Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ambrose Bierce's Very Short Story


Ambrose Bierce 1842 - ?
Title:     The Moral Principle And The Material Interest
Author: Ambrose Bierce

A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.

"Down, you base thing!" thundered the Moral Principle, "and let me pass over you!"

The Material Interest merely looked in the other's eyes without saying anything.

"Ah," said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, "let us draw lots to see which shall retire till the other has crossed."

The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.

"In order to avoid a conflict," the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat uneasily, "I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me."

Then the Material Interest found a tongue, and by a strange coincidence it was its own tongue. "I don't think you are very good walking," it said. "I am a little particular about what I have underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water."

It occurred that way.


1 comment:

Jon said...

Of course Material Interest takes precedence over Moral Principle. The trouble is, wealthy conservatives seeking to benefit themselves materially through winner-take-all economics are not considering their longer term self interest. Is our aim a banana republic where we well-to-do cloister ourselves away from the wanton masses, living in gated communities, restricting our outdoor activities to private country clubs, and educating our children in elitist schools? (Oops, already done that one!) My preference is the freedom to live larger, preferably in a vibrant and diverse community...as is yours! I'm talking about your "Why London" post: transport that is clean and works, well-kept parks, virtually no homeless, public safety, free museums, etc. Clearly you've voted with your feet!

Returning to visit my home in the USA this summer, my euro-recalibrated perspective was dismayed by the filth, the homeless, the potholes and the decaying infrastructure. Not to mention the knowledge of being unsafe in certain neighborhoods. And the mentally unstable haunting the streets, who would be cared for in proper institutions in a civil society. Now we have the "Occupy" movements, harmless at present, but perhaps foreshadowing greater social unrest. As a historian you certainly realize that the eventual extrapolation of all of this is having them come after us with their pitchforks!

In summary, I believe it would be in our Material Interest to pay attention to the inequality issue. Even pay more taxes if (and I'll admit it is a big "IF") the revenue would be constructively spent towards returning to a more egalitarian society of the golden, post-war years in the USA.