November 17, 2011

Rules of Acquisition fair?

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is now a staple of culture, and is probably something that will be fleetingly mentioned in my children's 7th grade text books, but we're in the middle of it right now.  And that means there will be humor, like this nerdy meme.

Hilarious, yes, but then it got me to thinking:  Is this fair?

For those of you who don't know, the Ferengi of the Star Trek world, when not being horribly misogynist, are capitalists to the extreme.  The Rules of Acquisition are essentially a capitalist code to live by, where clever selfishness is rewarded, and getting ahead is considered the ultimate goal in their culture.  It's something for a lot of viewers to look at and reply "Oh my that is soooo savage!"

However, when you think about it in multiple ways, it's very fair.  For one, it's Darwinism evolved.  In a trade based society having the best connections and more ownership guarantees survival.  Mercantilism, within the Ferengi at least, is still somewhat valued within an intergalactic society.  Trade will always be necessary.  

Also, one of the things that make it fair is how ruthless the system is.  There isn't any laws protecting anyone, so it's all fair game.  You can get to the top from being on the bottom if you're ruthless and cunning enough.  When there are no rules set by no one person, anyone can win.  

But those are the cultural values of the Ferengi, which may be rooted in some scientific reason for why this cut-throat race to the top has survived.  And also, they have gone to the furthest extreme of capitalism.  The system works merely because no one is safeguarded.  This also gives more incentive to "work ahead".

I'm a dirty hoo-man who likes to look out for my own, and even when we're having discussions about the elite protecting themselves, they're still protecting themselves as a group, not necessarily on the individual level.  I think as time goes on, the definition of "our own" will widen to include the entirety of the human race, and it's a slow progress.  It makes figuring out a democratic system that benefits everyone harder, but it's not impossible.

So in a way, the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition are fair, but we as a culture have to decide what we value and how that can help our survival as a species.  We're some of the most complex organisms to ever live, alter, and explore Earth.  There's definitely a possibility that we can finally find a way to exist on it together without being ruthless.

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