming.
Writer – Then narrow self-interest is the only pledge of allegiance. According to a November 29th 2004 post on China Daily by China Business Weekly writer, Jiang Jingjing, Wal-Mart’s Chinese inventory for the United States was $18 billion in 2004. The writer quotes Lee Scott, the president and CEO of Uncle Sam’s Kingdom: “ ‘We expect our procurement stock from China to continue to grow at a similar rate in line with Wal-Mart’s growth worldwide, if not faster’.” Later in the post we learn that “Xu Jun, Wal-Mart China’s director of external affairs, ruled out the rumor ” that Lee Scott had secretly visited China in order to find out where Wal-Mart could expand resources. Xu Jun said “the CEO has never visited that or any other site for a warehouse. . . Nevertheless,” Xu Jun exalted, “China is Wal-Mart’s most important supplier in the world. . . So far, more than 70 per cent of the commodities sold in Wal-Mart are made in China.” End of story.
Gardener – I can see old Uncle Sam in Beijing driving out of his personal jet in his old beat up Ford.
Writer – I don’t know about a personal jet. And I think he wanted to keep his growing connections with China a secret. On the other hand the Kingdom’s second and third generation of managers have openly divorced themselves from their so called all American past and now with their own brand name, made in China, compete with their own American suppliers in China.
Gardener – In other words all the Kings are competing to put American workers out of work. Is that in their best interests?
Writer – When Uncle Sam says “he wants you,” he means us, the American consumer, and we’re ready to follow. Richard Tedlow of Harvard Business School quotes Walton from his auto-biography. The founder is reminiscing his return to the town where he opened his first profitable store. Apparently his landlord, seeing how well the young businessman was doing, decided not to renew his lease because he wanted to give the now profitable store to his son. He never realized how far Sam Walton drove to buy cheaper inventory. “You can’t say we ran that guy—the landlord’s son—out of business,” writes Walton. “His customers were the ones who shut him down. They voted with their feet.”
Gardener – The landlord deserved it!
Writer – Especially at those prices.
Gardener – Who did he think he was, trying to make me pay through the nose whenever I thought it was time for a little something. Thank you, Uncle Sam, for putting the customer first!
Writer – Still somebody has to pay for the Pooh Principle. We can’t expect the savings to come out of the Kings’ pockets. The Hartford/Walton model works only if the employees. . .
Gardener – You and me?
Writer – Realize we are also the customers. As citizens of this great merchandizing nation, we must accept reduced salaries to keep costs down. If we as workers can’t keep costs down the vendors can’t pass. . .
Gardener – Their savings onto us, the customers.
Writer – Which means we, the workers aren’t doing . . .
Gardener – Our patriotic duty. We’re forcing our poor, beleaguered Kings overseas.
Writer – However the Kings have another solution to help all of us, vendors, workers and customers alike in our patriotic duty. An idea tested by time. We find precedents in history. A century after the cleric Davies talked of how working class English natives found it easier to buy produce from overseas than goods produced in-country, a nineteenth century English sugar broker, George Porter, still dissatisfied with sugar consumption, wanted to increase sugar imports. In chapter four of Sweetness And Power, at the bottom of page 174, Sidney Mintz describes Mr. Porter’s proposal: eliminate the tax on sugar, and the poor could afford to buy more sugar.
Gardener – Eliminate the tax and pass the savings on to us, the consumer.
Writer – It’s the mantra of political economics. It makes no difference that sugar is an exotic import. The People are already hooked.
Gardener – The way we are today on electronic gadgets produced overseas.
Writer – And who’s to blame?
Gardener – Surely, not the Kings.
Writer – Going back again to the previous century, the Cleric Davies writes “. . . if high taxes, in consequence of expensive wars” – a century of wars in which the British were fighting the French for world markets with the American Revolution in the middle – “and changes which time insensibly makes in the circumstances of countries,” – Industrial Revolution was beginning – “have debarred the poorer inhabitants of this kingdom the use of such things as are natural products of the soil, and forced them to recur to those of foreign growth; surely this is not their fault.”
Gardener – E. F. Schumacher has a great deal to say about this unsustainable absurdity in Small Is Beautiful.
Writer – Absurd as it may seem – it makes sense to Kings because the Kings and their people are making money, lots of money. They just have to find ways of cutting costs so they can . . .
Gardener – Pass on the savings to me!
Writer – Correct! Cutting government taxes is good.
Gardener – The Kings’ people rally the customers. . .
Writer – Sam Walton and me.
Gardener – Around the evils of taxes.
Writer – We can all agree on taxes, vendors and customers and workers alike!
Gardener – Less money for our government, which is too big, too intrusive anyway, and more money for the Kings who always provide us with a little something. . .
Writer – Provided we work for the going market price they have agreed upon!
Gardener – To do otherwise is to terrorize the market place with unhealthy demands!
Writer – On the other hand, and I am afraid to say this, not wanting to offend the fearless supporters of individualism, who literally see themselves as the face, each with a unique face of course, of capitalism, but it seems that the Hartford/Walton model can only be supported by the faceless masses.
Gardener – No! Not here in the Land Of The Free. That’s communism. We’re not the masses, we’re the customers!
Writer – No, it is true, like the godless Marxists, the god fearing Capitalists must look at customers and workers and vendors too as a people without a face, a crowd.
Gardener – I’m offended!
Writer – How can “a people” have a face, an individual face? We can say they are an industrial people, a god fearing people, a war like people.
Gardener – You and I have a face!
Writer – True, you and I recognize each other. But when we are grouped with the rest of the people, we become strangers. Don’t get me wrong. That’s good. In our world once you have a face, you become a commodity, like every other little something! The icon of a new generation of believers, the face on a bill of exchange, a pop star.
Gardener – Don’t you want to be popular? Don’t you want to have friends?
Writer – Friends or no friends, most of us enter a factory as workers and pop out the other end as customers,
Gardener – I don’t know anyone working in a factory anymore.
Writer – All right, we enter an office or a restaurant as workers. . .
Gardener – More like a mail order warehouse.
Writer – Warehouse workers then! At the other end we’re consumers just the same.
Gardener – I don’t think Patrick J. Cullen, the president of the bank in Cattaraugus, New York sees his customers as faceless?
Writer – No, Cullen refutes John Augustine Hartford. When the bank examiners ask him when the bank will grow, he replies, “ ‘where is it written I have to grow? We take care of our customers.’ ”
Gardener – Imagine if all bank presidents knew their customers personally.
Writer – “ ‘The truth is,’ ” he goes on to say, “ ‘we probably couldn’t grow too much in a town like this.’ ”
Gardener – The Hartford/Walton model for expansion is working for somebody. Think of the individuals who’ve become billionaires.
Writer – According to Alan Feuer, the author of The Bank Around the Corner, Mr. Cullen’s bank is financially, “the state’s smallest bank.” It’s “not the kind of bank you’ll find anymore in New York City, where multiple branches and capitalizations counted in 10 figures are the norm. With $12 million in total assets, the Bank of Cattaraugus is a microbank, well below the $10 billion ceiling that defines small banks. It exists in a seemingly different universe from the mammoth banks-turned-financial-services-conglomerates, like Citigroup ($1.9 trillion in assets) or JPMorgan Chase ($2.25 trillion).” Last year the bank posted a profit of $5000.
Gardener – Sounds like peanuts to me.
Writer – “Yet it plays” Mr. Feuer continues, “an outsize role in this hilly village an hour south of Buffalo: housing its deposits, lending to its neediest inhabitants and recently granting forbearance on a mortgage when the borrower, a bus mechanic, temporarily lost his job after shooting off his finger while holstering his gun.” Considering the bank’s 130 year old history, I’d say it has succeeded in serving the community. But let’s not fool ourselves. The Bank of Cattaraugus is an anomaly. Before the Great Depression there were lots of mom and pop banks across the country, just like Mr. Cullen’s bank. Why our grandfather was president of such a bank until 1938 when it merged with the Seattle-First National Bank, “one of the most powerful banks in the west” according to The Colville Examiner.
Gardener – This perennial consolidation of Kingdoms must be why the Hartford/Walton model for expansion is the national model.
Writer – Precisely. But while the Cattaraugus anomaly helps individuals in a particular community, the Hartford/Walton model helps masses of total strangers fulfill the Pooh Principle.
Gardener – We want a little something because we’re special.
Writer – Precisely. Each of us deserves to be somebody.
Gardener – Even if we’re all wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, listening to the same music. We can all be friends.
Writer – Precisely. Aggregates of like minded strangers who each feel unique.
Gardener – But we’re never sure, are we, that we’re all that special? We need more and more little somethings to confirm our uniqueness. We keep hoping this new and improved little something will make us. . . make us even more popular.
Writer – It’s in our best interests.
Gardener – Being popular.
Writer – We deserve it! And you know who understood that?
Gardener – I don’t like the look on your face.
Writer – The Fisherman’s Wife.
Gardener – Wait a minute! She squandered her husband’s resources.
Writer – Squandered nothing, she committed his daily quota to the forces of the market. She understood the value of the fisherman’s work and converted that into a promissory note, payable to her husband. That’s how she exchanged their pigsty for a cottage by the sea. But without skipping a beat she used this increased equity to leverage that big fish, who then increased the value of the loan, which allowed her to exchange the cottage for a castle. That woman knew how to get more for her buck.
Gardener – What buck? She was still penniless. And she still depended on her husband, who knew the big fish.
Writer – That fool!
Gardener – Because he worked outside, he understood the nature of things. There are limitations to growth. It’s common sense.
Writer – Bosh! Only a gardener would say that! He could see himself as a fisherman and no more. But she never underestimated the full value of appearances. The more prosperous one looks, the more prosperous one is!
Gardener – Smoke and mirrors! Everything still depended on the initial loan. She produced nothing to supplement it. Only the fisherman had any means. He did the right thing. He released the flounder.
Writer – The Idiot! You never give something away for nothing! It’s the most important principle of the market place. Always try to get something more in return. Otherwise people think you’re a fool. You’ll never find Uncle Sam giving his merchandise away for nothing!
Gardener – The flounder asked for mercy.
Writer – Naturally. He valued his life. He was willing to give anything to preserve it. She understood that.
Gardener – She turned an act of mercy into an economic advantage.
Writer – It’s capitalism. People do it all the time. We profit from acts of mercy all the time, whether wars of liberation or earthquakes.
Gardener – You’re putting a price on moral behavior.
Writer – Me? Not me, it’s all about market forces. It’s what victims are willing to pay
for mercy. What’s marvelous here is how the fisherman’s wife learned from her mistakes. She was new to the game, a housewife. As soon as she realized she had underplayed her hand by asking for a cottage, she didn’t wallow in self-pity. She forged ahead. She bluffed her advantage. By the end of a week she had a castle, no money down, brilliant!
Gardener – The way you’re talking you’d think money grows on trees.
Writer – Doesn’t it? That is, for those who understand the market. The wife’s fisherman’s a failure. But she notices the weekenders from the city, standing at the water’s edge, are admiring her hopeless husband, the rustic clothes he wears, the sturdy fishing poles he uses, the burly look that first attracted her when she was foolish girl. What does she do? She transfers her real estate momentum into marketing and creates a line of outdoor wear. Soon she’s retailing fishing poles and baskets, which can be used for picnics. This line morphs into gardening apparel and accessories, pink trowels and wide brim hats which can also wear to the beach. She takes the nostalgia of bygone industries and creates new wealth. . . Do you know what? I think we should ride on her coattails and sell the film rights to this idea. Can’t you see it, Barbara Stanwyck in the leading role!
Gardener – Stanwyck’s dead.
Writer – We’ll find someone who looks like her, cast her in the role of Barbara playing the Fisherman’s Wife.
Gardener – What is her name?
Writer – Stanwyck!
Gardener – I mean the Fisherman’s Wife, what’s her name?
Writer – Does it matter? She’s iconic. She’s like any of us, a customer, like Sam Walton, a customer in search of a bargain. Everyone gravitates to a success story. As we buy into her dream, we find that instead of being only customers in search of bigger homes, better kitchens, we are buying her idea of success. Without moaning and groaning about women’s rights she tells her fans she wants to run for public office!
Gardener – The Fisherman is astounded by her ambition.
Writer – Forget that jerk! Who cares what he thinks. She understands the market.
Gardener – And I can’t understand your enthusiasm! It worries me.
Writer – Being a player is one thing, running the show is another. You make the rules when you’re on the top of the pyramid. Even her stupid husband should understand that.
Gardener – He depends on the sea for his livelihood the way the Farmer depends on the land. You can’t exchange the natural world for one of your own making, no matter how picturesque you make it.
Writer – Once a gardener always a gardener. But once you are rich, you can be anything. To prove it, she produces a reality show about her rise in wealth and power. It’s an immediate success on prime time TV. She inspires millions of people, like herself, tied to the mundane. They laugh when she laughs. They wear what she wears, eat what she eats. There’s her boring husband, pleading with her to relinquish her ambition. She keeps him a leash. He’ll do anything she says. After all he’s just her husband. She can have anyone she wants and does! It’s the perfect marriage.
Gardener – What’s gotten into you. You go from being a liberal to. . .
Writer – No one wants to be a fisherman.
Gardener – Nor a gardener, I suppose.
Writer – Mere hobbies! You’ve said so yourself.
Gardener – I was angry when I said that!
Writer – During her presidential acceptance speech at the convention she tells her fans, “My husband was a fisherman, so I was poor, like you. I lived in a pigsty, like you. But in this country you can be anything. I worked hard and see, I’ve made it to the top.” Her fans go wild.
Gardener – Running a castle isn’t the same as running a nation.
Writer – You couldn’t be more wrong. We agree that since the days of the Kings’ vassal, Ronald Regal, our government has been evolving according to the Hartford/Walton business model. Well, there’s a popular show on TV called Downton Abbey that dramatically illustrates that running an estate with a castle is like running a business!
Gardener – You call that a proof? We’re back to “which came first, the chicken or the egg.”
Writer – Irrelevant. If something is said on TV, the truth of it is verified. The fisherman’s wife is now a major player. She rules the country from the 70th floor of the palace. No more waiting in line on Black Fridays for her. As a real estate mogul and marketing genius, her credit rating is sky-high. She’s John Galt in high heels.
Gardener – All the fisherman wanted was a reasonable livelihood. Live and let live.
Writer – And what did he have to show for his work? A pigsty!
Gardener – The cottage by the sea was enough. Now his wife threatens everything.
Writer – There’s risk in everything we do. Don’t be so negative! Think of what she’s attained.
Gardener – What if all her customers realized everything she had she owed to a single promissory note given by a flounder living in the sea?
Writer – They’d call it a miracle! Faith, my friend, is the basis of every investment. The value of our savings grow indefinitely, as long as we believe.
Gardener – It’s only paper.
Writer – Everyday we exchange paper, believing in its worth.
Gardener – Forgetting that paper comes from trees.
Writer – The pages of our holy books are made of paper too. Does that hinder us from seeing beyond each page, god’s ethereal template. Isn’t the Tree of Jesse more than just a tree? The physical world is here to support the ethereal, not the other way around. Every investment the fisherman’s wife made increased her spiritual wealth. She understood the link between scripture and economy. So now she must take her rightful place as the ruler of the world, overseeing god’s work here on the earth.
Gardener – And she still wanted more!
Writer – Oh it’s that husband of hers. Always trying to protect that fish of his.
Gardener – It’s not his fish.
Writer – A talking fish, no less.
Gardener – It is unusual.
Writer – I suppose you’ll call it an endangered species.
Gardener – That’s why it pleaded for its life.
Writer – Look buddy, catching fish is what you do! Go back and get something in return.
Gardener – Calm down. I’m not the fisherman.
Writer – You old fool, do you think we can live on nothing.
Gardener – Get a hold of yourself!
Writer – You took the food right out of our mouths! You, the fisherman, feeling sorry for a fish.
Gardener – That was no regular fish. It talked.
Writer – And it danced no doubt!
Gardener – We’ve got a diagnoses. Everything points to ASS. You’re relapsing with ASS.
Writer – Relapse nothing! You told me the damn thing said it was a prince! ASS?
Gardener – Atlas Shrugged Syndrome. It did.
Writer – And you believed it. You are dumber than I thought. And now that a fast talking fish has you feeling sorry for him. . . What are you looking for? You won’t find diner in that stack of books.
Gardener – The Trustee Of The Toolroom.
Writer – Forget that. You go back out there and settle with the flat fish. Figure in everything you’ve lost and will lose. Tell him because you threw him back in, your wife is threatening to leave you. He can’t have something for nothing. It’s a hard world we live in. The only rule is the market’s iron hand. And don’t go around telling people about a talking fish! We’ll have regulators coming down here and telling us what to do.
Gardener – Where is that book? It’s here somewhere.
Writer – This is a unique moment in history. Our customers are breaking down the barriers separating church and state. What better time to rule both heaven and earth!
Gardener – If you could hear yourself! You sound terrible. You, the idealist. You’re advocating a new world order.
Writer – Let me be. If John Galt. . .
Gardener – You used to believe. . . I found it. Keith Stewart!
Writer – Beliefs. I believe. . .
Gardener – Down with “big!” period. Remember? The bigger the kingdom the more opportunity for failure the farther the network stretches from the founding idea on the seventieth floor of the palace. I’m afraid you’re ill.

FOOTNOTES:

A&P bought Sussel’s butcher shop on Main Street. . .
THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FOUR

John Augustine Hartford, Interview, Time Magazine, 1950, “I don’t know any grocer who wants to stay small. I don’t see how any businessman can limit his growth and stay healthy.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Atlantic_%26_Pacific_Tea_Company#cite_note-Red_Circle-10

Frederik G. H. Meijer
http://www.forbes.com/profile/frederik-gh-meijer/

In 2006 Wal-Mart was the largest super market in the USA, Information Service Food Marketing Institute
http://www.fmi.org/docs/facts_figs/faq/top_retailers.pdf

Sam Walton drove to work “ in his beat-up 1978 Ford pickup with balding tires” right up to the time he retired, American National Business Hall of Fame
http://www.anbhf.org/laureates/swalton.html

“Between March, 1985 and 1988 Wal-Mart claims to have purchased over $1.2 billion worth of goods under (All American Program), producing 22, 3000 jobs in the United States.” American National Business Hall of Fame
http://www.anbhf.org/laureates/swalton.html

Wal-Mart’s China connection, November 29th 2004 post on China Daily by China Business Weekly writer, Jiang Jingjing
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-11/29/content_395728.htm

Writer – I don’t know about a personal jet.
http://www.xploreutah.net/node/594

Sam Walton on keeping his growing connections with China a secret.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/walmart/secrets/wmchina.html

“(Sam Walton’s) customers were the ones who shut him down. They voted with their feet.” Richard Tedlow of Harvard Business School quoting from Sam Walton’s auto-biography.
http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2375.html

Gardener – I don’t think Patrick J. Cullen, the president of the bank in Cattaraugus, New York sees his customers as faceless? Alan Feuer, the author of The Bank Around the Corner, NYT 12/2011

Gardener – The way you’re talking you’d think money grows on trees.
ROCK PILE: I:1 WHERE THE GARDENER FAILS TO MOLLIFY THE WRITER WHO DECRIES THE NOTORIOUS PURE LINE DISCOVERED BY THE YOUTH IN HIS BALLAD OF THE BANKBOOK

Gardener – You used to believe. . . I found it. Keith Stewart!
The Gardener Return, A Dialogue, Part Two

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART SIX

Gardener – Does that mean most of us are like Pooh, assuming he bought the pot of honey with his own money.
Writer – Which I doubt. With all due respect to the Old Man, the diversity of that gang over by Hundred Acre Wood is not based on the limiting value of money.
Gardener – What else is there? A few of us know how to put our money to work until we’ve more than we need – much more, while the rest of us barely manage to stay afloat.
Writer – I think the majority of us don’t think of money until we need it?
Gardener – I think those who need money think about it all the time.
Writer – I know people who think most of us without money are lazy or corrupt.
Gardener – There are people who are lazy or corrupt.
Writer – Most of us are simply indecisive. We work hard but get discouraged because we’re going nowhere. There’s the kids to feed and cloth, the grandparents to take care of, the neighbors. . .
Gardener – Is that an excuse for spending money on things we don’t need. That is not in our best interest.
Writer – It’s difficult determining what we need.
Gardener – We need food, water, clothing. Let me throw in shelter.
Writer – What if self-interest is a questionable asset? Perhaps it depends on opposing values. There’s long term value and short term value. Some might call it the broad view or the narrow view. There’s only one thing a drug addict considers in his or her immediate self- interest and that’s scoring.
Gardener – While the self- interest of a drug addict is better served in the long term by getting off drugs and becoming a free human. I get it.
Writer – We’re surrounded by things that are supposed to make us happy. So we reach out and take what is offered, deferring payment because in the immediate realm we need happiness
Gardener – But there are enough hucksters telling us that with little down and lots of time we can buy what we can’t afford.
Writer – Of course sooner or later time runs out. In our society money is the only exchange through the turnpike of goods. That’s why most of us are unsuccessful. We’re not the Kings’ people. We’re the Kings’ subjects, the consumers of the Kingdoms. It might explain why we’re constantly dissatisfied and unhappy.
Gardener – Well, I’m happy! At least when I’m gardening. And I’m not a businessman.
Writer – How many teenagers want to be gardeners?
Gardener – The Youth liked working outside! You told me he raked leaves, mowed lawns and caddied.
Writer – That was before puberty. He sat in the pine tree and daydreamed. He never said he wanted to be a gardener. More likely he wanted to be an explorer. He’d read a Classic comic about the birth of the nation. In a section on Lewis and Clark, he discovered his hero John Colter, who stumbled upon Yellowstone, just a frame around colored ink where a startled figure on horseback calms his horse as Old Faithful rises into the clear blue sky above the Rocky Mountains.
Gardener – I thought he wanted to be like Roger Maris?
Writer – That too, when he was eleven, playing baseball like all the other kids. But he couldn’t hit the ball to save his life and when someone hit a high fly out to left field where he stood like an expectant knight surveying a field of windmills, he felt so much pressure to catch the ball, he always missed. Then came puberty.
Gardener – And girls.
Writer – Now he wanted to be like Fabian or Dion. He wanted to be cool. But he couldn’t sing.
Gardener – I guess gardening saved his ass.
Writer – It’s never about what we can do best but what’s in fashion. Remember when computer programming was the rage? Young people wanted, indeed were guided toward careers in computing. Only a few succeeded. Most were white collar slaves until the bubble burst.
Gardener – They wore ties and jackets instead of overalls but that didn’t change what they were.
Writer – They might have done better as mechanics or carpenters. . .
Gardener – They could still wear ties and jackets if that made them feel better!
Writer – But we can’t blame them. Those were the jobs been sold in shop windows. The trades were looked down upon. Shop classes had been all but eliminated in high schools. No one, not even trades people, wanted their children going into that line of work.
Gardener – But you and I have been lucky. We’re immune to fashion. Marketers don’t affect us.
Writer – Are you crazy? No one’s immune! We all desire something. That’s why ad-men troll the waters of commerce for likely prey.
Gardener. – You think we’re like our neighbors who always return home with bags full of things?
Writer – You think we’re different?
Gardener – I don’t think of ourselves as shoppers.
Writer – If you mean we’re not distracted by window displays then I agree with you.
Gardener – Actually I see my reflection.
Writer – We have the same problem.
Gardener – But that image of me is superimposed on a million objects behind me.
Writer – You mean in front of you. The objects in the window can’t be behind you.
Gardener – Not the real me, but in back of my reflection.
Writer – Like Narcissus.
Gardener – Yeah even paper-whites. Thousands of them crowding the displays this time of year.
Writer – No, the Greek teenager from mythology.
Gardener – Teenager?
Writer – He was trapped by the image he saw in a pool.
Gardener – What image, what pool?
Writer- You know the story! Narcissus, the son of Liriope. . .
Gardener – I know liriope, they’re not even in the same family! Liriope’s in the iris family and makes a wonderful ground cover!
Writer – Perhaps in your world, but in Ovid’s world of Metamorphoses, Book III, Lirope is a river nymph who is raped by the river god, Cephisus. Their son is Narcissus, whose beauty is renowned. But he spurs everyone’s overtures until one day he is bending over a pool of water and sees his reflection. He falls in love with what he sees but can’t possess it.
Gardener – What’s that got to do with me standing in front of a department store window?
Writer – Well, I don’t know exactly – only that you’re staring at yourself and can’t see the display items beyond your reflection.
Gardener – Maybe you can’t seen beyond your reflection; but mine is imbedded in the stuff that’s for sale. It’s just another object, only it’s me.
Writer – No, it’s your reflection.
Gardener – Same thing.
Writer – No it’s not. You’re standing here in front of me, just the way you were standing in front of the shop window. But you can’t own that reflection, any more than Narcissus could embrace the boy he fell in love with in the pool.
Gardener – What I see in the window is as immaterial to me as all the things behind me, I mean behind my reflection. It’s as if I’m drowning.
Writer – In a pool of material items.
Gardener – Just the opposite happens to me when I look into the night sky. I feel tremendous. The Moon, the planets Jupiter and Venus, and all the stars make me feel as if I am something important. My body flows out into the cosmos. It just happens. But when I stare into the static display of a shop window, I disappear, I reach out to save myself from an attraction that seems to threaten my identity.
Writer – You’re not kidding. But don’t think I haven’t stopped in front of a pastry shop and wanted to sit down at the counter inside and order a coffee and a pastry. But which pastry?
Gardener –It’s odd, isn’t it, since the Old Man was a great salesman?
Writer – What’s odd?
Gardener – You and I being on a different frequency than sales-people.
Writer – I told you we’re not immune. The Old Man wanted the Youth to work with him, but they never got along. The Old Man couldn’t sell him on it.
Gardener – So he was immune, immune to the Old Man’s pitch, even if others weren’t.
Writer – They just didn’t get along period. Years later the Youth was working at a restaurant on Madison Avenue. One afternoon he was serving up Rob Roys, extra dry to some salesmen sitting at the bar. They were regulars but one of them hadn’t been around in a long time. His friend asked him if he’d been out on the road. The guy told him he was working for a new outfit. The two men talked shop, moving their glasses around the counter as if they were railroad cars full of goods. The Youth listened to them talk while he washed glasses in the sink beneath the counter. It didn’t seem to matter to them whether they were selling toiletries or Cadillac’s, the process was all that counted. They were salesmen. They enjoyed the pitch to the customer. He realized his Old Man was different. Not only did he enjoy the pitch, but the product was his baby. He’d nurtured it into existence by trail and error. He not only made the stuff in the family garage, but delivered it on call. He believed in the product as much as he believed in himself. He didn’t have to bribe the company buyers the way the corporate salesmen did. He knew the people working on the floor wanted his product. Not only because his cleaners and waxes worked, which he knew since he used them himself, but also because the Old Man was always there whenever maintenance called him in a pinch. It didn’t matter what time of night. If they needed a batch, he’d mix it and bring them a 50 gallon drum that night.
Gardener – That kind of integrity you can only get from a small business.
Writer – But as charismatic as he was on the floor of a bus terminal or an airport hangar, he failed to convince his kids. His products meant nothing to them. Besides he was temperamental, his way or the highway, a one man company.
Gardener – But all this doesn’t tell me why we never buy pastries. We never buy anything! I know people who think we suffer from a deprivation of the senses.
Writer – We buy books, too many books.
Gardener – Books! Yes, your focus comes to a rest on books.
Writer – Sometimes after reading a book review, I find myself orbiting the book’s gravitational field slowly dropping closer and closer toward the moment I must buy it. All my guarded reasons for not buying it, all based on experience, the knowledge it won’t change anything, are burned away as I enter the books aura with its hope of resurrection. Sooner or later I buy it. It’s inevitable. I’m flush with happiness. Just the feel of the book makes me feel good, even as I drop it on my stack of unread books.
Gardener – Is this bad?
Writer – I don’t know. It’s all I know. But was it in my best interests to have yet another book? I don’t know. And what about you, is there anything more addictive than buying plants?
Gardener – Buying new plants is like finding buried treasure. It’s not like I’m having a bad day and need to go out and buy plants. There’s always so much to do in a garden. The physical work siphons off frustration. But every plant has the potential to fit into the mythic garden where the Youth grew up. I look for species that will illuminate the hidden ways back to that long ago landscape. I know they’re not plants he knew, when he first sat at the top of the Pine tree like Adam surveying Eden. But it provides me with possibilities. Eden is always changing, but the substance of it remains the same, it’s the same place he was seeking. It’s a place where pain has been filtered out and happiness distilled.
Writer – And what about the sailboat?
Gardener – Kismet.
Writer – Like I said, no one’s immune.
Gardener – Buying Kismet was extravagant. I worried about the monthly payments. I knew that Huevo, one of the gardeners where I worked, bought a new car every three years. The price of our third hand boat was probably less than one of his new cars. Buying on time didn’t daunt him. He actually enjoyed looking for better deals and better rates on a new loan. He joked with me. He said if I waited until I saved the money I’d be too old to sail the boat. Then he added, “You’ve worked hard, haven’t you?” “Everyone feels they’ve worked hard,” I replied, “even slackers.” He chided me. “Live and let live,” then added, “go ahead, buy it, you deserve it!”
Writer – Even our mother of solid Scotch heritage took out a personal loan every three years in order to take her mother and her three kids across country in the family station wagon to visit relatives and friends out west. Besides we paid off our debt in five years.
Gardener – That was twenty years ago and we’re still sailing her.
Writer – Maybe you’re right, maybe we are lucky. We take after our mother.
Gardener – That’s what I think. We’re thrifty, like her.
Writer – Unlike Pooh bear, who needs little encouragement from the Kings’ creative writers to have a little something.
Gardener – Huevo said “live and let live.” If people didn’t work like me, they were slackers, period.
Writer – Sounds like he was trying to say the same thing the Old Man was saying.
Gardener – Only it appeared to me like letters in a mirror.
Writer – Or a reflection in a pool of water.
Gardener – But the words that have stuck to me, like burdock seed on wool socks, is “you deserve it.” I didn’t deserve Kismet, I wanted it.
Writer – The most recent meaning of “deserve,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is to “earn or become worthy of(reward or punishment, etc.); secure by service or actions, gain, win.” Oxford describes the Latin and French verb “servir”- “to serve” which I assume means to serve others, plus the prefix, “de,” which augments or reverses that service. It seems as if someone who has been served is rewarding the server for service well done.
Gardener – But Huevo said “I deserved it.” I mean he said “you deserve it,” but he wasn’t in the position of giving me what I deserved. He was assuming that I must feel I deserve it.
Writer – That’s the curious twist, isn’t it? When we tell ourselves we deserve something, we’re transforming service to others into something self-serving. Like the self-service at The Automat, only instead of a cherry pie and a cup of coffee we serve ourselves a conceit. It seems to morally or ethically justify our desire. We are “worthy of” serving ourselves something we want!
Gardener – I don’t need a justification for what I want. But I do need money.
Writer – Didn’t Huevo say you’d worked hard?
Gardener – That’s not justification.
Writer – But you like being paid. It’s nice having a good salary that provides more than just basics in survival.
Gardener – I earned my salary. Besides, the salary would never have been enough if my heart wasn’t in the work.
Writer – You don’t clean bed pans.
Gardener – I admit I’m lucky, a gardener. But I worked hard for my salary.
Writer – In other words you deserved it.
Gardener – No, I was paid fairly for something I did. It was an agreement. I do this for that. Money is the exchange.
Writer – Fairly? You sound like D’Anconia during his sermon on money at Jamie Taggart’s wedding party, in Atlas Shrugged, Part II, Chapter II.
Gardener – Aren’t we going backwards?
Writer – It’s relevant. When you say “money is the exchange” you’re practically paraphrasing Francisco. He said, “Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them and not more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of traders.” But you know as well as I do it’s easier said than done. We’ve already seen, and Adam Smith pointed this out, that those with capital to pay for labor, work together to keep salaries down. It’s in their best-interests to demean the “worth” of a worker’s efforts. And if the worker has been unemployed for some time as many are today, he or she is desperate enough to take whatever’s offered, because most of us don’t want to be on the dole. Our “worth” is rarely based on our abilities but on conditions like mass unemployment which lowers the value of work the way inflation lowers the value of the dollar.
Gardener – In other words, we’re not worth shit.
Writer – If we are to believe what Francisco says about the worth of “your goods and your labor . . . to the men who buy them” then the one who sells either goods or labor or both and the one who buys the goods and or labor must agree to something that’s in their mutual best interests. This kind of agreement assumes the broad view. To the seller it guarantees income and to the buyer it guarantees that this quality he or she values will not disappear.
Gardener – How can we agree on the broad view, when each side clamps down on self-interest with the ferocity of a dog gripping a bone.
Writer – There was a time, after working many years at the garden, upper management thought you as a middle manager was earning enough and should be paid no more for your services.
Gardener – That’s true. Which would have been fine as long as the price of food and clothing and rent remained the same.
Writer – But you convinced them that if you didn’t receive cost of living, you would leave.
Gardener – But one of the gardeners under me did not have the same clout.
Writer – Huevo.
Gardener – Yes. The executive director, at that time, did not think he deserved a cost of living raise.
Writer – 2%
Gardener – Exactly. Not only was he the gardener who had been there the longest, he was having back problems. Management decided to cap his salary. This wasn’t just a matter of economic life and death. His pride was hurt. We were a non-union garden.
Writer – He invited the union.
Gardener – Yes. A nasty struggle ensued between management and labor. In the end the gardeners voted in the union.
Writer – Whose side were you on?
Gardener – On his side, the side of the gardeners.
Writer – You felt he deserved 2% cost of living increase.
Gardener – Yes. And I told upper management this. Instead of accepting my recommendation they pursued a costly war against the staff, which easily exceeded the cost of 2% that he requested.
Writer – He would have been satisfied with that?
Gardener – Absolutely. It was a matter of being fair.
Writer – But you and I know it has nothing to do with being fair. It’s whatever you can get.
Gardener – Which is why the gardeners brought in the union.
Writer – And the gardeners won, a pyrrhic victory, I understand.
Gardener – The potting shed morale, the primary engine for the garden’s success, was destroyed. There’s much more to this story but it deserves a separate telling.
Writer – I agree. At any rate, Huevo had earned that 2% because his salary was based on existing economic conditions like the price of food, clothing and rent.
Gardener – His salary was based on his work, but the salary was worth less because of inflation. Either he got paid cost of living or worked less to accommodate inflation. But in my book working less wasn’t an option.
Writer –The Kings’ people say that Huevo caused inflation because he wanted more money.
Gardener – Can the Kings’ people prove that the egg came before the goose?
Writer – I think we’ve agreed that work created Humpty Dumpty.
Gardener – Right. And management came later.
Writer – But aren’t those paying the salaries entitled to spend their own money as they choose?
Gardener – The garden is non-profit, so the money belongs to the taxpayer and those funding projects, but I see what you mean. In the broader sense when the product is sold in the public square where Humpty Dumpty used to sit, then the production process is communal. Labor and capital amount to the same thing. The man with capital can’t run machines or use his hands creatively but he or she can pay others to do it. Money and Labor need to sit down and negotiate without ideologies for masks.
Writer – But when the employee feels he or she deserves more money, the employee is putting him or herself at a disadvantage.
Gardener – Right, better to say I want a raise.
Writer – Just the way we wanted a sailboat. And money is what you and I and the wife used to buy the sailboat.
Gardener – With the help of a bank loan
Writer – Another agreement which we signed after reading the small print.
Gardener – We wanted the boat. We bought it using funds earned at work and to be earned at work.
Writer – To be earned is crucial to the equation of what is possible.
Gardener – The bank loaned us the remaining funds assuming we would pay them back according to the agreement we all signed. That loan was not based on the “merit” of our desires. We didn’t deserve the loan.
Writer – Nor the sailboat.
Gardener – That’s why we paid interest on that loan, that’s how the bank made money on our loan. It wasn’t based on what we deserved. We accepted their terms.
Writer – Nor do we deserve the chocolate cake at the end of the meal because we’ve finished the meal. But I assume Christopher Robin’s parents like all parents worldwide have enticed and continue to entice their children to finish their green ham and eggs with the promise of dessert.
Gardener – And so we’ve grown older nurturing Pooh’s justification for “for a little something.”
Writer – As if anyone deserves a sailboat!
Gardener – We wanted the boat, as simple as that.
Writer – On the other hand, the Pooh Principle manifests itself at the highest levels of all the Kingdoms. All the Kings’ men are rewarded with “a little something” whether they succeed or not. They call it, the bonus. It’s the cornerstone of the corporate world. The carrot dangling before every ambitious prince.
Gardener – The honey pot at the end of every financial rainbow.
Writer – Even though the Kings’ men and women work in offices far above the production line, they serve themselves the desserts of a production they often know nothing about.
Gardener – Especially bankers.
Writer – The difference between what they make and what our neighbors make on the floor of the assembly line is the primary reason the pockets of the few are full of the money our neighbors’ lack.
Gardener – But don’t our neighbors realize that when they buy back on credit the products they’ve made but can no longer afford, they are helping to make the Kings’ people even richer?
Writer – Our neighbors believe they deserve it.
Gardener – Even though the Kings people use this money to pay our elected officials. . .
Writer – The Kings’ vassals.
Gardener – To help the Kings people reach deeper into our neighbors’ pockets.
Writer – In his fascinating book, The Marketplace Of Revolution, How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence, T. H. Breen describes how the colonists went from being loyal consumers to practitioners of “non-importation” of those cherished products of the British Industrial Revolution. He describes the stages in this evolutionary journey from consumer to political activist. To quote Breen in Part II, Chapter 6: “during this early phase of protest” – Breen is referring to the colonists reaction to the Stamp Act which was an added tax on imported goods from Great Britain – “it gradually became apparent that consumer sacrifice would help Americans preserve what they defined as their basic rights and liberties. . . [T]hey began in published pieces to equate the pleasures of possession with broader, more public issues of constitutional misrule, a move that accelerated a symbolic process that would in time allow discontented Americans to conflate a perceived loss of freedom with their own participation in the consumer marketplace.” He quotes two writers of the time, one from Philadelphia who writes that the Stamp Act “awakened a whole continent,” and here I love the phrases that follow, “till then, going on in luxury, sinking into a forgetfulness of their liberty.”
Gardener – The continent still sleeps!
Writer – Another writer, who called himself Economicus, says, “Every person who owes more than he can certainly pay is in a state of thraldom, and cannot, in speech or action, exercise the rights of a freeman. How carefully then should we, who entertain such high sentiments of the blessing of liberty, avoid every step that may involve us in debt, and thereby deprive us of this boasted liberty.”
Gardener – Almost 250 years ago and nothing’s changed!
Writer – Ostensibly, we have more to choose from! The Kings and the Kings’ vassals in Washington want us to believe they are the guardians of “choice.” But what is choice if it involves only what can be bought and sold. Breen also quotes our Adam Smith in Part I, Chapter 3, Section 3, “A great empire has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a nation of customers.”
Gardener – Today we’re the same customers buying the latest fashions from overseas. At least the Brits, at the center of their commercial empire, were reaping the benefits of our colonial debt.
Writer – Let’s assume the Old Man’s principle was as true then as today.
Gardener – You’re probably right. Still, here in the heart of the American empire we’ve been marginalized while the Kings slowly cut their tethers to the Homeland – as our leaders call it – to achieve global supremacy.
Writer – Breen again quotes Smith, “For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly might afford our producers. . ,” – The monopoly Smith is referring to is the Navigation Acts prohibiting other nations from trading with the colonies and forcing the colonies to buy finished goods from England only, – “the home-consumers have been burdened with the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire.” Of course, we don’t have to buy a cherry-colored overcoat made overseas.
Gardener – But an overcoat made here costs more than a coat made overseas!
Writer – Well, who’s to blame, the banker or the tailor?
Gardener – The tailor’s blamed and all he was trying to do was make enough money to feed himself and his cat.
Writer – It’s hard to believe that someone like the Mayor of Gloucester didn’t put any of his own money down when ordering his extravagant wedding coat for Christmas day.
Gardener – Are you saying the tailor had to spend his own money buying the material for the coat?
Writer – Apparently all of it. He had barely enough to buy himself and Simpkin, the cat, food. And not only for the coat but material for the peach colored satin waist coat as well.
Gardener – What a bain to a small business. But it would seem the tailor is to blame since he accepted the assignment without a down payment
Writer – Well, I’m sure he tried but he had little leverage here, in spite of his obvious skills, being poor, desperate and old. It seems this was his last chance to make his fortune.
Gardener – The mayor must have been shrewd.
Writer – Oh yes, like so many of the Kings’ vassals, he also been one of the King’s men. In fact he got his start in a private equity firm.
Gardener – So that’s how he learned to invest other people’s money and labor to get the things he wanted.
Writer – As any Vietnamese or Chinese worker knows money is equal to labor the way mass is equal to energy. But luckily for the tailor the mice understood that! In the broadest terms it was in their best interest to help the poor old tailor for non-monetary reasons!
Gardener – Didn’t Simpkin the cat come to a broader understanding of self-interest too?
Writer – It’s true he was annoyed with the tailor at first because the old man had released all the mice that he had caught. But when Simpkin saw the grateful mice sewing the Mayor’s coat, he realized that by saving the old man from the poorhouse they were saving him as well, since he too depended on the tailor for his general well being.
Gardener – Didn’t the Mayor become the governor of the state?
Writer – We’re not talking about that Gloucester, known for Cod, but the city of that name in England.
Gardener – Oh I know, it’s near Romney Marsh, known for a breed of sheep.
Writer – No, that’s in Kent. The Tailor lived in Gloucester, not far from the River Severn near Wales.
Gardener – Oh.
Writer – However, can we blame the Mayor who has the means to get what he wants, when all of us dress like mayors whether we can afford it or not. Either we work together like mice to overrule the Kings or we remain the pawns of our fashionable obsessions. From the Kings’ point of view, cheap labor allows immediate returns.
Gardener – No wonder the Kings of older kingdoms complain about their aging staff of Huevos, protected by the unions. It makes it difficult for them to compete with young kingdoms where the employees start out earning much less.
Writer – To stay viable in a cut throat economy the Kings need the freedom to keep salaries and benefits down. In fact the end of the year bonus is sweeter for the Kings’ men when they achieve this.
Gardener – How can the Kings expect us in the Homeland to buy the latest toys and wear the latest fashions with our low salaries?
Writer – They don’t, that’s why they ship our neighbors’ jobs overseas.
Gardener – How can our neighbors buy anything if they’re unemployed. Is the Mayor of Gloucester, using the tailor’s mice?
Writer – Well that story is of an older time when mayors and their brides dressed in petticoats and tails. The tailor would have gone to the poorhouse or what they called the workhouse. These days are much better. The Kings don’t fret over lost sales because we now have Unemployment Insurance.
Gardener – What if the Kings’ vassals. . ,
Writer – Our elected officials.
Gardener – In their efforts to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, kill unemployment insurance!
Writer – The Kings have always claimed that minimizing wages benefits customers! Ironically, the Kings’ vassals expect our unemployed neighbors or those now working beneath subsistence to have enough money to buy the games and toys their lords, the Kings, ship back to the states!
Gardener – Who’s John Galt!
Writer – Unfortunately the Kings are only interested in John Galt’s efforts to kill regulations, not in John Galt’s generator.
Gardener – It would be a boon to small business since it doesn’t run on oil!
Writer – The Kings will only bring production back to the United States, if we give them absolute fealty which means accepting lower salaries on the assembly line.
Gardener – Which leaves our neighbors no choice but to buy the Kings’ latest fashions in the Kings’ chain stores!
Writer – Which reminds me of the Ball and Chain Company Store, where the Youth and his high school friend stocked up on food and gear during their stay in the White Mountains of Arizona, a year or so before I met him. It’s a memory the Youth shared with me sometime before he disappeared. He and his friend arrived in the small mill town of McNary with little cash in their pockets but a guarantee of work from a lumber company. They were assured by the company agent, they could buy what they needed on credit and the amount of debt would be deducted from their paychecks. At the time this seemed like a good thing. The Ball and Chain was the only store in town. It was owned by the company. For months they lived on a tight budget.
Gardener – But this couldn’t have been a hardship. They were young, their expenses were small.
Writer – True, and they enjoyed the novelty of the work. They worked out in the loading area covering stacks of finished boards in sheets of white Polyethylene, a relatively new material. They spread the plastic over the board wood that came out of the mill in stacks, folding the ends as if they were wrapping huge birthday presents. Instead of ribbons they tightened down metal straps with a ratcheting tool and stapled the folds to the board ends. Forklifts then loaded the stacks onto railroad flatcars waiting on a nearby siding. The air smelled of Limber, White and Ponderosa pine. In the afternoon they watched the thunderheads build, crack like seashells underfoot, before sending everyone in the yard undercover. Moments later the rain stopped, the sun returned and the smell of the forest was even stronger.
Gardener – Of course they weren’t there to settle down. It was a lark, an adventure.
Writer – That’s true. They rented a shack out by the town dump, and scavenged most of their furniture, even the mattresses from the garbage. There they reveled like fools feeling like kings living under a roof they called their own, drinking Coors beer with a number of young ladies who were intrigued by these easterners. Then one morning they woke up itching all over, an unbearable sensation of helplessness at the hands of the unseen. They hauled all that shit back out the door to the dump. By this time they’d caught up with their expenses, so they moved out and rented a small cottage in the neighboring town of Showlow from the mother of one of their friends at the mill. She remembered being a child when the new owners of the mill had brought in the first train loads of blacks to replace the local workers. “They took jobs away from white folk,” she said, “people who lived here all their lives.” The Youth thought she was referring to the new owners but she was talking about the blacks. The Youth and his friend sat in her kitchen, sun streaming through the curtained windows of the country styled house listening to her describe the scene. Her feeling were so evident, it seemed as if it happened yesterday. He imagined hordes of blacks arriving in open door boxcars and swarming the town like locust. He saw it as a black and white newsreel, like those he’s watched on Saturday mornings in the back room in the days when he still climbed the great pine like the first man. First came The American Farmer followed by The World At War. He didn’t understand that that these black folks had brought their families and arrived in regular passenger cars like anyone else and that this had all happened in 1923, because the new owners were lumber men from Louisiana. The young men thanked the woman and left with her son to see the cottage. Her son was engaged to be married to a young woman with hair like wheat bright with sunshine and a sweet smile. Years later they learned she had gone down to the University in Tucson and married a black man. By then the times were topsy turvy everywhere. The cottage was out behind the woman’s house, beneath a stand of tall pines. It was made of logs, like the main house, nicely furnished in rustic manner. It had a real bed with sheets and a coverlet. They were in heaven.
Gardener –The Youth believed in hard work. He felt that an individual should be able to account for himself and not depend on the generosity of strangers. He was bred on conservative principles.
Writer – It’s easy to think that way when you have only yourself to think of.
Gardener – Self-interest in its narrowest context.
Writer – It would have been different had he moved there with a family and with the expectations of a bread earner hoping for a piece of the American pie. He began to understand what it meant for the people he met in the mill who had been born and raised in the small town. Like Jesus Campo, their young Mexican friend, the oldest of nine children and the family bread winner, who lived in a house packed with his mother and siblings on the edge of town – a house slightly better than the shack by the dump.
Gardener – Only it was a home where you wouldn’t find fleas.
Writer – Jesus was always in the hole! He never received a full paycheck. On payday he still owed the company money!
Gardener – But his mother always made enchiladas hot as hell for his new friends when they came over on Sunday.
Writer – They sure weren’t like the enchiladas they’d eaten in those new pop-up drive-ins down in Phoenix!
Gardener – Too bad that lumber company hadn’t been run by Bob and Charlee Moore!
Writer – Or Ray Anderson!

NOTES:

Writer – I think we’ve agreed that work created Humpty Dumpty.
The Gardener Returns, Part Five

the Mayor of Gloucester didn’t put any of his own money down when ordering his extravagant wedding coat for Christmas day.
http://www.readeasily.com/beatrix-potter/00295/002950004.php#entry2

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FIVE

Gardener – Pooh doesn’t have a choice. After all he’s a little bear.
Writer – Even Christopher Robin can see how Pooh’s desires are always getting him into trouble. And I suspect his parents expect him to hear a little voice, more like, “Why Christopher, it’s time you realize this is not in your best interest!”
Gardener – But all the King’s men hope our heads get stuck in the honey pot. They’re betting on it.
Writer – Until we’re out of money! Then the King wants the pot back, Heffalumps or not!
Gardener – Pooh shattered the pot on a tree stump. Remember? In Chapter V of A. A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh, In Which Piglet Meets A Heffalump.
Writer – Which isn’t in the King’s best interest!
Gardener – Unless the King’s men are betting on the pot breaking anyway.
Writer – I suppose the King’s men think they can have it both ways.
Gardener – They can in the short term.
Writer – Still I can’t understand why King Corporation and all its political minions are so improvident?
Gardener – Because they’re children like the rest of us. Like us they’re looking for John Galt!
Writer – Yet to this day all the King’s horses and all the King’s men still haven’t put it back together again.
Gardener – It? You mean Humpty Dumpty?
Writer – I mean the economy.
Gardener – Some people say Humpty’s a person.
Writer – Those people would have to call him a chicken.
Gardener – I’m referring to his character, but the fertilized egg.
Writer – I know.
Gardener – Who’s going to understand me when I order two chickens sunny side up with toast and jam?
Writer – Plays havoc with the vernacular, doesn’t it? Maybe we should eliminate the word “egg” entirely.
Gardener – That would make reptiles mammals.
Writer – Birds too.
Gardener – Aren’t birds related to dinosaurs anyway?
Writer – That’s true, but what about humans? After conception don’t we look like fish?
Gardener – You mean the gills? Would the census have to record the demographic surge of fish inside every pregnant woman’s uterus?
Writer – Maybe tadpoles. But imagine the costs in accounting if one of these registered human tadpoles is stillborn. We’ll never get the population numbers right and the overhead will be fantastic!
Gardener – Imagine if the same nitwits lowered the voting age to 270BB.
Writer – You lost me there.
Gardener – Two hundred and seventy days before birth.
Writer – I suppose the expectant mother would be a proxy?
Gardener – What if she’s having twins? Does she vote three times?
Writer – What if one of the preborn humans is a Republican and the other a Democrat? Does that mean inter-uterine war or a dysfunctional family?
Gardener – I see a silver lining to this semantic chaos. At garden centers we could begin selling packets of seed as flats of plants. Nursery owners wouldn’t have to sow seed, prick them off, repot the seedlings and keep the flats watered. Think of the savings!
Writer – If we go on like this we’ll all go crazy. What I want to know is how Humpty Dumpty got on that wall anyway?
Gardener – I know. One bright morning the King, looking out over the city from the corporate office on the seventieth floor of the palace somewhere downtown, saw Humpty sitting in a public square, shinning with contentment and mistook him for the golden egg. Thinking only of Humpty’s safety, the King told the King’s men to bring Humpty back to headquarters.
Writer – Brilliant! The King saw Humpty Dumpty as a future. After all, an egg is potentially a thing to come.
Gardener – Not to those who think it already is.
Writer – True, but the Supreme Court will resolve that. The important thing is that the King who possesses the golden egg possess a golden future.
Gardener – But wouldn’t the King want the goose too?
Writer – As you just pointed out, some people think the fertilized egg is also a being. If the King and the King’s men don’t see any difference between the fertilized egg and the chicken they’d naturally assume Humpty was the goose!
Gardener – I thought he was a chicken.
Writer – He was until he laid a golden egg. A goose lays the golden egg, not a chicken.
Gardener – If Humpty’s a male, he can’t lay eggs.
Writer – Obviously “he” can’t lay eggs. Without going into this any further, let’s also assume that Humpty’s a female who liked dressing as a male.
Gardener – Essentially then we are in the middle of a tautology to use one of your favorite words. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Writer – You mean the goose or the egg.
Gardener – How come Plato never runs into these dilemmas when laying out his dialogues?
Writer – We have to keep trying! Remember the King isn’t infallible. The King is not the Pope. The King didn’t know that the miller’s daughter couldn’t spin gold.
Gardener – You mean the King was befuddled by the gold.
Writer – Yes and we agree that when the King saw Humpty Dumpty in the public square the King claimed him for the good of the Kingdom! But you still haven’t answered my question, how did Humpty get on top of the wall?
Gardener – Okay. In their zeal the King’s men were trying to push Humpty over the palace wall when he fell.
Writer – But why not take Humpty through the revolving doors in front?
Gardener – The King thought it would be best if the King’s subjects didn’t know. . .
Writer – You mean “shareholders” or possibly “customers.” Wouldn’t that make our story more relevant?
Gardener – Yes, the King didn’t want the customers to worry about the King cornering the open market.
Writer – Of course! The King values Adam Smith’s comment in Wealth Of Nations, Chapter XI, Part I, entitled Rent Of The Produce Of Land Which Always Affords Rent. And I quote, “monopoly. . . is a great enemy to good management, which can never be universally established but in consequence of that free and universal competition which forces everybody to have recourse to it for sake of self-defense.” The King, of course, interprets this as “the less said, the better.” That’s why rules and regulations and all the questions and answers they require are troublesome. And that would explain why all the King’s men and all the King’s horses pushed Humpty over the wall.
Gardener – The King was afraid of what the customers in the square would say.
Writer – Naturally the King’s legal advisors are on top of this. They claim that the King has every right to corner the economy, since the King is doing it for the good of the Kingdom, which is, at the same time, the King.
Gardener – Wait a minute, you’re getting way ahead of me.
Writer – Remember in King Lear, when Gloucester, himself synonymous with that part of England, introduces the princes of France and Burgundy? He calls them France and Burgundy! We all know one prince is greeting another prince, just as we know King Lear is one person although he likes calling himself “we.” He means “we, the people of the Kingdom.” Agreed?
Gardener – Whatever!
Writer – And since we agree that an egg. . .
Gardener – Any egg?
Writer – Any egg is both a goose in the present and a goose in the future.
Gardener – It’s the same goose, isn’t it!
Writer – Naturally the BB goose is the same as the AB goose.
Gardener – Right! The before birth goose is the same as the after birth goose. Right.
Writer – So we can assume that the golden egg, since it belongs to everyone, that is “we” is both the King at this moment and the King at a future date.
Gardener – Does that mean the King is also Humpty Dumpty since I thought we had agreed that Humpty Dumpty was both the golden egg, that is himself but also the goose that laid the egg, that is herself.
Writer – Does this eliminate old mother goose?
Gardener – Do you mean she might be Humpty’s mother?
Gardener – I’m afraid genealogy was never my strongest subject.
Gardener – We’re beginning to talk riddles like all the King’s vassals.
Writer – Look, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll call the King and Humpty Dumpty, Persons, since calling them a goose. . .
Gardener – You mean geese or is it gaggle, since we have two persons.
Writer – You are veering! Calling the King a goose would be derogatory. Humpty Dumpty is our metaphor. . .
Gardener – For the economy.
Writer – Precisely and we are trying to understand why the King wants to get the economy, that is our future, over the palace wall.
Gardener – The King claims “we. . . ”
Writer – Royal “we.”
Gardener – Can keep an eye on it for the good of the Kingdom which we now realize is also the King, because the Kingdom is “we”.
Writer – Precisely, but now I’m confused. Do we mean that the King kidnapped Humpty Dumpty because it was in the best interest of the egg?
Gardener – Does it matter? The King and the King’s men finished Humpty off, period!
Writer – It’s a sad commentary on our leadership both in business and in government which are essentially the same these days – since they follow the same management paradigm – when Kings and all the Kings’ men become so jaded by their desire to corner the future they kill it! But as we have read, and here I mean you and I have read in the The New English Bible, published by Oxford, there was a time when Kings discovered economic lessons in their dreams. For instance the night the King dreamed he saw seven fat cows and seven skinny cows.
Gardener – Aside from eggs was the King trying to control cattle futures?
Writer – No, the King wasn’t thinking about those futures at all. But the King was interested in building monuments.
Gardener – Well that has to do with the future.
Writer – One night the King dreams that seven fat cows come up from the Nile, followed by seven starving cows and the starving cows eat the fat cows. The King wakes up in a sweat, then falls back to sleep. In a second dream, the King sees seven fat ears of corn and seven shriveled ears and the shriveled ears consume the fat ears.
Gardener – You’re talking about Pharaoh!
Writer – The Old Testament, Genesis, beginning at Verse 41. I knew you were following!
Gardener –There wasn’t any corn growing in Egypt, or any where else in the ancient world. The word “corn” must mean something else.
Writer – Does it matter?
Gardener – I thought as a wordsmith you‘d know that.
Writer – May I go on?
Gardener – I know where you’re going now. Pharaoh’s advisors were puzzled by these dreams too. So they called in Joseph.
Writer – At that time Joseph the Israelite is in jail because one of Pharaoh’s eunuchs,
Potiphar, who is Captain of the Guard, claimed Joseph had tried to rape his wife. We all know he’s innocent. But it’s an old familiar story that’s been used down through the years, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. Until his downfall Joseph was an astute manager of Potiphar’s estate. Because of his ability to interpret data he’s brought before Pharaoh.
Gardener – John Galt!
Writer – He interprets Pharaoh’s dream. There will be seven years of good harvest in Egypt followed by seven years of drought. If Pharaoh is wise he’ll offer to buy the cattle and corn . . .
Gardener – I told you not corn.
Writer – The New English Bible says corn. See!
Gardener – They’re wrong. Corn is a new world plant. It wasn’t known in the old world until it was introduced by the Spanish during the Age of Discovery, 2800 years later. They probably mean a grain. Corn is probably an old English word for grain.
Writer – So much for the veracity of the translated Word! May I continue?
Gardener – Please. . .
Writer – Can I call it wheat?
Gardener – If experts can call it corn, you can call it wheat. At least that closer to the truth. In the meantime check out page 172 in Fauna And Flora Of The Bible published by the United Bibles Societies. I found it on your shelf!
Writer – If Pharaoh is wise he’ll make an offer to buy all futures in cattle and wheat for the next seven years. He can demand a good price, since he’ll provide a cash margin to convince the farmers and herders. This way Pharaoh gets cattle and wheat at a price he chooses and corners the market. When the seven hard years follow the seven prosperous years, Pharaoh will be in a position to sell cattle and wheat at a higher price to the people thus earning the Kingdom a large profit.
Gardener – Get out! That’s not the story. Joseph tells Pharaoh that consuming each year’s produce without saving for a rainy day isn’t sustainable. Actually it would be saving for a sunny day since rain in Egypt would be a good thing. Pharaoh does this for the good of the people.
Writer – I don’t dispute that. I’m just seeing the story through Pharaoh’s self interest. Why not feed the people when they have no food and at the same time make a little something for the Kingdom. Everyone’s happy.
Gardener – It will be a time of famine. People won’t be able to support themselves because their land is barren. He has inside information. Pharaoh needs to share this information with the public . . .
Writer – Remember the less said, the better. Also I’d prefer using the word “shareholder” or “customer,” wouldn’t you? It makes our discussion current, something our public will understand.
Gardener – What public! But I’ll agree to “shareholder” only if you broaden the word “share!” For the good of the people, Pharaoh must encourage everyone to save some of their own crops instead of selling it all to Pharaoh’s agents.
Writer – Remember Pharaoh is Egypt. The King and the Kingdom are one.
Gardener – We all have a stake in the egg because it’s our future! It’s our nest egg. What’s good for the egg is good for the Kingdom, and I don’t mean the King, I mean all the rest of us. The Kingdom is the people.
Writer – True, the Kingdom is made of many but the King is still considered the Kingdom. The King is “we” as in all of us. The envoys don’t introduce Pharaoh as Ramses. They say, “Egypt greets you.”
Gardener – So “to make our discussion current,” we can also say, Morgan Chase bought Washington Mutual.
Writer – Precisely! The King is the Kingdom and the Kingdom is composed of the people hence the King is also the People
Gardener – Can we then say that Morgan Chase is also the Investors?
Writer – Of course! Naturally the King is a figure head and not heads – we don’t say the King is heads of state but head of state. Since the King is Morgan Chase that makes the King not only the investor, but all the investors!
Gardener – What if King Morgan Chase invests in another kingdom, in the Kingdom of Enron, for example, and that Kingdom disappears like a ship at sea with everyone on board. King Morgan Chase is responsible, right, since the King and the King’s men didn’t see what the children saw, that King Enron was naked?
Writer – Theoretically speaking. While the King is actually one of the people, an investor in this case, the King is technically an artificial person,
Gardener – Which makes the King an artificial investor, in other words one that isn’t really taking the same risk as the real shareholders who’ve invested their life savings in the Kingdom or the real account holders who walk into the bank to deposit their real paychecks.
Writer – That’s true. And it would be hard to describe the King’s powerful CEO and Board as artificial. Indeed it’s difficult to separate a real person as powerful as Jamie Dimon from his artificial figure head, but technically JD is just one of the King’s reps.
Gardener – Who’s John Galt!
Writer – You’re right! Unbeknownst to the people of Egypt a stranger has become the King’s economic advisor.
Gardener – The man who interprets dreams!
Writer – Every time the economy goes from boom to bust we panic. We wait on the edge of our seats, wringing our hands. Reports of a brilliant idea crop up in the wastelands of every board room. Pundits with answers in bright lights appear on everyone’s TV screen then drop from sight like rotting fruit falling from a tree. The blog sphere radiates with virtual depth. Everyone is hoping to catch the camera’s eye. We can say anything we want and get away with it because it’s prime time and the best fairy tale wins.
Gardener – So Ayn Rand was right. During every crisis we look for a savior.
Writer – The man who can interpret dreams. Today our seers use graphs and spread sheets to predict trends. In ancient Rome they poked about inside the offerings on an altar. Nonetheless the outcome’s the same, a new interpretation of the same old story of what goes up must come down. The winds of media blow these brilliant new theories about the landscape. As we walk along deep in our troubled thoughts we find these curious seeds attached to our consciousness rooting. Ideas we can’t shake spell out cabals that support our suspicions: Big Government brought down the towers, Big Banks brought down the economy, Welfare brought down the taxpayer, Old Age brought down Medicare, and Social Security now orbits around our socialist state! No matter what we hear to the contrary, we shift all incoming data to fit the forecast sprouting from our unrest. Though the sun shines outside, a storm rages inside.
Gardener – I live by the seasons. I know when it’s cold and I know when it’s hot. I know when it rains and when it snows. When I come inside I find the air stuffy, the rooms too warm. The point is, no matter what the season, no matter what the weather I have to get out there and do my work or the job goes to hell, new trees die, the spring bedding thickens with weeds. There are no sick days for a gardener during the peak seasons. And did you ever hear a farmer tell his family, I’m tired today, I don’t think I’ll sow the grain or mow the hay today. I’m talking about the independent farmer, not one of the King’s farmers working on salary. The problem is that no matter how broken the economy we still have to go out and do our work. Only it gets harder. Harder to pay the bills, harder to buy equipment.
Writer – During the flush times we live well, but during poor times many of us fall by the wayside. We make do; we scrape by. As Adam Smith points out in Wealth Of Nations, Chapter VIII, Of Wages Of Labor, “The masters being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorizes, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen. . . In all such disputes the masters can hold out longer. . . Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month, scarce any a year without employment.” Has anything changed in the Kingdom since Adam Smith penned these words during the height of the Enlightenment? When pundits crab about the semantics of calling our neighbor who has a job and a house, the “near poor,” they forget that should one member of the neighbor’s family, the wife or the husband, or even one of the children living at home, lose their job then the whole precarious structure of family – that cherished word used by the Kings’ vassals – falls like a house of cards.
Gardener – Who’s John Galt!
Writer – Yet these vassals, our elected officials, tell us their Kings, for truly they’re not ours! can provide us with jobs! That’s why our tax money builds bridges and roads. To bring us to these Kings. It’s why trains and subways run from the suburbs and boroughs to the business center. When the Kings’ money is put to use to make these Kings more money, their vassals, our elected officials, tell us these capital gains won’t be taxed, because for some reason, as they reason, the labor that produced these profits was already taxed and shouldn’t be forwarded again to the investors! What folly! Even when we catch the Kings and all the Kings’ men pushing Humpty Dumpty, something that belongs to all of us, over the palace wall, our elected officials tell us it’s not the Kings’ fault the egg broke! “After all,” they say, “you and your neighbors shouldn’t have believed everything the Kings told you about buying the American dream on time. The Kings,” they tell us, “are ordinary citizens like you and me, albeit artificial citizens. Perhaps the Kings enjoy a good game of chance from time to time, after all, Kings will be Kings!” When we gather with our neighbors in public places and demand the return of Humpty Dumpty last seen being escorted by the Kings’ men to the palace wall, the Kings warn their vassals, our elected officials in Washington, “that government should be run like a business, but that government has no business meddling in business nor competing with business. Government in other words is there for business. If you try to regulate us,” they add, tugging on their purse strings, “we’ll kill employment.” The vassals shake. “Don’t worry,” they tell the Kings, salivating when they see the Kings’ money once more flowing into their election coffers, “we’ll eliminate regulations. And as a special bonus, we’ll cut the red tape. You can buy more kingdoms without oversight, sell drugs without testing and we’ll throw in off shore drilling!” When we, the people, cry “foul!” our elected officials remind us that patriotism begins at the cash register, not the voting booth. “You vote with your dollars. If you want to go on buying flat screen TVs and Computers and I-pods at cut rate prices on Black Friday, then stop worrying about your neighbor. It’s every neighbor for him or herself” “Our neighbor,” we ask, puzzled. “Because the Kings have found cheap labor overseas you can buy more for less. Think of the savings – plus you get coupons and credit card flyer miles!” “Forget about the flyer miles, what about our neighbor?” “You know who we mean,” reply the Kings’ vassals, pointing to those among us who are now behind in their mortgage payments. “If you know what’s good for you, stick to self-interest. Besides, as soon as we fire all state workers your neighbor can apply for one of our special government jobs cleaning your grandfather’s bed pan. So don’t join the chorus of do-gooders, plug in with your Pod and listen to the Kings’ Me-tunes. As you can see there’s nothing to worry about. We’re putting Humpty Dumpty back together again for a better tomorrow.”
Gardener – Only they can’t. There’s no Joseph, no John Galt, no superman to solve the big questions of the day.
Writer – Only the Gardener and the Writer and the rest of us occupying the margin!
Gardener – Ha!
Writer – The Kings’ vassals tell us that outsourcing government jobs saves the taxpayer ten dollars since the taxpayer had to pay the union worker twenty. When our neighbor applies to King Outsource for that government job cleaning the bedpans for old veterans, our neighbor is told he or she will be paid 10 dollars an hour which, according to the Kings and the Kings’ vassals, is now the fair market price for such work. “Who set the fair market price,” asks our neighbor, innocently. “The Market,” replies the King’s man reviewing #112’s application. “And what determines the market,” our neighbor asks stubbornly. “It’s based on supply and demand, one of the primary physical laws of the universe, second only to intelligent design,” replies the manager, growing testy. “It’s simple. When you’re needed we pay you more, but alas you saw what happened to Humpty Dumpty.” “I hear Humpty’s one of the disappeared,” our neighbor replies. “Well then, until we find out what happened to him, you can take this job or leave it.”
Gardener – Who is John Galt!
Writer – Later in a paper published by Murkydoc, an agent of the press, tapping the Kings’ phone lines, writes a sensational story about the whereabouts of the kidnapped Humpty. This story has a happy ending.
Gardener – Don’t tell me all the Kings’ men and all the Kings’ horses put Humpty Dumpty back together again?
Writer – Better than that. The Kings’ Ivy League university graduates, wearing pointed caps bearing stars and crescent moons. . .
Gardener – You mean the legal team?
Writer – Not exactly. More like specialists in creative writing, find written in Humpty’s scrambled remains the standards verifying the Kings’ market price. What the Kings and the vassals don’t tell us, the taxpayers, is that our elected officials, the Kings’ vassals are paying King Outsource the other ten dollars for supplying the Veterans Administration #112 to clean bed pans for old soldiers.
Gardener – Why would we pay a middle person like King Outsource to hire people we once hired directly through the VA?
Writer – That is the million dollar question in our land of make-believe. After all with twenty dollars our neighbor had the freedom to buy what he or she wanted.
Gardener – Within reason!
Writer – Not always, but more often than not, yes! Instead our neighbor with their four kids, a mortgaged house and bills to pay have become one of the Kings’ indentured servants. Many of these servants can no longer afford health insurance let alone the kind of health insurance the Kings’ vassals possess, one of the many perks and benefits of elected office.
Gardener – Perhaps our neighbor should run for elected office.
Writer – Not that the Kings’ vassals are without heart. Using our tax money they supply #112 with food stamps and Medicaid which leaves enough cash for #112 to buy a flat screen TV on Black Friday.
Gardener – I was going to suggest that my neighbor apply for a job at Bob’s Red Mill, but maybe making ten an hour with all these other perks is better.
Writer – Perhaps sitting on a sofa that’s seen better days, drinking cold beer while watching the Super Bowl is the peak pleasure our neighbor can expect from life but I believe our neighbor would prefer working where management respects the employees. The relationship between the managers and the employees might even help the company make a better product, an added bonus.
Gardener – Bob Moore and his wife Charlee didn’t set up the employee ownership program to enhance their public image.
Writer – You’re right. They don’t have to push the wagon before the horse. They don’t need the Kings’ creative writing team. We were buying Bob’s flours and grains long before we heard of the employee ownership program. But buying the product, now that we do know, makes it even more pleasurable. I like buying products from people who are invested in their own work. The Moores must feel the same thing, or they wouldn’t have conceived the plan.
Gardener – Too bad we’re not in the market for industrial carpets. Then we could be supporting Interface and Ray Anderson’s dream of an ecologically sustainable business.
Writer – But we can invest in Interface knowing that a customer buying this carpet is also contributing to a production process that isn’t using up non-renewal products like oil. Ray Anderson must have valued something other than his net worth. And Bob Moore doesn’t have to give millions to anonymous charities who are in charge of making our society a better place. He understands that the best way to help the nation is to value those you work with, those you live with and those who live around you. These aren’t the pieties preached by politicians, these are the verities many of us try to live by. It might even be in the best interests of a company to have employees who take an interest in each other. Such employees will not only make a better product but help improve production efficiency.
Gardener – And being the managers of the wealth they produce, they might be less likely to run up enormous debts.
Writer- I don’t know that. Like the Old Man said, give everyone the same amount of money, and it will all end up in the pockets of a few.

Footnotes:

The King didn’t know that the miller’s daughter couldn’t spin gold. TheGardenerReturnsPartFour

Remember in King Lear
Gardener Returns Four

to King Outsource
A Hidden Toll as States Shift to Contract Workers

the near poor
census-measures-those-not-quite-in-poverty-but-struggling

Bob’s Red Mill
The Gardener Returns, Part Four

Like the Old Man said, give everyone the same amount of money, and it will all end up in the pockets of a few.
WHERE THE WRITER INTRODUCES THE GARDENER TO THE ROCK PILE

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART FOUR

Gardener – No, no, no, we’ve lost sight of Adam Smith’s butcher, you know the butcher, the baker and the brewer. What’s become of them, of their self-interest?
Writer – Ahh yes, that butcher. It is comforting to think of our nation’s prosperity resting on his shoulders down on Main Street.
Gardener – Now that you’ve given up on John Galt.
Writer – I haven’t given up on JG completely. He’s not such a bad guy, you know. A little like Thomas Edison. Perhaps a tad too full of himself and a bit misguided with his faith in the power of the dollar sign. But once he settles down with Taggart and begins to raise a family he’ll realize as his children become teenagers that all the best laid plans for a prosperous world led by wizards like himself will falter around the family diner table. Kind of like waiting for Plato’s philosophers to guide us in utopia, and we all know what happened in Syracuse.
Gardener – I don’t know what you’re talking about!
Writer – In A History Of Greece, Chapter XV, Section 9, check out what J. B. Bury has to say about Plato’s visits to Syracuse. No, Main Street isn’t about superman but everyman. Naturally we benefit from the work of a genius, just the way we benefit from a rich man’s taxes or the economy benefits from his consumption of goods. But neither a genius, nor a rich man can compare to all the people combined. It might be less glamorous depending on a million citizens, who are either poor or middle class, buying key rings than a super star buying a gold ring; and it might be less impressive depending on the taxes from a million small paychecks to the single large million dollar check from a resentful billionaire; and it’s certainly not as clear hearing the collective voices of a million people, all with ideas of their own, than the occasional clarion voice of a genius, whose sudden appearance strikes us with awe; but in spite of appearances it’s the little people who make, move and consume the majority of goods and pay the most taxes that keep our economy running.
Gardener – Where would I be if the Youth had lost his way without strangers to guide him into the profession where he, that is me, finally made something of himself, that is, myself.
Writer – Oh great! What about me? The Youth wanted to be a writer, to be me! Can I help it if we possessed too many ideas and lacked certain useful skills.
Gardener – It doesn’t matter, you’re working now as you were when the Youth left. Just remember the Youth belongs to me too.
Writer – You’re right. He belongs to both of us.
Gardener – I mention him only because he would be among the many nameless people who are the majority seeking some kind of way to contribute to the universal good, and if we don’t listen to all these nameless folk, the nation . . .
Writer – The world!
Gardener – Yes the world, will not benefit from their potential contributions.
Writer- Well said, but let’s return from the grandiose to the everyday. Let’s imagine a summer morning, the elm trees along Main Street are in leaf. With deft hands stained with blood the butcher prepares Mrs. McGillicuddy’s pork chops. Next door the baker tells his two apprentices. . .
Gardener – Apprentices? When I was at Wave Hill we thought of using that word for our seasonal training positions, but we chose the word “intern” instead.
Writer – Alright, interns!
Gardener – Don’t get me wrong, we wanted to call them apprentices, but it seems that word reminded our fund raisers of manual labor. They wanted to elevate the novice gardeners to the level of doctors training in hospitals.
Writer – Labor unions would do well to encourage the training of young people going into the crafts.
Gardener – They do. You and I know a retired ironworker who teaches young people welding for New York Ironworkers locals apprenticeship program. I can’t believe you forgot.
Writer – Alright, let me finish! Where was I?
Gardener – The baker. . .
Writer – The baker tells the interns about the specials of the day. He’s tired. He wants to go home and sleep for a few hours. A few doors down the cobbler pounds away on the heel of an old shoe bringing it back to life.
Gardener – What cobbler?
Writer – Why, Main Street has to have a cobbler. You can’t forget the cobbler.
Gardener – Adam Smith talks about the brewer, not a cobbler.
Writer – We can infer that Smith included the cobbler. He takes the place of the brewer who has already moved on into folklore. Do you know any brewer’s on Main Street? We all know cobblers.
Gardener – You mean shoe repair person?
Writer – Yeah, shoe repair person but where’s the rusticity we need when speaking to our fellow Americans, that dreamy world where time has stopped and where these artisans on Main are doing their best to advance their personal interests while our mother . . .
Gardener – Don’t bring her into this! Adam Smith did not have her in mind!
Writer – How can I avoid bringing mom onto Main Street? Why I was just strolling down Main Street the other day. . .
Gardener – What in hell are you talking about? What main street?
Writer – Why the Main Street! “Main Street America” as the congressman from San Diego, Dare Say called it not long ago! As all the other representatives and senators and white house tenants and would-be tenants speak so fondly of, Main Street, USA! Isn’t that the name of every street in America? A street that threads it’s way through every home. That’s where we shop!
Gardener – Oh yeah, you mean the internet.
Writer – You’re getting way ahead of me. Don’t you remember mom taking the three kids down to Main Street? Those were the days! There’s Sussel the butcher, wiping his hands on his apron, leaning forward to hear mom’s question about the price per pound of a stewing chicken.
Gardener – I thought it was pork chops!
Writer – Why do you constantly interrupt me!
Gardener – You’re drifting through Currier and Ives. . .
Writer – The pork chops were for Mrs. McGillicuddy! Mom was looking for a chicken to stew.
Gardener – Forget I mentioned it!
Writer – So where was I, oh yes, from the baker, a dozen rolls, a baker’s dozen – white flour was a craze then.
Gardener – When’s then, 1860, 1890?
Writer – 1950s! It was a time when all of us down on Main Street were the unwitting but willing accomplices in the prosperity of the nation, each of us seeking out the better part of the bargain. . .
Gardener – Until the A&P bought out Sussel, the butcher, expanded his shop and started selling everything under one roof at bargain prices!
Writer – Sussel didn’t loose his job. He just started working for the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.
Gardener – Remember when the Youth and his girl moved to Geary and Chestnut in San Francisco in 1970?
Writer – Yeah, you mean the first time they ever shopped in a Safeway Supermarket.
Gardener – The aisles were at least ten feet across and the ceiling was as high as a cathedral. When they looked out the great picture windows by the cash registers the whole bay opened up, blue sky and blue water.
Writer – They’d never shopped in paradise before. A cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables. . .
Gardener – Artichokes from the artichoke center of the world, apricots and walnuts. . .
Writer – from the Imperial Valley seemed to spill onto the counters right before their eyes!
Gardener – Now days that’s nothing compared to Costco, where shoppers buy enough food to feed Washington’s army at Valley Forge!
Writer – Yes, and away we go, leaving Main Street for the shopping mall.
Gardener – And this is where the Internet Highway begins. Besides, all the elms on Main died of Dutch Elm disease.
Writer – Yes. The baker couldn’t pay his rent nor the room and board of his two
apprentices. . . interns. And the cobbler couldn’t feed his large family. The brewer, remember, gave up long ago because he couldn’t keep up with the mass production of the new pull-tab aluminum cans and closed shop.
Gardener – Thank god for today’s small independents, who’ve brought beer back from the brink!
Writers – That’s true. But these local independents aren’t the merchants or the manufacturers Adam Smith had in mind at the conclusion of Book I, Chapter XI entitled Rent Of Land. Nor are they property owners, like Congressman Dare Say from San Diego, who have always benefited from rising rents no matter what the state of the economy. They are closer to the wage earner, who depends on good times to prosper. In Smith’s time, the wage earner, whether working for a landowner as a farmer or a manufacturer as a laborer lived close to the subsistence level in good times and below it in bad times.
Gardener – Nothing’s changed.
Writer – During an economic downturn these merchants and manufacturers downsize, that is, they let people off or they lessen or eliminate the shareholders’ dividend or, as Congressman Dare Say’s company did, buy back shares at reduced rates from small investors before selling the company off at a better price to enhance their personal profit at the shareholder’s expense.
Gardener – It’s difficult seeing how a Congressman’s self-interest benefits the wealth of the nation.
Writer – For this reason Adam Smith adamantly states later on in Book IV, Chapter III, Part II of Wealth Of Nations and I quote him, “The capricious ambition of kings and ministers has not,” and I repeat, has not “ during the present and the preceding century,” – 1775 and Britain is about to lose its richest resource, the colonies – “been more fatal to the repose of Europe, than the impertinent jealousy of merchants and manufacturers. The violence and injustice of the rulers of mankind is an ancient evil, for which, I am afraid the nature of human affairs can scarce admit of a remedy. But the mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufacturers, who neither are, nor ought to be,” and I repeat, neither are nor ought to be “the rulers of mankind, though it cannot perhaps be corrected, may very easily be prevented from disturbing the tranquility of any body but themselves.” 365
Gardener – And how can they easily be prevented?
Writer – Regulations.
Gardener – Regulate self-interest?
Writer – In The Marketplace of Revolution, T. H. Breen makes a case how the new consumer culture brought on by the incipient Industrial Revolution, run by the very people Adam Smith describes, united the American colonists long before they became politically adept and helped them realize that England’s wealth depended on their consumption of goods. Because the majority of people were always short on cash, a credit system developed to encourage the consumption of goods. It began with the manufacturer giving credit to the middle man who gave it to the shopkeeper who finally gave it to the farmer up on the Hudson River, a chain of dependence. Only England, not acknowledging how much they depended on this continually growing consumption of goods, decided to tax the colonists. But no benefits, such as better roads, were derived from these taxes, nor did the colonists have any say in England about the use of these taxes. So what did the colonists do? Did they put tricorne hats on and shout for smaller government? Did they sit in parks calling for an end to Wall Street Greed? No, the weapon used by half the colonists to counter taxation without representation was to boycott the goods. This lead to the eventual revolution. Today we feel just as the early colonist felt, that it’s our inalienable rights to consume goods. But unlike the colonists who were new to factory made goods, we’ve been nurtured to buy stuff! When we say “don’t tread on me” we mean don’t tax me, because we’d rather have the freedom to use our tax money to buy a new TV or a sit-down lawnmower. Corporations couldn’t be happier. They tell their customers that if the government tries to regulate big business, people will lose their jobs and people will have to pay higher prices for their TVs and lawnmowers. And to help their proxies in government understand this, the Corporations use their gold to broadcast a message to one and all throughout the Kingdom of Capitalism. “People, you must take up your revolutionary cudgels again, tempered in the fires of the market place and boycott big government.” Naturally our elected leaders quake with fear and are quick to hand the government over to the Corporations making them King of the land. But King Corporation also has a generous heart. In return for following orders the King offers gold and pretty women and a round of golf on a Scottish Golf course to those congressional leaders who go forth and struggle against the socialist infidels who would smother capitalism under the stifling blanket of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Gardener – So no one regulates the King’s self-interest! King Corporation gets more gold and the miller’s daughter to boot!
Writer – You forget that the King and his vassals in government believe the King as well as all the vassals can self-regulate their own self-interest!
Gardener – Of course a good king will act in the best interests of his people, a bad king will act for himself.
Writer – The King knows what it wants. The King wants more gold to rule it’s world through fear and entertainment. John Galt saw that.
Gardener – But destroying Rumpelstiltskin was not in the King’s best-interest.
Writer – Nor in the best interest of his ministers in Congress. At the time it didn’t matter to the King how the miller’s daughter filled each room full of gold! Whether she ran a sweat shop of spinners or contracted a third world nation in Africa to produce the gold at any human cost. The King knew what it wanted and didn’t care how it got it.
Gardener – And whatever the King says our ministers in Congress nod their heads like bobble head dolls, believing every word.
Writer – But look at us, we too nod our heads out here in TV land, our ears plugged with sounds, our eyes glued to images on sets. When the King says we brought you the I-phone, we all babble, me, me, me.
Gardener – I wonder if the Queen ever came clean?
Writer – She didn’t have to. Because the King always knows what it wants and never questions that and the ministers never do their homework by checking up on the King or the Queen
Gardener – But we get hurt!
Writer – What happens when King Lear wants early retirement but finds the administrators of his security more interested in themselves than in him?
Gardener – I assume the King created security by fostering a healthy economy. . .
Writer – But the King’s vanity sows division and castes the nation into a civil war.
Gardener – Where innocent people die.
Writer – And when the energy Czar of Endrun hires Harvard geniuses without practical experience to administer the empire with their marvelous tall-tale bookkeeping?
Gardener – Innocent people lose their life savings.
Writer – Do we mention the fiefdom of Standard Poor who provided its liege of Endrun such high ratings before the paper tiger imploded?
Gardener – They saw what they wanted to see, like all the adults who couldn’t see the King was naked! To see the truth we need the eyes of a child!
Writer – What about the emperor Murkydoc and his son, the heir apparent, who rule their worldly kingdom of news with an iron fist then plead the impossibility of knowing what is being done in their name?
Gardener – We must guard our phones, guard our computers from their illegal intrusions.
Writer – And what about the kingdom of banks, the Sacking of Mensgold trying to squeeze the last dime out of the chimmering real estate market which they’ve insured against their inevitable holdings of worthless subprime papers?
Gardener – We, the people at the bottom of their pile of worthless paper, bailed them out! And what did we get in return?
Writer – The Great Recession.
Gardener – If these are the only models of success that King Corporation can follow then I’m taking my self-interest back to the garden before the season ends so I can do what I do best and that’s working alone!
Writer – You can’t hide from people. Beside there are dozens of economic models out there in the business world that differ from the King’s prevailing economic view that self-interest means attaining wealth, as practiced by its many CEOs. According to the King, who knows best what it wants, if we all should strive to be as wealthy as the King’s ministers and vassals, the economy will continue to grow ad infinitum, with only, as the King’s pundits crow, an occasional necessary adjustment. This of course is neither possible, nor desirable. Take Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods.
Gardener – We buy Red Mill flour!
Writer – Bob Moore and his wife Charlee, are the founders and part owners of a company that makes and distributes Bob’s Red Mill flours and grains, both organic and conventional. The company is over thirty years old with yearly revenues of more than 24 million dollars. Moore admits that Red Mill has had plenty of buyout offers. “. . . I had a choice. . .” is the way he put it in OregonLive.com, when asked about the future of the company. “But in my heart, I didn’t. These people,” referring to the company employees, “are far too good at their jobs for me to just sell it.” So he developed a plan with his partners by which the vested workers become the eventual owners of the company.
Gardener – Imagine that. And they said it couldn’t be done in the name of capitalism!
Writer – Yeah, so it’s easy to see how we support these manufacturing and ethical practices when we buy their goods. But how do we support a company that sells wall to wall industrial carpets we’ve never had the need to buy? In the case of Interface Global, the company founded by Ray Anderson, we have an example, beyond our personal economic reach, of a company with a global vision of using only renewable resources, something that benefits all of us. Somewhere during his tenure Anderson developed a strong belief in corporate responsibility not just to its clients or shareholders but to the environment which sustains all of us, neighbors and strangers. As a result he set out to change his company’s reliance on non sustainable ingredients derived from oil, with all its negative by-products for workers and strangers. He is quoted in Ray’s Legacy at Interface.com “ I wanted Interface, a company so oil-intensive you could think of it as an extension of the petrochemical industry, to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable—to shut down the smokestacks, close off its effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment and take nothing not easily renewed by the earth.”
Gardener – He takes self-interest to a new level.
Writer – We don’t buy industrial carpets, so we are the strangers who benefit from Anderson’s moral point of view. There’s no reciprocation.
Gardener – Well I congratulate the efforts of these two companies. But few set the tone where self-interest can be translated into a moral and ethical paradigm that improves the health and wealth of the entire world. These two examples sound like fairy tales.
Writer – These two examples prove that it can be done. No matter what the system – even one that establishes the mean where personal gratification is norm – many of us will work to improve the environment and the lives of those around us without expecting a material return.
Gardener – Like the person who stops to pick up the broken glass on the sidewalk instead of saying, “that’s not my job.”
Writer – Or like the person who doesn’t expect the soldiers who are working under him to do something he or she has never done him or herself, saying “I’m too important to fight.”
Gardener – Like the hawk, VP Chintzy, who claimed he was too important to be drafted into the Vietnam War.
Writer – We don’t expect others to do all the dirty work, because we’ve established a personal standard of what is good and what is right. We interpret self-interest as something that must satisfy this personal standard.
Gardener – You sound like that accountant who retired from the Long Island Railroad without beefing up his pension by faking a disability.
Writer – You mean Mr. Kueffner.
Gardener – Yeah, Mr. Kueffner. What was in it for him playing it ethically straight?
Writer – When Kueffner was asked why he didn’t take disability like everybody, he said: “I didn’t have a disability. . . I was doing a job that people do everywhere. I worked at a desk and I retired in good shape.”
Gardener – I think he is remarkable, because his moral gyroscope kept him balanced while working inside a permissive society. He knows the difference between right and wrong and that wrong has ramification somewhere down the line, whether it’s the honey pot running dry for younger generations or getting caught like Pooh Bear with his head stuck inside the pot.
Writer – I’ve never thought of Pooh Bear being greedy. In Winnie The Pooh A. A. Milne describes what Pooh experiences one day when he is taking a honey jar to his despondent friend, Eeyore for his birthday. “. . . a sort of funny feeling began to creep all over him. It began at the tip of his nose and trickled all through him and out at the soles of his feet. It was just as if somebody inside him were saying, “Now then, Pooh, time for a little something.” Tell me if that doesn’t describe me in a bookstore in front of an interesting book or you in a nursery among beautiful plants. It would be in our best-interests to not spend precious cash on yet another book I won’t be able to read in the next three years nor more specimens, no matter how unusual, which you’ll have to plant and water in addition to your already full list of chores.
Gardener – But Pooh always finds an excuse to look inside the jar and then it’s too late, he forgets himself and the next thing he realizes he’s eaten all the honey.
Writer – Not quite. There’s always a little bit at the bottom of the jar and that’s how he gets his head stuck in the jar!

END PART FOUR

Meta Description:

The Writer and the Gardener meet the unemployed butcher and baker and cobbler down on Main Street, where self-interest introduces the to King Corporation, then gives them a glimpse of the power of the consumer before taking them to the edge of the Kingdom of Capitalism where they find Pooh bear stumbling about, his head stuck inside the honey jar.

Footnotes:

New York Ironworkers locals apprenticeship program
http://www.nycironworkers.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=2

Congressman Dare Say

King Corporation gets more gold and the miller’s daughter to boot!
THE GARDENER RETURN, A DIALOGUE, PART THREE

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods. (http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2010/02/bobs_red_mill_natural_foods_ro.html

Interface Global, founded by Ray Anderson
http://www.interfaceglobal.com/

The Long Island Railroad pension/disability scandal

Adam Smith, Wealth Of Nations,
http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN1.html

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART THREE

Gardener – Harry Potter and John Galt? Isn’t that like apples and apricots?
Writer – The expression is apples and oranges.
Gardener – Whatever.
Writer – Ah, it’s good to be back.
Gardener – Yeah I thought I lost you there. So how can you compare them?
Writer – Compare what?
Gardener – Potter and Galt. You’ve never read Harry Potter!
Writer – But I finished Atlas Shrugged.
Gardener – Maybe you’re not back.
Writer – And I did see a Harry Potter movie.
Gardener – I don’t believe this! The Writer saw the movie but didn’t read the book!
Writer – It happens all the time. Think of all the movies we’ve seen without ever having read the original novels. But that’s not to say I won’t read a Harry Potter book. So many adults were reading J. K Rowling’s children’s books it turned me off. The escalation of the Potter myth through media and merchandise overwhelmed me. I tend to resist popular mercantile movements.
Gardener – Don’t I know it! But our wife, the English teacher and school librarian, says the Harry Potter books are well written.
Writer – And from what I’ve seen – seen, mind you, in a movie – Rowling’s imagination is vivid and without boundaries. She plucks imagery from every corner of mythology – the basilisk and the phoenix were crucial in the film I saw – then adds to her sauce concepts of her own making like muggles. . . although I wonder if she knows the Oxford Dictionary definition of muggle which is an old reference to marijuana? I doubt it since that would make the majority of us muggles potheads!
Gardener – Why anything? This is why. . .
Writer – Do you think we could find a corollary between Rand’s commoners and Rowling’s muggles? That would make the uncommoners magic folk. Dumbledore and Galt!
Gardener – This is why you never get anything written, every word’s a rabbit hole.
Writer – A writer wants to get the most out of a word. A writer of her intelligence wouldn’t forego such a link. I wonder if she drew Potter from Beatrix Potter, the creator of another microcosm.
Gardener – Stop it. We’ll never reach the end if we go on like this.
Writer – As if you don’t try getting the most visual impact out of each planting site!
Gardener – The way Lloyd did and Garret does at Great Dixter.
Writer – What disappointed our wife, the school librarian, was not Rowling’s craftsmanship but the publisher’s book bindings. The hardback books she ordered for the school library lasted two readings, before they unraveled and the kids began loosing the pages. She considered that too costly for a small school!
Gardener – For any school. Is that what you mean by the Harry Potter of Capitalism?
Writer – Isn’t money a kind of broom stick?
Gardener – Forget I asked.
Writer – Unless you work at controlling it you can’t ever get it to work for you. At James Taggert’s wedding party I heard Francisco d’Anconia’s effective sermon in response to the comment, “money is the root of all evil.”
Gardener – Keith Stuart, Keith Stuart, Keith . . .
Writer – I’m perfectly fine. I disliked the intellectuals in Atlas since they’re stupid and vain, preaching love while espousing an existential relativity. D’Anconia, like Dagny Taggart, was born into a wealthy family of industrialists. But unlike many of the industrials portrayed in Atlas he isn’t afraid of hard work. He describes money, and I quote him here from Part II, chapter II of Atlas Shrugged, as “a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.” In other words one can’t enjoy the things money can buy unless someone is making them.
Gardener – “Them” meaning book bindings.
Writer – In a limited sense. It’s in our self interest to go out and make things to the best of our ability so we can earn the capital to buy the things we want.
Gardener – We’ve been through this before. Adam Smith says same thing in Wealth Of Nations?
Writer – It’s quintessential Adam Smith. In that oft quoted section on the butcher, the brewer and the baker in Chapter II on the Division of Labor, he writes: “We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” Galt incorporates this line into his philosophy almost verbatim. But here’s the difficulty. Since humanity refers to all humans and self-love to a single member of humanity, at what point does self love, the avocation of the individual and the possible by-products of this independence, like creativity, become dangerous to the species. When does accumulation of wealth become more important than product, in other words, counter-productive? Smith addresses this, but not Galt.
Gardener – As when people with capital. . .
Writer – Investors.
Gardener – We’re all investors, we all have 401ks or the equivalent, willingly. . .
Writer – And unwittingly – as in all of us.
Gardener – Invest in combinations far removed from the original investment in a house or a factory. . .
Writer – Derivatives.
Gardener – Not knowing nor caring where our saving are invested, just to make more money.
Writer – Which brings us back to Bertie Scudder, the insipid intellectual, I heard at the party.
Gardener – Please, don’t say you heard him.
Writer – Oh yes, I heard him say, “money is the root of all evil,” by which we can infer, that he believes self-interest is greed. Why are you looking at me like that?
Gardener – You heard him say that?
Writer – Figuratively speaking.
Gardener – You did the same with Adam Smith.
Writer – Yes, I heard him too!
Gardener – Translate self-interest into greed.
Writer – I did?
Gardener – On the first reading of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.
Writer –But a second reading set me straight. Smith describes self-interest as beneficial to society. But as we discovered he believes that labor and management must advocate for their own self-interest. A nation thrives on the debate. When the nation gives way to pureline policies, it will eventually fail.
Gardener – But why did you unconsciously edit the text? Why did you replace self-interest or profit with “greed”?
Writer – I don’t know. The Oxford dictionary defines greed as an “intense or inordinate longing, especially for wealth or food, avarice, covetous desire.” In other words greed can lead us in the opposite direction of self-interest.
Gardener – As it did King Midas, who was by the way a rosarian.
Writer – We don’t know he was a rosarian!
Gardener – Herodotus says so.
Writer – Herodotus mentions the Gardens of Midas in The Persian Wars, Book VIII, chapter 38. He doesn’t say Midas was a gardener!
Gardener – You told me there were sweet roses with sixty petals a piece from which I gather that somebody was doing some hybridizing. Perhaps Midas wasn’t simply starving to death for lack of food which he couldn’t eat since food turned to gold on his tongue but was also starving aesthetically when the roses he touched lost their beautiful color and sweet redolence, that is, their value as roses.
Writer – Nicely said, gardener! One of the heroes in Atlas Shrugged is a banker by the name of Midas Mulligan.
Gardener – I suppose you heard him too!
Writer – Just the way you heard voices in the garden. Like many of the super heroes Mulligan openly appropriates the word used disparagingly by people to describe him. Rand is always torquing myths, which I like even if I don’t always agree with the results. King Midas learned from his experience that turning everything into gold had its down side. I think Midas Mulligan misses that point.
Gardener – What about the miller’s daughter?
Writer – The miller’s daughter?
Gardener – In Rumpelstiltskin.
Writer – According to the Grimm’s fairy tale, the miller is poor and needs to petition the king. It’s not enough that his daughter is beautiful. He also lies, says she can spin straw into gold.
Gardener – The king, used to getting what he wants, locks her up in a room with a spinning wheel and a pile of straw and tells her if she doesn’t turn the straw to gold by morning she’ll die.
Writer – So there she sits, sobbing, because her father wants to get in good with a king who wants more gold.
Gardener – That’s when the strange, little man appears.
Writer – And he’s the one who can spin straw into gold, not the miller’s daughter.
Gardener – I know that! That’s Rumpelstiltskin.
Writer – You said, “what about the miller’s daughter,” as if. . .
Gardener – It’s implied she can do what Midas did, make gold out of something common.
Writer – You’re losing me
Gardener – The little man will only help her if she gives him something in return.
Writer – Usually the man with that kind of power simply wants to use the woman. The Grimm brothers had a lot to say about the miller’s daughter in their scholarly work The German Legends.
Gardener – But this is a fairy tale. What can you give me in exchange for spinning gold, he asks her.
Writer – It can hardly be called a deal. She’s desperate. It’s more like leverage.
Gardener – A deal’s a deal. She gives him her necklace and he spins straw into gold thread. Next morning the king sees that the miller was right.
Writer – Yeah, but he’s not satisfied. He wants more.
Gardener – Why not, he has a woman who can spin gold out of straw.
Writer – He assumes she can do that!
Gardener – Nonetheless he locks her in a larger room full of straw for another night.
Writer – And the little man returns.
Gardener – He’s like a child, not someone executing arbitrage. He wants to make another deal. This time she gives him her ring and he goes to work.
Writer – But the king is besotted with desire for more. He locks her in an even larger room full of straw for the third night, promising her he’ll marry her if she spins it all into gold.
Gardener – The problem is she has nothing to offer the little man in return. But he tells her that when she’s queen, she can give him her first born child in exchange for his services.
Writer – In other words she’ll buy his services on time.
Gardener – Precisely. She realizes there is no future without her producing a room full of gold, so she agrees. What does it matter? She’s out on the limb as she can go. It’s life or death.
Writer – The manikin’s betting on her becoming queen and having a child.
Gardener – He may be spinning gold for nothing.
Writer –More likely he’s hedged his chances through clairvoyant means.
Gardener – No, it’s double or nothing. We can’t prove he had inside knowledge. He’s like a child who isn’t afraid of the future.
Writer – Or simply lives in the present. Nevertheless when the king sees the gold he’s made. . .
Gardener – She’s made!
Writer – He’s ecstatic. He marries the golden girl. By all accounts, everyone is happy.
Gardener – Which bring to mind the Stockholm syndrome.
Writer – An interesting point. Anyway the king has his gold and a beautiful wife and the miller is now the king’s father-in-law and his daughter’s the queen.
Gardener – But not through her own connivance! She’s a victim.
Writer – She’s the queen!
Gardener – The day comes when she gives birth to a beautiful baby girl. Now her little man in shinning armor returns.
Writer – He’s not prince charming. This is not that kind of story. After all, she’s married to the king.
Gardener – But the little man is the producer of her wealth and he expects to be paid for his efforts.
Writer – So you agree! Rumpelstiltskin made the gold.
Gardener – No, she produced the gold the same way the CEO of GM produces cars.
Writer – Clever. No doubt she cries piteously.
Gardener – Her tears brought the little man to her aid in the first place.
Writer – She’s discovered that her daughter is more valuable than her own life, is more valuable than all the gold the little man produced for the king.
Gardener – No, he produced it for her! But the little man is not without heart.
Writer – You meaning feeling. A fatal flaw according to John Galt.
Gardener – He was never after gold since he could produce it so easily. He pitied her.
Writer – Maybe he’s a dirty old man who likes children.
Gardener – No, you’re a dirty old man!
Writer – Not me!
Gardener – Nine months ago when her life was on the limb he came through for her. But a deal’s a deal and now she must pay up or continue the game.
Writer – You’re twisting the story the way Ragnar Danneskjold, in Part II, Chapter VII, twisted the tale of Robin Hood that night he met Reardon on Edgewood Road.
Gardener – The little man offers her a way out, not an easy one but at least another opportunity to get something for nothing.
Writer – Now it’s a game of jeopardy.
Gardener – He tells her that she can keep her child if in three days she can guess his name. He gains nothing from this extension on his loan. He doesn’t take out an insurance policy against the possible loss. He could lose everything.
Writer – You’re right, because now she is the queen with all the services of the government at her disposal. By agreeing to this derivative, which has little to do with the original exchange, she buys more time. Using the king’s agents she scours the kingdom for clues. But by the end of the second day she’s not discovered it. The little man is ecstatic.
Gardener – He’s enjoying the contest. He could have blackmailed her. After all she doesn’t have the golden touch. He does! She’s queen because he worked three long nights spinning rooms’ full of straw into gold. For him it was producing what he promised in exchange for something he valued. It has nothing to do with depriving her of her child but of negotiating a settlement to which she had agreed.
Writer – We know the ending. He over played his hand.
Gardener – On the last night before the game is up, a queen’s agent is wandering through the woods and sees a light among the trees. Inside a small cottage where a fire is roaring, the little man is dancing happily around the room singing a song wherein the final lyric reveals his name.
Writer – Next day the queen confidently plays with the little man, pretending to guess his name in vain until at last she says, perhaps it’s Rumpelstiltskin.
Gardener – He’s shocked. In his innocence he handed her the power to steal his identity.
Writer –It was a matter of life and death for her, just a game for him.
Gardener – In his frustration he dances furiously an augur until the ground gives way and he disappears.
Writer – Now what about the miller’s daughter?
Gardener – Did she, like Midas, learn from the little man’s power to turn straw into gold?
Writer – Assuming that she was the unwitting victim of her father’s foolish ambitions and the king’s greed she has learned about survival.
Gardener – So the manikin is the loser.
Writer – He was a fool.
Gardener – He was innocent, offering the miller’s daughter ample opportunity to redeem her debt. He saved her from death. He didn’t rig the system, which he could have, having that kind of power to prevent personal loss.
Writer – Galt would say Rumple, being a producer of wealth is sacrificed to the moochers and the looters. Like King Lear he foolishly gives away his power.
Gardener – King Lear? That’s not a fairy tale.
Writer – Lear gives away his kingdom to his daughters in exchange for avowals of love.
Gardener – King Lear produces nothing; Rumpelstiltskin produces gold.
Writer – Lear, as king, is supposed to secure prosperity for all the people in the nation. Perhaps Lear’s honest daughter, Cordelia, is the real fool, telling the truth rather than telling the old man what he wants to hear.
Gardener – You’re blaming Cordelia?
Writer – The result of her honesty is civil war. Innocent people are killed!
Gardener – She’s a victim of the king’s pride.
Writer – Her honesty is detrimental to her self-interest. Only a fool would tell the king, her father, what he obviously doesn’t want to hear.
Gardener – Then everyone’s a fool! The king’s a fool because he gives away the kingdom to those who obviously lie. Cordelia’s a fool because she tells the king what he obviously doesn’t want to hear, and her two sisters, Goneril and Regan are fools because, at the height of their power, they fall in love with an obvious conniver, Edmond.
Writer- You have to admit it would make a great soap opera on day time TV. Shakespeare for the masses.
Gardener – Only at first Goneril and Regan are no more conniving than the miller’s daughter. They simply tell their father, the king, what he wants to hear.
Writer – You can’t compare the king’s two daughters with the miller’s daughter.
Gardener – Absolutely not, because one is Shakespeare and the other a fairy tale.
Writer – It would seem Goneril and Regan at first act according to their self interest, then foolishly against it. Which proves your point that we’re all fools.
Gardener – No, no, I didn’t mean it in that universal way. I don’t believe everyone’s a fool, not in real life. There are those who pretend to be fools to survive in a world of fools.
Writer – Ah like the professional Fool, who accompanies the king, and Edgar, the legal son of the king’s advisor, Earl of Gloucester.
Gardener – And some of us who are just gullible.
Writer – Gulliver?
Gardener – Gullible, like Edgar, the legal son of the King’s advisor. Gullible Ed believes his half brother Edmond’s stories and flees the imagined wrath of his father, the Earl of Gloucester.
Writer – Then it seems everybody’s gullible from the king who believes his two lying daughters right down through the governing body. The Earl believes the stories his bastard son, Edmond tells him of his legal son, Edgar.
Gardener – Not everybody. Cordelia, the king’s Fool and the bastard, Edmond are not gullible.
Writer – Then how can Edgar, who pretends to be a fool, be gullible? Pretense would indicate craft which seems to me to require intelligence, something I wouldn’t expect from a gullible nature.
Gardener – Anyone can be blind to the truth. Take the gardener who wants to grow plants culturally unsuitable to his garden environment. He wants roses even though he lives in shade. Or he wants a lawn although he lives in the desert. It happens all the time.
Writer – Adam Smith, in Book IV, Chapter II of Wealth of Nations, describes a good wine made from grapes grown in hot houses in Scotland “at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries;” but he states emphatically it wouldn’t justify a tariff preventing the import of those wines. In other words, it would be foolish.
Gardener – True, but if someone with a keen idea of what he or she wants was to promote the idea, through advertisements, to those of us who don’t have a vested interest, it’s possible to convince anyone that such wine is worth every penny.
Writer – Not if you have to pay for it with half your wages.
Gardener – Isn’t that why we have credit? During the Dutch Golden Age, a single tulip bulb could be bought on a fortune of promissory notes.
Writer – The blindfold that shimmers like a billfold.
Gardener – We are willingly duped.
Writer – I assume our leaders in government, who don’t believe in taxing the wealthy, expect the wealthy will buy expensive wines to sustain the economy.
Gardener – Or tulip bulbs!
Writer – So blind Edgar was the willing if unwitting victim of brother Edmond’s plot to get rid of him. . .
Gardener – As was Gloucester, his father, who is blinded by Regan, one of the King’s evil daughters.
Writer – Yes, but Cordelia who can see the value of words, knowingly steps into her father’s unwitting trap since he had no design to get rid of her. As I said before it wasn’t in Cordelia’s self interest to tell the truth.
Gardener – But is it to Edmond’s advantage to lie since he too dies in the end when Edgar the Vindicated returns?
Writer – Which way to turn! We’ve come to a conundrum.
Gardener – And we’ve lost sight of the butcher, the baker and the brewer?
Writer – I don’t recall a butcher, much less a baker and a brewer in King Lear?

Meta Description:

The Writer and the Gardener find common threads linking Atlas Shrugged, vis-à-vis the effects of self-love on the human race, to the Harry Potter books, the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale and King Lear, the play.

Footnotes:

Keith Stuart, Trustee of the Toolroom
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trustee_from_the_Toolroom

We’ve been this way before.
I:1 WHERE THE GARDENER FAILS TO MOLLIFY THE WRITER WHO DECRIES THE NOTORIOUS PURE LINE DISCOVERED BY THE YOUTH IN HIS BALLAD OF THE BANKBOOK

Adam Smith, Wealth Of Nations, Division of Labor, Chap II
http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN1.html

Stockholm Syndrome
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART TWO

Gardener – Mr. Tompkins! What does he have to do with this?
Writer – Absolutely nothing. That’s my point.
Gardener – What is your point?
Writer – Gamow is talking theory.
Gardener – George Gamow, the physicist?
Writer – In fact the original Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland which the Youth read after hearing the Cosmic Evolution lecture series at the San Francisco Exploratorium, was rewritten a little more than a decade ago by Russell Stannard, with many chapters completely altered, since new theory made old theory obsolete. Science depends on a shimmering hypothesis. It’s not dependable. And the data is open to interpretation, like history and fiction, although in these cases a hypothesis might be called a premise. That’s why no one agrees on climate change.
Gardener – I can’t see why anyone denies the possibility that increased fuel emissions from cars during the past century and from factories since the birth of the Industrial Revolution along with the loss of forests world wide causes climate change? The combination has to effect something! Sticking one’s head in the sand isn’t a good prerogative.
Writer – Why does the conclusion have to be negative? The Earth has heated up and cooled off before. It could be a cycle.
Gardener – We are not moles digging blindly through the earth unaware that the ground above could cave in. We can imagine the possible ramifications of our activities. Why not view the data as an opportunity to retool the machine and create a better product. While your political geniuses clamor to cap the debt to ensure our children a debt free future, they claim that regulating fuel emissions hurts business and employment today and should be abandoned. The only immediate gain is financial.
Writer – It’s human nature to preserve one’s own interests. Remember what Adam Smith said!
Gardener – I can’t believe how you’ve changed. You forgot that he also said that one group’s self-interest can be detrimental to another. Therefore it’s important that all participating groups protect their own interest. And this is why the elected representatives of government must mediate through law.
Writer – I recall something like that, but Adam Smith also said that the business person knows what he or she wants, he or she wants to make money. Yes, he said that too! Since then I’ve learned that the only objective mind is the business mind. Making money is practical.
Gardener – And so is working with one’s hands.
Writer – Please, don’t interrupted me with you emotional concerns! All I wanted to say before was that Galt, unlike Gamow, is practical.
Gardener –You’re comparing a real physicist with a character in a novel? Mr. Tompkins would be more appropriate.
Writer – Mr. Tompkins is no more real than Alice in Wonderland. But anyone of us could be Galt. I mean that’s impossible too, for most of us, but we can strive for that ideal.
Gardener – But aren’t we all Mr. Tompkins, the everyday man.
Writer – I don’t want to be a Tompkins pulled hither and thither by the forces of nature. I want to be Galt, two feet placed firmly on terra cognita, an action hero!
Gardener – Earlier you told me he was the most boring character in the book, all talk, no action.
Writer – That’s true. The real action hero in the book turns out to be a philosopher.
Gardener – You’re crazy! And that must make me just as crazy.
Writer – You’re deluded, that’s all. So was I. This philosopher, Ragnar Danneskjold was a student of Professor Hugh Akston, the Hugh Akston of Patrick Henry University. Ragnar puts aside his studies in Aristotle and becomes a renegade who sinks all the cargo ships belonging to the moochers.
Gardener – A terrorist.
Writer – Well, he’d consider big government, the friend of incompetents, the terrorist. But he’s not a renegade like the Robin Hood our Youth knew, the popular hero with his merry band helping the needy. I’ve since learned that he was a bandito for the freeloaders, who were needy because they didn’t want to work. . .
Gardener – Why did I come in?
Writer – They expect the hard working suckers to support them.
Gardener – You mean the Sherriff of Nottingham is protecting the hard working sucker?
Writer – Well, you have to admit, it’s an interesting idea. But we’re wasting time here. The heroine was warned, just the way I‘m warning you. The moochers and the looters will take your hard work in the garden and use it to their own advantage. Don’t you resent that?
Gardener – Resent what?
Writer – Being used!
Gardener – Besides one or two bad apples. . .
Writer – Do you know what a bad apple looks like?
Gardener – Anyone can be a bad apple.
Writer – Absolutely not! You know an incompetent moocher when you see one by their dull, watery eyes.
Gardener – And the heroes by their clear, sharp eyes.
Writer – Yes! So you’ve heard the voices too!
Gardener – Yes, I’ve been hearing them, that’s why I came in!
Writer – I knew it!
Gardener – But I was safer out there.
Writer – Listen to them. As long as there are freeloaders, your hard work is for nothing.
Gardener – The search for Eden is hopeless!
Writer –It hurts at first, but resistance is useless. They exposed my old wounds, wounds I forgot I even had, wounds received back in the early days of the Youth.
Gardener – I’ve been seeking a place in a landscape the Youth once passed through. Sometimes I see it in the light falling through the trees or when a small leaf grows in front of a larger one in contrast. Is it the shadow it throws that kindles some inner reception? Or is it a scent that leads me back in a flash as I ricochet through the creative process. I know I can’t find this childhood place but it’s important I keep trying because this creation will be your garden of Eden as well as mine.
Writer – Give up the work. The freeloaders will sacrifice you to their own ends.
Gardener – I was always under the impression that we were expulsed from the Garden because of our own inadequacies. A vanity on the part of one, a gullibility on the part of the other. Recently after an hour of working in the garden this anger creeps into my hands. They become like stone. I hear someone saying, why bother.
Writer – Yes, why bother!
Gardener – It’s just a voice. I don’t see anyone. I hear it again. This time the voice whispers, who cares.
Writer – No one! That’s just the point.
Gardener – I shrug it off. I go on weeding, pruning, my dream of Eden once more in my hands, but little by little new voices begin clamoring.
Writer – That’s them. They are relentless!
Gardener – They sound like my neighbors, only I know that can’t be true because I’m in the garden all alone. I’m always alone. But I can hear them whispering. We don’t want your arboretum. It’s not mine, I reply. We want a bench! We want to sit and read. That’s reasonable, I reply. I don’t want to read, someone shouts. I want to listen to my radio! Yeah, and I want to use my cell phone! They all start shouting at once. We have our rights! Yeah, we pay maintenance, too! I quite them. I hear the birds again, but then along they come again, words with feet. Why are you cutting down the old Mulberries? Don’t you like trees? They’re old, they will fall, I explain. So what? Let them fall, that’s nature. Yes, kids need trees to climb, the way I did when I was a boy! A little girl cries, don’t hurt the trees, they have rights, too.
Writer – What little girl?
Gardener – I don’t know, it’s all in my head.
Writer – In your head?
Gardener – I want to hide. This time new words fill the air, new faces appear.
Writer – You see faces too?
Gardener – I see them in my head.
Writer – In your head?
Gardener – But they’re people I know, real people.
Writer – John Galt’s enemies!
Gardener – No, not John Galt’s enemies, just shareholders, like you and me, that’s all.
Writer – But they’re crowding around you!
Gardener – Yes. They say I’m planting a forest! A garden needs structure, I tell them, to look as good in winter as in summer. Green shrubs, how boring! I struggle to explain how in winter, the structure remains. Who cares about a garden in winter, they cry! Evergreens help an urban landscape. Yeah? So why did you move the evergreen hedge in front of my building? To break up the symmetry, I reply; symmetry’s hard to maintain. No, they shout, you don’t like flowers. Yeah, we want flowers! Yeah, we know something about gardening too! You’re not the only one! Why do you get the last word? We want perennials! We want annuals! I’m standing there like a fool. Who’ll weed through all the perennials and annuals, I ask. We will, they shout! But I know they won’t. I’m arguing with shadows. Oh now and then, they’ll come out, when the time suits them. They consider gardening a hobby. But it’s an avocation, a calling. That’s when I look up from the earth wondering if I’m talking out loud. That’s when I realize I’ve lost my touch. The earth is remote, distant, I can’t reach this mother of mine. When someone passes by, I see the enemy where once I saw a friend. Why aren’t you helping me I want to ask. Instead I lose my voice. I return here and find you.
Writer – I had no idea you were so angry. You’re always smiling, always cheerful.
Gardener – I want to work and I’m good at it, it’s my specialty. If I gave it up what would I do?
Writer – That’s the hardest part about going on strike!
Gardener – Stop working in paradise? That’s what work is, when you like it, it’s paradise.
Writer – That’s why leaving it is so hard. But listen, most everyone appreciates your work.
Gardener – Yes, yes, most everyone. Only a few complain. I don’t know why I can’t hear those who compliment my work. There are more of them than the others. Maybe I take them for granted and want to be please everyone.
Writer – Galt told me I didn’t have to worry about the feelings of others.
Gardener – I realize some folks can’t come out and weed. They’re busy raising kids, going to work to make a living. But as the afternoon draws on the few grumblers multiply inside my head. Soon everybody’s against me. I lose my resolve. I feel my work’s not appreciated. No one cares. So I flee the garden.
Writer – You disappear.
Gardener – I want to blame you, cooped up in here, crushing rock.
Writer – I told you the rock of this new world is uncrushable. In fact I’m beginning to see it’s more like plastic, instead of breaking, it’s easily shaped.
Gardener – But I can’t blame you for everything. So I blame everyone! It’s easier that way. And then I think about the yellow dahlia.
Writer – What dahlia?
Gardener – The yellow dahlia I planted outside the E building last August. It came back!
Writer – So what?
Gardener – They’re not hardy this far north. We have to dig them from the ground in late Autumn and store them in a cool place for the winter. I wanted to see if it would overwinter in the ground near one of our buildings. It looks nice growing in front of the B building.
Writer – You said it was outside the E building.
Gardener – Well yeah but once it came up I moved it to the B building. In its place I planted Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion,’ which we bought this June. It also has yellow flowers but the leaves are dark which contrast nicely with the yellow leaves of Cana pretoria. It’s one of the Bishop’s children.
Writer – The Bishop’s children?
Gardener – ‘Bishop of Landaff,’ one of my favorite dahlias. Last January I ordered three tubers.
Writer – I thought you wanted to see if the yellow dahlia survived the winter?
Gardener – That’s right.
Writer – Then what’s all this talk about wanting to see if a dahlia would make it through the winter?
Gardener – After we moved here, I discovered Zantedeschia rehmannii – that’s a calla lily – growing in the narrow bed along the east side of the E building. It came up the following year and every year since. I tried the Canas and they made it. So I knew the Dahlia would return.
Writer – You mean on that assumption you spent co-op funds before you had actual proof? What if it hadn’t come up?
Gardener – I knew it would! We’re growing the three Bishop in the south bed in front of the B building, not far from the nameless yellow and another ‘Mystic Illusion.’ And this year we’re experimenting with bananas!
Writer – Look how easy it is so for you to gateway back to Eden. Once more you are happy. But in spite of your confidence, I still find it difficult understanding how we became lords over the world, it’s more than a matter of planting dahlias.
Gardener – You mean “we” as incompetents or just you and me?
Writer – As in Homo sapiens who seem predominantly incompetent!
Gardener – We didn’t. If anything we just became conscious of the world.
Writer – Do you really believe that we’re conscious of it? The superheroes yes, but. . .
Gardener – Anyway it doesn’t matter. The Hexapoda will always remain ahead of our foolery.
Writer – Hexapoda?
Gardener – No matter how many times we spray them they keep ahead of our strategies by their sheer numbers. And now your geniuses are genetically altering the food we eat so our food kills the insects and the weeds before we take a bite. Doesn’t sound like a good game plan to me!
Writer – Galt said it would get worse! Can’t you see? The dark news keeps piling up year after year like last year’s winter snow.
Gardener – That snow plus the corrosive de-icers used on the sidewalks wreaked havoc on the evergreens!
Writer – What evergreens?
Gardener – The junipers in front of C building. Every time it snowed, the de-icers were thrown down to melt the snow. Then the snow was piled up on the junipers and burned the hell out of them.
Writer – I’m not talking about de-icers! I’m wondering how bad it will get.
Gardener – I recommended Calcium magnesium acetate. We used it successfully at Wave Hill. They use it on airport runways to prevent salt corrosion on the landing gears.
Writer – Where is John Galt?
Gardener – Management said it was too expensive. When you consider the cost of repairing sidewalks and edges and buying new plants you have to wonder how using sodium or calcium chloride saves anything.
Writer – Forget about your garden. I’m talking about spewing deep sea oil wells. . .
Gardener – That was last summer.
Writer – Sucked into the ocean as if swept under the rug! Galt warned me. The infrastructure would fail. Look what happened to the nuclear reactor at Fukushima?
Gardener – Wasn’t it hubris that caused these failures?
Writer – Hubris? Without competent, hands-on, management these failures were assured.
Gardener – What if a top manager acts as if he or she is John Galt?
Writer – The John Galt?
Gardener – It’s possible. Haven’t you been reading about Murkydoc, the newspaper baron, and his son over in London where they hacked the phone of a murdered thirteen year old?
Writer – Who hasn’t?
Gardener – When they testified before parliament they made the distinction between top management and middle management.
Writer – But they didn’t hack her phone, their underlings did. How can the president of a giant corporation and his son know what middle management is doing? Last year the company employed 51,000 people!
Gardener – That’s exactly what Murkydoc told Parliament. But then how can Murkydoc claim in the next breath that he’s the best person to get to the bottom of his own company’s hacking scandal! By his own reasoning he’s too high up to see over his belt the shit on his shoes.
Writer – That proves he’s not John Galt?
Gardener – Well, John Galt or not, top management is competent at something. Whether they’re heads of a news agency or an investment firm they know how to make money, hand over fist at our expense.
Writer – Galt said they had friends in Washington.
Gardener – Murkydoc and son have friends in London and Washington!
Writer – Galt warned me it would get . . .
Gardener – Worse before it got better.
Writer – That’s right. They’re waiting for the lights of New York to go out.
Gardener – The lights of New York have gone out many times. And gone on again!
Writer – This will be different. This time the competents will return to save the world and the $ will reign a thousand years.
Gardener – I’d say money already has reigned thousands of years. But how many will suffer waiting their apocalyptic return?
Writer – It’s not our fault a tsunami took out the ill-conceived Fukushima?
Gardener – Does fault matter when the radioactive fallout effects everyone including the competents toughing it out in Shangri-la?
Writer – You’re right. So how can I, waiting on the margin, stem the tide!
Gardener – It’s not about you!
Writer – Did I say it was about me?
Gardener – You just said you can’t stem the tide. Is that your job? Are you the hero?
Writer – No, John Galt is the hero, not me. I’m just a commoner.
Gardener – I saw people wearing T-shirts that said “I’m John Galt.” Do you think they’re capable of solving all our problems? Do you think we can trust any one man or woman or group, especially somebody who wants the system to completely collapse before they take over!
Writer – Don’t think I haven’t thought about all this! I just heard of another voice,
who. .
Gardener – You read books like a seer reads stars.
Writer – I mean, he’s dead now, but new to me.
Gardener – Another table knocking voice from the grave?
Writer – Very funny. But I’m discouraged! He’s already said it.
Gardener – Said what?
Writer – Everything! There’s nothing left for me to say.
Gardener – Nothing left for you to say? You sound like one of my garden gnomes.
Writer – It’s all been said before!
Gardener – Remember the Dahlia! Gardeners have been growing ‘Bishop of Landaff’ long before I ever heard of it. Does that mean I shouldn’t grow it? Treseder. . .
Writer – I think he’s Brechtian. . .
Gardener – No, he’s British.
Writer – The idea is to remain objective.
Gardener – No, the idea is to be ravished!
Writer – Now I’m confused!
Gardener – ‘Landaff’s’ beauty continues to be the standard!
Writer – Landaff?
Gardener – The ‘Bishop of Landaff.’ Treseder crossed Dahlia coccinea with Dahlia pinnata in 1924. In 1928, it won the Royal Horticulture Society merit award. It’s considered one of the best hybridized plants grown in the last two centuries.
Writer – Who are you talking about?
Gardener – The hybridizer, Stephen Treseder of Cardiff, Wales. My two mentors, Stufano and Nally, first saw the Bishop at Sissinghurst in the early eighties. The gardener there wouldn’t give them cuttings so we had to wait until Cruickshank in Canada carried it. Now it’s readily available.
Writer – I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m talking about David Foster Wallace.
Gardener – Who’s that?
Writer – The writer I was just telling you about!
Gardener – Oh! The voice from the grave?
Writer – He seems like a voice I need to hear.
Gardener – You haven’t read any of his work?
Writer – No, I read the reviews of his new novel, The Pale King.
Gardener – I thought he was dead?
Writer – He was writing it when he committed suicide.
Gardener – Suicide? So he didn’t finish it.
Writer – I don’t know if he finished it. His novel is being published posthumously.
Gardener – So how do you know that you and he have a similar axe to grind.
Writer – That’s what I meant to say, axe to grind, we’re fighting the same demons, he was a warrior against futility.
Gardener – So how do you know since you haven’t read his work?
Writer – I don’t know. I just read the reviews and Wikipedia and other stuff.
Gardener – Secondary bulshit. I thought you advocate primary sources.
Writer – Every day a new primary source is added to my list. Wallace is the latest. The list is getting too long. I can’t keep up.
Gardener – Can fiction be a primary source?
Writer – It’s someone’s view of reality, as opposed to someone’s view of someone’s view of reality. And you don’t need footnotes when writing fiction.
Gardener –Why am I here talking to you? I’ve got weeding to do and pruning!
Writer – You were driven from the garden. Besides, I depend on you.
Gardener – You’re plummeting like a meteor and you’re dragging me down with you. I almost lost it. You have to hang in there like all the rest of us!
Writer – You’re outside, in the sun, the fresh air, our Eden of Inwood, you’ve got the best part of our perfect life!
Gardener – You sound like all the rest!
Writer – Don’t get angry.
Gardener – Don’t take my work for granted!
Writer – I’m sorry. Doesn’t the work get easier now?
Gardener – We’re talking 2 plus acres, dude. We brought in three hundred and twenty yards of mulch and hired a garden crew to spread it near the end of July! But a couple of million weed seeds still made it into the ground by mid July. We spread one batch on the hottest day of the year, 104 degrees! People started complaining about the smell of fermenting woodchips, only they, and I don’t mean my garden gnomes, said we were spreading industrial strength fertilizer, yak – yak!
Writer – No wonder you hear voices. But don’t think sitting on my ass listening to my voices is any easier than you standing on your feet listening to yours!
Writer –We’ll never win.
Writer – You have to admit there’s a difference between the problems of a small garden and those of the world !
Gardener – All winter while you fret over the state of the world, I looked out the window wondering if I’ll make it to spring.
Writer – Am I like Mrs. Pardiggle?
Gardener – I don’t care! Sitting with you my own dreams become too big for me.
Writer – You sound like Daggy Taggart, the most interesting character in the book.
Gardener – My life is not in one of your books!
Writer – But it is! She’s walking along a railroad track in the middle of nowhere trying to reach an emergency phone and realizes, let me see, I have it right here, “what an enormous distance five miles had suddenly become, and that a division point thirty miles away was now unattainable – after an era of railroads built by men who thought in thousands of transcontinental miles.” This happens near the end of Part II.
Gardener – I don’t live your books.
Writer – Books enrich our lives.
Gardener – I want the energy I used to feel in the garden. If I can’t go back, I’ll wither.
Writer – Books are a network that connects us. They nourish us.
Gardener – Can you speak the language of fungi! The fungi live in the mulch. They too connect and their knowledge is without words. When my hands know what to do then my eyes brighten like a child’s.
Writer – Exactly what the uncommoners told me!
Gardener – Your voices wouldn’t recognize the fungi.
Writer – You might be right there. The narrator is certainly dismissive of soybeans and they’re now, in their genetically modified way, feeding the world
Gardener – Your voices believe in a pyramid where humans preside at the top and the uncommon preside over humans and everything else. But I see all the possibilities in the landscape, because the landscape and I are dancing as one. Everything is attuned to the perfection of an ideal. But it’s my ideal, only it belongs to a large puzzle in which every piece represents someone else’s ideal and all of them must be set in place to create one world where we can all dance, the short and the tall, the fat and the skinny, the common and the uncommon. I have no interest in voices who claim all the answers.
Writer – When I started reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand I was overwhelmed by a tremendous lethargy. . .
Gardener – Is that what you’ve been reading?
Writer – I just finished it.
Gardener – That explains your voices, and mine.
Writer – At first I felt my head was a block of wood. With sweeping dogmatic strokes, the author pounded her idea of good and evil like a nail into my head. You’re right it’s difficult listening to voices who always think they’re right. Galt never questions his own motive power, to use one of his favorite expressions. Actually all the heroes talk a language they’ve learned from Galt’s philosophical mentor, Professor Askston. I seem to be waking up from his spell. If someone is doubt free, would he or she take the time to “check their premises,” another favorite phrase of the uncommon.
Gardener – You look better. Maybe this is why Galt appeals to people, after all, he knows all the answers. In the garden it’s just the opposite with me. I see too many possibilities which confuses me at first.
Writer – You’re right. The only people who know all the answers are politicians in front of a camera. Aristotle’s most famous student, Alexander the Great, never questioned his reasons for conquering the world. I was with the Youth when he trudged though J. B. Bury’s History of Greece. He and his lady were living in San Jose, California. The text was cut and dry through more than 700 pages covering more than a millennium. While his girl worked the PM shift in the trauma ward at O’Connor Hospital, the Youth, after a day of laying sod on freeway mediums, sat in the living room of their apartment struggling through the late afternoon heat to retain the author’s words; that is, until he arrived at the gates of Pella, the capital of Macedon. Then J. B. became a child and waxed lyrical over the great astounding achievements of Philip II’s son. The narrative verged on myth. It became storytelling, which is where Bury begins his Greek History, describing Homer’s Iliad. Was J.B. reborn as he neared the end of his massive effort or in capturing the arrogant spirit of the young Alexander did he throw all of life’s lessons into the air for one last chance to prove the gods wrong?
Gardener – You said you had trouble entering the world of Atlas Shrugged. So how did you finally do it?
Writer – I took a palliative, a self-prescribed antidote.
Gardener – You drank yourself silly.
Writer – No! I reread Nevil Shute’s Trustee of the Toolroom.
Gardener – I remember liking that book.
Writer – I believed I was going to be reading a novel advocating pure greed. After all how many people, most of them having never read the book, told me that. I thought Trustee of the Toolroom will contrast Atlas Shrugged.
Gardener – Like the black leaf Dahlia and the yellow Cana.
Writer – The hero in Trustee, Keith Stuart is a retired tool and die fitter, the antithesis of John Galt. He and his wife live in a working class neighborhood outside London where he designs and builds small scale replicas of large machines which he writes about in a hobby magazine dedicated to miniature machines. With his small pension, and the money he makes from his articles and the supplemental income his wife brings in as a sales clerk nearby, the couple earn just enough to keep them solvent. His sister, who married an upper class man, has traveled the world, and thinks her brother is a failure. But the narrator states emphatically that if Stuart had made more money, – and here I quote from page 5, “he would not have made more happiness than he had now attained.” Keith Stuart is the complete manifestation of Ernst Schumacher’s ideal in Small Is Beautiful.
Gardener – Small Is Beautiful? Does anyone know who Schumacher is?
Writer – You’ll find nothing heroic nor dramatic in Small Is Beautiful! Nor will you find those attributes embodied in the central character of Trustee of the Toolroom. He is completely satisfied with his work. If anything ties him to John Galt and the other super heroes it’s that he is thoroughly competent. Dagny Taggart would admire Stuart’s bravery and thorough planning as he goes about retrieving his niece’s inheritance. It’s this competence that moves the story and draws important people, titans of industry, into orbit around Keith Stuart.
Gardener – Do these titians resemble the super heroes in Atlas Shrugged?
Writer – In that they are competent industrialists, like Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart, who have learned their business from the bottom up. But none of them understand Stuart’s satisfaction. None of them would be satisfied with the scale of Stuart’s life? Keith Stuart, like John Galt, comes from humble beginnings. Stuart possesses all of Galt’s attributes, except one, his resentment.
Gardener – Because he’s satisfied.
Writer – Galt’s yearning for the ever reiterated “profit” and his bitterness over the rule of the incompetent separate him from the self sufficiency and satisfaction of Stuart. Stuart has gone to the ends of the world to help his niece. It’s a completely selfless task and interestingly enough, in spite of his lack of ambition, he benefits personally from it. But he is not driven by gain but by concern. Galt confidently marks the dollar sign in the air with his hand now that the nation and the world have collapsed, but I doubt he will ever be satisfied with the world he envisions either.
Gardener – No more than I can when I look at the garden.
Writer – But you question you success.
Gardener – So what happens when someone, who isn’t successful like Murkydoc, thinks he is John Galt?
Writer – He resents the success of others.
Gardener – I’ve felt that resentment too!
Writer – I’m afraid I feel it all the time. You don’t have to be a genius to resent the moochers.
Gardener – You can feel you’ve worked hard while others benefited. That’s when I tell my garden gnomes I’ll quite. . .
Writer – But who will you hurt?
Gardener – Myself. No one asked me to garden. I volunteered. And I hurt the majority of those who like what I do.
Writer – And what about the garden?
Gardener – Can I stop watering the plants? Can a farmer stop feeding his animals? Can parents abandon their children – just to prove a point? Talk about violence!
Writer – The super heroes in Atlas Shrugged describe their pain after abandoning their businesses to the looters, of watching their life’s work disappear as the country implodes.
Gardener – I think you’re palliative worked.
Writer – Hitler thought the German people failed his vision. He didn’t negotiate an end to the war to save Germany from destruction. He welcomed it thinking that the people deserved punishment.
Gardener – That same resentment lead to the irrational hatred that killed the children on a Norwegian island, and still others in a parking lot in Tucson, Arizona and two thousand more in skyscrapers half way around the world?
Writer – And don’t forget those sitting in Congress on a single point of view watching the country go down – it’s small minded.
Gardener – Like stamping one’s feet and throwing a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way. And isn’t that an emotional expression?
Writer – Yes.
Gardener – And if Atlas Shrugged is about a struggle between the competent and the incompetent, then it’s not just a tantrum against big government.
Writer – The incompetents use the government to do what they can’t do in the business world. It’s the self serving and mindless, the politically savvy, in other words those who would frighten the public when the public becomes aware of their abuses, the shoddy work that caused the Gulf oil spill, the poorly made humvees during war time, the deregulation of corporate farming practices that harm all forms of life.
Gardener – And don’t forget the poor lending practices that caused the recession.
Writer – Yes, the actual lenders of capital who led the nation into darkness and were bailed out.
Gardener – You’re back.
Writer – My old self! But you know when I asked my wife. . .
Gardener – She’s my wife too!
Writer – Yes, I know, when I asked her what she thought of Trustee From The Toolroom. she said it was like a fairy tale because everything works out perfectly.
Gardener – What about Atlas Shrugged?
Writer – She didn’t read that. But I’ll say this, John Galt is the Harry Potter of Unimpeded Capitalism.

Footnotes:

Hexapoda
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexapoda

Reuters: Murdoch to Parliament: ‘I’m the Best Man to Clear This Up’
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/19/idUS407970120620110719

Mrs. Pardiggle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleak_House

Schumacher
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Schumacher

Pureline is exclusive, and does not permit other ideals:
“But it’s my ideal, only it belongs to a large puzzle in which every piece represents someone else’s ideal and all of them must be set in place to create one world where we can all dance, the short and the tall, the fat and the skinny, the common and the uncommon. I have no interest in voices who claim all the answers.” 9

The incompetents use the government to do what they can’t do in the business world. It’s the self serving and mindless, the politically savvy, in other words those who would frighten the public when the public becomes aware of their abuses. . . 11

THE GARDENER RETURNS, A DIALOGUE, PART ONE

Writer – Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you in months.
Gardener – What do you mean where I’ve been?
Writer –You disappeared.
Gardener – Obviously I’ve been outside working my ass off. Where’ve you been?
Writer – Where reality is hard rock and unforgiving. . .
Gardener – The rock pile.
Writer – No, we have to work the rock pile searching for answers. This is different. I was swept away to another world, a land of absolutes, where good and evil are obvious. I hear voices. . .
Gardener – You’re not going south on me are you, like that night you were almost lynched?
Writer – No, I’ve been here. I’m always here.
Gardener – You were here that night too!
Writer – This is different. These voices live inside a book of superb clarity.
Gardener – Books were involved that night, too. There was The Virginian for one.
Writer – That’s true but this novel is different. This time there’s no mistaking the bad guys for the good guys. You can’t imagine how reassuring that is. And it’s all very real. Reality plays a very strong part in the book. That’s why it’s unforgiving. This is not just another comic book adventure, like Superman.
Gardener – I like Superman.
Writer – So do I, but imagine a world with more than one superman, that’s the world I was visiting. Actually they’re more like geniuses but on a heroic scale. They can do anything from growing lettuces to extracting oil from shale, from rolling cigarettes to building super generators that make nuclear energy seem like a camp fire. And the heroine is no Lois Lane. She runs a transcontinental railroad but she can also clean, cook and fly! They all can fly.
Gardener – Like superman?
Writer – I didn’t know she could fly but she gets into an airplane and flies off into the night to follow her soon-to-be-lover who was flying off in another plane, having kidnapped a bright young man she was trying to save. The young man needed the same kind of direction we all need from time to time.
Gardener – Flying airplanes is not the same as superman flying.
Writer – At first I was surprised. But this book is not about superhuman abilities but about what the intellect can achieve. Later her former lover flies over the mountains of Colorado looking for her. I realized that people of this caliber, this entelechy to use Aristotle’s word – Aristotle’s philosophy forms the bedrock on which these folks live – would naturally know how to fly without my having to know the whys and hows. They’re like the heroes in the film, The Matrix, only they don’t have to download their abilities from a super computer. I wouldn’t be surprised if she flew helicopters too! All the competents, as I like to call them or the uncommon as they like to call themselves, know how to think!
Gardener – Uncommon as opposed to common, we being the commoners. Sounds either old fashioned or far fetched.
Writer – It’s a story of adventure and love and a steamy love at that, but it’s much more than that, because it’s real. You see, the heroine is trying to keep the family railroad running in spite of the massive incompetence of suppliers and do-gooders. But really, without her knowing it, she’s searching for someone equal to her own energy and brilliance.
Gardener – And she has her pick.
Writer – How did you know?
Gardener – A gardener’s intuition.
Writer – She has no less than three super heroes for lovers, the last one fulfilling her dream. I actually found number three to be the most boring voice of all, even though he had the most to say. I liked number two better, but who am I, but a common man. But even someone like me, if I work hard for the uncommon heroes, that is, to the best of my abilities, will find a place in their world.
Gardener – The world you just visited.
Writer – Actually the world I was visiting was falling apart, just the way ours is falling apart. I meant the world of the uncommoners that will follow the collapse of this one world.
Gardener – You mean our world?
Writer – They’re the same!
Gardener – Sounds like St. John’s Book Of Revelations.
Writer – Sort of, but without the religious overtones. When you possess a mind like number one’s, I mean number three’s, anyway the leading man of the story, there’s nothing for the rest of us to do but get out of the way and let him and the rest of these people of great ability do great things.
Gardener – All we do is get out of the way?
Writer – That and willingly work for our living.
Gardener – Me gardening and you writing.
Writer – Our fair share will be based on the worth of our contribution – plus a world that runs perfectly! But here’s where it hits close to home, which even a commoner like me can appreciate, you see, the forces of evil want to enslave them, that is, make them work for the wrong reasons. When great people work for the right reasons their work rejuvenates them. As long as they continue working they remain young.
Gardener – Yes, I understand that. Standing around here with you I feel my aches and pains, but when I go outside and start working in the garden on something tangible, I feel energized.
Writer – Unfortunately the forces of evil are incompetents. They are ruining the world. It’s so obvious! They’re gutting the system in the name of love.
Gardener – Is love bad?
Writer – Absolutely. The incompetents are parasites. They feed on the body of work that our heroes produce convincing them that self-sacrifice in the name of love, rather than self-interest in the name of greed, is the only moral way. The heroes believe they are working for the right reason but in reality they are working for the wrong reason. Gardener – You mean CEOs shouldn’t be altruistic.
Writer – Absolutely not! That would indicate incompetence.
Gardener – Not generosity?
Writer – CEOs help society when they realize there is something in it for them. In other words when they seek maximum profit for their efforts. A genius is worth his or her weight in gold. But an incompetent who feels entitled to an equal share of the GNP is dead weight because he or she taxes the nation beyond its means. That’s why we have debt! Among these is the heroine’s brother who is the president of the family railroad. He depends on his friends in Washington to help protect him from competition. He even brags to his sister that he makes more money on subsidies than she does on service. Social justice is the road to hell.
Gardener – What if two CEOs have a differing opinion on what is good for society?
Writer – That is where the competition comes in! Let the better product win! But for those without product, who don’t want to produce their fair share, let them starve! It’s not my concern. I’m a taxpayer, why should I foot the bill. In the coming world there will be no entitlements.
Gardener – I never did understand that word. Until recently I thought it meant things like my entitlement to vote, to worship, to love the person of my own choice.
Writer – Rest assured! No one will ever take those rights away from you. We’re talking about consumer products, like healthcare. I mean if you can’t pay for it you’re not entitled to it.
Gardener – What if I’m sick and I’ve gone through all my money. No one’s going to help me?
Writer – I’ll help you. I’ll loan you money at a fair interest – what are friends for.
Gardener – That’s swell. Considering you’ve probably grossed no more than 10,000 dollars in you whole career as a writer, it seems I’ll be loaning you the money, in fact, I’m supporting you now!
Writer – I was writing your gardening articles! I never thought of charging you for it.
Gardener – You weren’t writing for me, but for an editor.
Writer – I forgot about that. But now as the writer of the margin I understand why I’ve been in seclusion. There are people out there who envy my creativity. They want to silence me! But that’s all going to change. You and I are guaranteed a place in the coming world because we use our minds and see the world as it really is.
Gardener – I use my hands.
Writer – But you don’t expect a handout. That’s the real world. God forbid we try to see the world as we feel it should be.
Gardener – What about the children of those who don’t want to work, do we let them starve along with their parents?
Writer – Won’t our children starve in the future paying for the freeloaders of today! Isn’t that debt undeserved!
Gardener – Can I take your temperature?
Writer – I’m not sick!
Gardener – I’ve never heard you talk like this. This book has infected you.
Writer – That’s because you insist on feeling what is right. But you’ll see the light.
Gardener – I suppose those who can’t work for some physical reason, let’s say their minds are impaired, you know, they lack the ability to use their intellect or perhaps they dream too much, will not be allowed to enter your new world?
Writer – It’s not my world! But I suppose as long as these impaired ones don’t expect help we can help them with basics. Buy them a diner now and then, give them an old overcoat. It should be up to me, not the government. Besides in a competitive world run by genius, money will be made on those who need help! Everyone will be happy. But these are details. The voices didn’t go into them.
Gardener – We just read about CEOs who made lots of money on Medicaid while caring for mentally challenged people.
Writer – Exactly, only there won’t be Medicaid or Medicare.
Gardener – According to the families of many patients these corporate styled executives actually did a great job providing excellent care for their children.
Writer – We, the taxpayers will not be saddled for problems that aren’t ours!
Gardener – Remember when the mentally challenged were released during the Reagan years and wandered the streets a danger to themselves and to the taxpayer! It became our problem then!
Gardener – Government regulation is the kryptonite that weakens the super heroes. Because of it they grow old and weary like the rest of us. In their enthusiasm to do great things these heroic geniuses don’t realize how much the government impedes their work. They think something is wrong with themselves, that they aren’t generous enough or loving enough. But number one, I mean number. . .
Gardener – I know who you mean!
Writer – sets them straight! Geniuses must compete to succeed and must profit from what they produce. If you can’t compete then step down and work for someone else.
Gardener – These voices sound all too familiar in our world.
Writer – Of course! That’s because it’s real. Why just the other day Gimme Markdown, a fierce competitor who is president of a large company that provides everything a commoner would need, and who has the best interests of the consumers and his employees in mind, said that it was becoming evident our nation was going fascist. Another genius who runs casinos and knows the power of an unrigged economic system said he was disturbed by our president’s weird political philosophy. They all felt it was shameful that business and finance should always get a bad rap.
Gardener – Sounds like paranoia too me. Anyway why would government want to impede genius? It’s in the best interests of the nation to have people with ability up and running at full capacity.
Writer – We agree. But the incompetents are cowards. They use government regulations, and force if need be, to stifle competition. This way they can live off the hard work of you and me. But you know what? The leading super hero has called a strike.
Gardener – Number one.
Writer – Actually number. . .
Gardener – Does it matter!
Writer – I suppose not. Anyway, he has led all the super heroes to a place that reminds me of Shangri-la, where they can all work to their hearts content without the incompetents and freeloaders benefiting!
Gardener – Without freeloaders they can stay young.
Writer – I hadn’t thought of that.
Gardener – If no one competent is left what happens to the government?
Writer – Shuts down! And not just government, but everything! And it’s all happening as predicted by number one. Our Government bonds just lost their stellar rating!
Gardener – I guess there’s no need to worry about starving children. There’s nothing we can do anyway.
Writer – It’s the only way! The protagonist told me it would get worse before it got better because the enemy was everywhere and only those who were strong and those who believed would arrive.
Gardener – In Shangri-la?
Writer – In our perfect capitalist world of unimpeded creativity.
Gardener – What if the investor with capital is just one of millions who doesn’t really know how his capital is being invested, a small player in a giant mutual fund? Isn’t his only concern his percentage of growth?
Writer – That’s the whole point! Self interest is the seed bed of creativity!
Gardener – So you are saying that someone who doesn’t care where his money is invested so long as the fund manager keeps the percentage high or climbing is indirectly investing in a genius or perhaps indirectly he is the genius, an idiot savant who has miraculously channeled his money through the labyrinth, like a pin ball machine, until it lands in the worthy hands of an inventor.
Writer – The banker financing the strike of the competents expects a return.
Gardener – Like the Crotch brothers we’ve been reading about.
Writer – Of course they expect a return. But remember this new world will be based on the ancient precepts of Aristotle. In this world the mind prevails over the emotions. The facts preside. So you needn’t worry.
Gardener – That doesn’t line up with what you once read in the happiness book?
Writer – Happiness book?
Gardener – Something about the emotions and the intellect complementing each other?
Writer – The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt.
Gardener – I remember you liked the metaphor of the elephant and the rider.
Writer – Haidt stated in his book – but to use my own words – that without emotional input our reasoning is seriously marred.
Gardener – Yeah, that was it.
Writer – Well, from what number one just told me. . ,
Gardener – He’s talking to you now?
Writer – Of course not, that’s just a figure of speech, I’m not crazy. As I now understand it, Haidt was mistaken. You see all the super heroes subjugate their emotions to the authority of reason, because these two separate forces, emotion and reason, are fighting for control of the body.
Gardener – So they believe that reason inhabits the mind.
Writer – Precisely. Isn’t that easier to understand than all the wishy washy rationalizations of some professor?
Gardener – By that line of deduction, according to your own method, self-interest depends on reason and not emotion.
Writer – Why all you have to do is watch the incompetents who rule the country through their political proxies. They wallow in emotional stupidity. In their fear of being out competed they compensate for their lack of ability by handicapping the super stars with rules and regulations. But that’s all going to change. The uncommon assured me that one day I would be free, that nobody would tell me what to do anymore.
Gardener – Whose been telling you what to do?
Writer – The incompetents. The people who always think they’re smarter than me! You know who I mean, the know-it-alls, the intellectuals and the progressives, the people who run community organizations. . .
Gardener – Since when are you anti-progressive?
Writer – Well, you remember the progressives in high school. . .
Gardener – Back in the days of the Youth?
Writer – I remember they could get pretty haughty around the Youth, know-it-alls, the guys had long hair long before anybody else and the girls. . .
Gardener –There are know-it-alls everywhere, and they’re not just progressives but anybody.
Writer – The irrefutable logic of the novel runs as straight as a railroad. It’s a fact!
Gardener – Is it possible the information highway, or railroad if you like, has become a wedge dividing people. That the more facts a person possesses, the less intelligence he can bring to bear when interpreting those facts.
Writer – Besides the super hero made me feel good. He told me I didn’t have to worry about others anymore, about hurting their feelings, that the most important thing was to do what I thought best.
Gardener – What if you thought it was best to kill all those kids in Norway? Are you saying the genius is above the law?
Writer – If the law ignores the irrefutable logic of Aristotle!
Gardener – What’s the use, a lot of kids will starve anyway before you get a chance to kill them.
Writer – I’m not going to kill anybody. I’m just defending my inalienable rights against big government.
Gardener – Your inalienable rights sounds like an entitlement!
Writer – Don’t shout at me!
Gardener – What about big business? Hitler defended the rights of big business as long as they went on producing tanks and bombers.
Writer – The heroine kills a man, but she’s trying to save her number three, our number one, who is being tortured. Violence is the last recourse in the book of tactics utilized by the super people.
Gardener – I see, letting the world collapse and the children starve is only a tactic.
Writer – See, you’re letting your emotions rule! If violence has to be applied it’s because the incompetents force the hands of the good guys. Even with the nation collapsing and the lights of New York City about to go out, the incompetents are busy torturing number one, the only one who can save the country. To stay in power they want him to take the reigns of government and lead the nation out of chaos. Naturally he refuses. I’m afraid you’ll have to read the ending yourself in order to understand. I’m glad the author made the horrible torture scene humorous.
Gardener – You actually found the torture scene funny?
Writer – Gratefully. Anyway by this time the progressives have already driven us into a great depression. The book conjures the images of Russel Lee and Dorothea Lange who were working under Roy Emerson Stryker in the government sponsored Farm Security Administration.
Gardener – Isn’t it true that for many people during the depression government sponsored programs kept them at work.
Writer – Milton Friedman, the author’s friend, considered the WPA, where he found work as a young economist, a lifesaver? But he later learned that such programs are detrimental to the unemployed, because they’re an emotional response to poverty. The voice of the super hero set me straight. I can see the people in the Lee and Lange photographs objectively without my crippling feelings. I can’t tell you how liberating that is. But this is not an historical novel about the 1930s.
Gardener – What a relief!
Writer – Not the word to use! But I know what you mean. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the astounding plot without concern for the details that mire most of us in daily trivia. There must be at least 584 pages of didactic speeches which are necessary to assure our complete understanding. Time, place and consistency, all those elements that mar the modern novel, are gratefully dispatched. For example there is only one railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi River. A literary effect. Imagine a single bridge connecting the industrial east with the agricultural west and it’s up to superwoman to maintain it.
Gardener – Ah, the woman that flies!
Writer – Please, don’t interrupt me. I can’t tell you what would happen if this bridge fell into disrepair. It’s as if Dagny Taggart, that’s the heroine, is that bridge holding the eastern line with one hand and the western line with the other.
Gardener – What about the machine that makes a nuclear reactor look like a camp fire? That’s more like science fiction.
Writer – The super hero, John Galt. . .
Gardener – Who is John Galt?
Writer – Precisely! John Galt, the heroine’s number one, is an inventor, not an industrialist like number two, Hank Reardon, although Hank is a self-made man, like John, and the inventor of a new alloy. Forget what you’ve heard about Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Galt advances science and technology without having to acknowledge modern physics at all. It’s an act of his mind. He can unequivocally say that reality is an absolute, which is, after all common sense. He doesn’t waste his time building a nuclear reactor which I’m sure he could easily have done but instead builds a generator running on static electricity.
Gardener – Like the static on an old radio?
Writer – It’s over my head! But if you’re after details, look up Walter Owen of Florida. He claims to have invented a generator that does the same thing. In fact Dagny discovers remnants of Galt’s first generator while searching through an abandoned car factory with her second lover the self-made industrialist who invented the miraculous steel of superior strength and durability. This generator becomes the holy grail of the novel. She spends 879 pages searching for the inventor.
Gardener – It’s difficult to believe that incompetents can lord over people who have all these super powers.
Writer – You weren’t listening. The super people have fallen under the spell of love. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of lazy ingrates. But naturally deceit doesn’t always work, so the ingrates have also invented a machine. Unlike the competents who invent constructive machines, the incompetents invent a death machine that can destroy people with sound. That’s how the bridge crossing the Mississippi is finally destroyed.
Gardener – The heroine must take this disaster personally.
Writer – By this time she has learned to objectify her feeling. She understands cause and effect! This isn’t a fairy tale world like Mr. Tompkins In Wonderland by George Gamow.

Footnotes:
Aristotle Entelechy:(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potentiality_and_actuality)

CEO Generous Medicaid Payments: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/nyregion/for-executives-at-group-homes-generous-pay-and-little-oversight.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=NY%20executives%20pay%20for%20daughter%27s%20apartment&st=cse

Home Depot President:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/26/bernie-marcus-knocks-obama-adviser_n_909917.html

Walter Owen : http://www.overunity.com/index.php?topic=1732.0;wap2