[BCH] Summer Reading Plan #2

Vamos con el segundo texto de estas lecturas semanales para el verano. Para seguir haciéndolo fácil, se trata de un cuento de Italo Calvino muy corto, pero muy interesante y que hace pensar. Por cierto, os recuerdo que vuestros comentarios deben ser una reflexión personal y no un resumen. Ah, y que los tendré muy en cuenta al curso que viene…


There was a country where they were all thieves.

At night everybody would leave home with skeleton keys and shaded lanterns and go and burgle a neighbour’s house.  They’d get back at dawn, loaded, to find their own house had been robbed.

So everybody lived happily together, nobody lost out, since each stole from the other, and that other from another again, and so on and on until you got to a last person who stole from the first.  Trade in the country inevitably involved cheating on the parts both of the buyer and the seller.  The government was a criminal organization that stole from its subjects, and the subjects for their part were only interested in defrauding the government. Thus life went on smoothly, nobody was rich and nobody was poor.

One day, how we don’t know, it so happened that an honest man came to live in the place.  At night, instead of going out with his sack and his lantern, he stayed home to smoke and read novels.

The thieves came, saw the light on and didn’t go in.

This went on for a while: then they were obliged to explain to him that even if he wanted to live without doing anything, it was no reason to stop others from doing things.  Every night he spent at home meant a family would have nothing to eat the following day.

The honest man could hardly object to such reasoning.  He took to going out in the evening and coming back the following morning like they did, but he didn’t steal.  He was honest, there was nothing you could do about it.  He went as far as the bridge and watched the water flow by beneath.  When he got home he found he had been robbed.

In less than a week the honest man found himself penniless, he had nothing to eat and his house was empty.  But this was hardly a problem, since it was his own fault; no, the problem was that his behaviour upset everything else.  Because he let the others steal everything he had without stealing anything from anybody; so there was always someone who came home at dawn to find their house untouched: the house he should have robbed.  In any event after a while the ones who weren’t being robbed found themselves richer than the others and didn’t want to steal any more.  To make matters worse, the ones who came to steal from the honest man’s house found it was always empty; so they became poor.

Meanwhile, the ones who had become rich got into the honest man’s habit of going to the bridge at night to watch the water flow by beneath.  This increased the confusion because it meant lots of others became rich and lots of others became poor.

Now, the rich people saw that if they went to the bridge every night they’d soon be poor.  And they thought: ‘Let’s pay some of the poor to go and rob for us.’  They made contracts, fixed salaries, percentages: they were still thieves, of course, and they still tried to swindle each other.  But, as tends to happen, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and poorer.

Some of the rich people got so rich that they didn’t need to steal or have others steal for them so as to stay rich.  But if they stopped stealing they would get poor because the poor stole from them.  So they paid the very poorest of the poor to defend their property from the other poor, and that meant setting up a police force and building prisons.

So it was that only a few years after the appearance of the honest man, people no longer spoke of robbing and being robbed, but only of the rich and the poor; but they were still all thieves.

The only honest man had been the one at the beginning, and he died in very short order, of hunger.

Italo Calvino

[El texto está tomado de la web del College of Liberal Arts (Louisiana Tech Universitiy)]

3 comentarios en “[BCH] Summer Reading Plan #2

  1. The story of the black sheep.
    It is a story that shows how little by little some people become richer at the expense of others.
    That also happens in real life as the rich steal from the poor to maintain their wealth and power. In addition to conserving their wealth, they use the most needy poor and deceive them so that they also believe that they will win and change from being poor to being a little richer.
    The politicians would be the rich ones who promise things that they never fulfill so that the poor people who would be the citizens believe them and help them keep their position in politics and their wealth increases.

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  2. The first functioning of the system, where everybody behaved equally, stealing from others for their own good and thus creating a «circular capitalism» where nobody is rich and nobody is poor, is an example showing that a society where there is no freedom not to depend on others tends to explode, whenever that circular chain loses a link, i.e. when a person stops doing what makes that system continue to function.

    That first functioning, although it makes no sense, made everyone practically equal, there was no superiority of one citizen over another, but it was illogical, if people stayed at home like the honest man, everyone would still have their goods, and there would be no need to steal from anyone, but the ego of the human being is always present.

    From my experience, when a person does not agree with the system in which he lives, he tends to behave as he thinks most logical and reasonable, using his freedom, and letting others be free.

    A system does not end, a system transforms. When everyone realised what the honest man was doing, there were three options: the first was to let the man continue to live without interfering in that society and join the two remaining links, the second was to force the man to adapt, and the third, which is the one that was chosen, was to use the man’s behaviour to create a new functioning for the system.

    The new functioning consisted of what is called «neo-liberal capitalism», and it is the system that works today on our planet. A system created for the rich, where everything is created so that the poor remain poor, and the rich become even richer.

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