Monday, October 02, 2006

The Stag Hunt

A long time ago in the plains and forests of Africa, there was a group of hunter-gatherers preparing for an afternoon hunt. Four men were chosen to seek a mighty stag that would feed the entire group. Young-One, the small boy, would not be of much help. Wise-Man was too old and feeble to attend. Sha-ring, Iz, Ca-ring, and Jerk gathered their gear and set out on the plains in search of food.

Hours of walking led them to a grove of trees. Fresh tracks suggested a large stag was in the area. The four men split up and spread out around the trees, hoping to cover more ground. Jerk is carefully avoiding noisily breaking a branch when he notices a hare hidden in some tall grass. His foot is suspended over the ground, in mid-step, as he concludes in a heartbeat that he can catch this hare, sneak away, cook and eat it all before they were all to return to the rest of the group. Jerk does not actively wish anyone ill. He sees only that he can feed himself and thus goes after the hare. Iz, Ca-ring, and Sha-ring, without the aid of Jerk, were not able to kill the stag. They were to return to camp empty-handed (Jerk straggling in), in which case the delicious meal gathered and prepared by those remaining at camp would have to suffice for now.

Ca-ring, Iz, and Sha-ring asked Jerk where he was when they were chasing the stag. They were concerned for him, thinking he hurt himself or got lost. Jerk replied with hare on his breath that his bowstring broke and he had to spend time to repair it. The three realized that Jerk was lying - he was equipped with a spear, not a bow. And despite his best efforts to hide it, Jerk's spear was flecked with fresh blood.

Jerk killed and ate a hare because he could, but Young-One and Wise-Man could not. Ca-ring, Iz, Sha-ring and Jerk were to provide them with sustenance, as Wise-Man had once done for them, and how Young-One would do for them one day. Jerk could not comprehend this. He was incapable of understanding the wider ramifications of his choices.

The next week, the four men were to go hunting again. They really needed the help of Jerk, as Wise-Man had been invaded by evil spirits and needed a hearty meal to drive them out. Ca-ring and Sha-ring split off into a pair and sought an antelope. Jerk and Iz went out in search of herbs and medicine, although Iz' main task was to keep an eye on Jerk. Iz and Jerk walked separate ways around a hill that was covered in the herb they needed. Iz gathered several pouches-full of the leaves. Jerk, out of sight of Iz, gathered only enough for himself and no one else, lest he tire himself with the weight of a few more leaves. The four men returned home with an antelope that Ca-ring and Sha-ring managed to kill.

The days pass and Jerk and a few others catch the evil spirits that had once invaded Wise-Man. Wise-Man, in his clever wiliness, had banished the spirits with chants and potions. Ca-ring, Sha-ring and Iz went hunting and successfully killed a small stag. When they returned to camp, they divvied out the meat to the others in the group. Everyone in the group was grateful and showered the three with high praise. Wise-Man, sated, tended to those with evil spirits by chanting beside them and offering them special potions he prepared with the leaves Iz provided. The delicious, hearty food and careful treatment banished the evil spirits from those who had them.

Jerk, however, did not receive treatment or food. The others ignored him, their eyes passing over where he was, curled up on the ground. Jerk could not understand this. He never once acted acted in violence against his peers. He did not send curses or ill feelings towards others. He hardly ever thought of them at all. When he was hungry, he ate; when he was tired, he slept; when he needed medicine, he gathered it. His was a simple existence, centered only on his (and only his) immediate concerns. In a phlegm-ridden and sorrowful voice, Jerk leaned up weakly and asked, "Why did I not receive a share of the food and medicine?"

Wise-Man replied, "When you do not include others when considering the consequences of your actions, they tend to forget you when they consider the consequences of their actions."

4 Comments:

Blogger Delta said...

Nice story, did you hear it somewhere or make it up yourself?

So many people today hold very anti-collectivist beliefs because they believe that they personally will be better off if they don't foster a community of mutual aid, cooperation, and solidarity. But ya never know, that might end up biting them in the ass in the future.

03 October, 2006 20:44  
Blogger Mookie said...

I made it up, but I started with the idea of the stag hunt by Rousseau and tried to explain how it worked without bringing up game theory.

04 October, 2006 01:46  
Anonymous SH said...

You need to start writing a book of stories on secular morality for children. Seriously. There is a serious lack of popular secular literature for children and young adults.

04 October, 2006 21:54  
Blogger Drunken Tune said...

I second the motion. There's more relevant and decent moral lessons in this short story than in the totality of the 'greatest' children's book of all time - err... - Bible.

05 October, 2006 22:57  

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