Allegory of the Wage

Plato had his cave dwellers.

wage. v. To carry on (a war or campaign)

The-Buffalo-Hunt-largeOnce upon a time there was a tribe of Indians. United, they found they could easily hunt and kill enough buffalo to supply the tribe’s hunger. The strategy was to send the strongest hunters first, through the thick and deadly rampage where they would exact whatever harm they could. Then the next band of hunters would relieve them, and in this way the tribe was often successful.

Their chief was a fair and learned man who expected and exacted obedience from his people, especially his trained hunting warriors. One strategic day several of his most capable hunters were found guilty of breaking a tribal rule. Though a careless mistake, rules were rules, and– to the chief’s dismay– consequences had to be formulated. The guilty braves deserved punishment.

Hunting parties are made up of all kinds of braves. Some braves just seemed to get all the kills, were always in the right spot at the right time, always sent first into the fray of stampeding buffalo. These braves had many adorning feathers and beads, presents from appreciative squaws, and looks of admiration from the youngest boys. Other braves keenly desired these trophies and were ever craving a chance to prove themselves.

The chief addressed his hunters. There is an enormous herd of buffalo several miles northwest of here. Success in this will mean meat to last the winter. Yet, for this hunt, we will go without these guilty braves. To their shame, they will stay behind and pick berries with the squaws. This, they deserve. However, their absence will mean less meat for everyone. I offer you a choice. If you, my innocent warriors, will cut yourselves and fill a gourd with your blood, it will atone for the behavior of the guilty braves, and they may join us in the hunt.

A disgruntled buzz filled the teepee. Above the din, one warrior spoke up. I’ll give my blood so that our hunt will be successful.

Yes… me too.

Yes. 

Yes. 

The chief and those willing warriors understood. If innocent warriors were willing to cut themselves on behalf of the guilty ones and for the good of the tribe, those guilty warriors would be so exquisitely chagrined and shamed that– should they be allowed into the hunt, would make it the best effort of their lives. They also understood that the ultimate purpose of the hunt was to supply meat to the tribe.

But the craving warriors saw this as an opportunity to get some feathers of their own, to take that first bite of steaming buffalo heart. What did the lost meat mean to them when compared with a day of glory? So when it came time to put their blood into the gourd, they refused.

The day of the hunt came. The anemic half-band of warriors killed only a few buffalo. The strongest warriors couldn’t fill the gap so the day was a loss.

In one fell swoop this chief taught three lessons to three groups of warriors. To the guilty warriors he taught obedience; to the craving warriors he taught appreciation for those who ride before them, and to the innocent front storm warriors he taught the tragic lesson:  life isn’t fair, a good warrior will pay for mistakes he didn’t make.

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