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01 October 2008

ye Island of Hostile & Suspicious Strangers in the Great Wet Sea of Planet Hoon

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Somewhere in the vast expanse of the Great Wet Sea of Planet Hoon,
there is a small, uncharted desert island. Only marooned, shipwrecked people live there, and those who live there never escape; no ship or airplane has ever found the island or rescued any of its miserable castaways.

Everybody on the island finds a hiding place and scrupulously avoids everybody else. For all you know, your neighbors might be cannibals or pirates or worse. There's utterly no Social Life or Romance or Team Sports or Holiday Get-Togethers. Everybody's a suspicious, hidden hermit.

There's not much on this Island of Hostile & Suspicious Strangers to keep body and soul alive -- a few coconuts, a little driftwood to make a fire, a few scraggly seabirds and eggs, a plump crab now and then.

Now and then someone finds an old bottle of rum or a can of tobacco -- little surprises which aren't good for your health, but will make you a little less miserable.

An odd kind of Trade has sprung up on the island. At night a castaway will stuff something into a sack and sneak to the edge of a small clearing in the middle of the island. He tosses his sack into the clearing, while another castaway does the same.

Then the two rush out, grab the other sack, and run back to their hiding places, where they open the new sack and discover what their swap has given them.

Sometimes, safe at home, they open the new sack and all they got for their risk and trouble is rocks. That really pisses off the castaway -- especially if he just gave away a coconut or a tasty crab.

They can see (and smell) who their trading partner was each night, and they all have long memories.

They have to keep trading, because the few valuable or enjoyable things are scattered in different corners of the island. If you don't keep trading your stuff and hoping for good stuff in the new sack, you'll die.

Your only chance of surviving is to be smart, clever, tough, quick-witted -- and thus reasonably successful at these sack swaps night after night.

So every castaway develops a Strategy -- a personal mix of Suspicion and Trust, of Hope and Grudge, of Risk and Caution, of Punishment and Reward.

If you want, you can flavor your Strategy with old Sunday School lessons about Charity, Trust, Honesty, Faith, Love, Brotherhood, Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You.

If you want, you can flavor your Strategy with your old beliefs that People Are No Damn Good, Every Man For Himself, Always Look Out For Number One, Do Unto Others Before They Do It To You.

Years go by and thousands of two-sack swaps take place. Sometimes a castaway who sucked as a trader dies. New castaways wash up on the beach, find hiding places, stumble on the nightly trading ritual, and develop a personal Strategy.

This is a rough description of Life & Death on the Desert Island of Hostile & Suspicious Strangers.

Any questions? I'll try to answer them as best I can.

But here's my question: Where is all this going? If you were cast away on this Island, what kind of Sack Trader would you become? What kind of Strategy do you think would keep you alive and healthy? What kind of Strategy is the fast track to early death?

Who survives, and who perishes, on the Island of Hostile & Suspicious Strangers in the Great Wet Sea of Planet Hoon?

1 comment:

patfromch said...

Ah, Sociology ! According to Thomas Hobbes (or was it David Hume ?) all men are selfish bastards and according to Thomas Malthus the whole group (social unit, even if they fail to interact)is doomed once they run out of rum or tobacco. In that case it does not matter wheter you were greedy or honest or how many new castaways with new goodies wash up on the shore.

I am sure I could also fit the categoric imperative by kant and Natural Selection in, but I am too tired right now. In the mean time, here are some hermits....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0f2aFhZ3Uk