Saturday, January 30, 2021

This is Justice - A Short Rhetorical Story

There was once an earnest young woman from a very, very poor country. At a young age, she managed to stow away on board a merchant vessel in an effort to escape her miserable situation.

When the crew discovered their uninvited guest, they took pity on her. Therefore, instead of letting her off at the next port, they decided to train her as an honorary member of their crew.

The woman began working as an assistant in the ship’s kitchen. At first, they had her do odd jobs such as cutting the meat and vegetables, beating the eggs and of course, cleaning up the pots, pans, dishes and other kitchen utensils after use.

She remained as an honorary member of the crew for the next five years. Of course, during this time, she learned various recipes and cooking techniques until eventually, she had gained the competence of a full-time chef.

Because she proved to be very diligent and helpful, she was paid a minimal allowance for her services. It was a very small amount when compared to what was paid to the rest of the individual crew members, but the woman was simply glad that a stowaway like her was paid anything at all. It felt just.

On her fifth year, she finally parted ways with the ship and its crew – getting off at a port in a country of plenty. Here, she began a new life with the money that she had earned as a kitchen assistant.

She rented out a small unit on the first floor of a multi-purpose building. It was cheap but fairly large with two smaller rooms in the back. She made one of the back rooms her living quarters and converted the rest of the unit into a small restaurant.

Thanks to the expertise she gained as a stowaway turned kitchen assistant, she knew exactly how to manage a kitchen. She opened the restaurant with only five employees at first, but people liked the restaurant’s dishes and ambiance so much that she managed to open up to three new branches within only two years of operations.

While she was certainly no billionaire, she had gained a certain level of affluence at this point – certainly more than the average white collar worker makes on a day job.

One day, she was looking through her payroll records which she had entrusted to her long-time female assistant, an illegal immigrant and the first employee she had ever hired for her business. This is when she noticed some anomalies. The restaurants were actually making a little bit less profit than initially projected.

When she asked her trusted assistant about this anomaly, the assistant immediately admitted that it was her doing and lashed out at the restaurant owner.

“It was me! I embezzled the funds. It’s because all these years you’ve made me handle all this money without even giving me any cut from the profits. It’s only right that I get my fair share – even if I have to take it without your permission.”

To which, the restaurant owner replied: “But don’t I pay you a just amount for your services? If you wanted to have more, then why didn’t you just tell me honestly?”

The assistant replied: “Because you’re rich and you’ll never understand what it’s like to be exploited like us poor people.”

So let us pause here for a moment and allow me to ask you, the reader, this question: How does this story make you feel? Do you feel that the restaurant owner is in the wrong? Is the assistant justified in her embezzlement?

Now let us change the scenario a bit.

Let’s say that the whole payroll anomaly never happened and after the restaurant owner had lived a full life and passed on, the restaurant eventually became an international franchise and the wealth was transferred across several generations of the woman’s descendants.

Nearly a century later, a pair of siblings descended directly from the earnest woman now own one of the largest international food franchises in the world. It was a business empire that was built upon the hard work of those who came before them. However, the siblings were born into wealth without having had to work a single day in their entire lives. Though they were always basking in luxury, they have lived their lives honestly without ever attempting to take advantage of anybody. They simply managed the business – benefiting from the legacy of those who came before them.

However, the siblings lived in a very tumultuous city. One day, an angry mob, convinced that anyone who is rich is guilty of the crime of “exploiting the poor” decided to storm the mansion that they lived in and then murdered the siblings in cold blood. Their only crime: winning the birth lottery and being born rich. A crime that was passed down by their ancestors who had amassed too much wealth while others lived their entire lives in poverty.

When the scene was finally reported by the mass media, the people rejoiced as riots broke out all across the country in similar attacks targeting people who are considered super-rich. A violent government takeover then ensued all in the name of class consciousness and redistribution of wealth. The siblings were written down in history as criminals whose wealth was built upon the earnest labor of the working class.

After all, no one should have too much more than others. The mere accumulation of wealth beyond what one can spend in a lifetime is by itself a crime worthy of death by public execution.

Meanwhile, a new government was established with the goal of ensuring that no one would need to work for more than eight hours a week with labor controlling the means of production and equitable redistribution of wealth. Whether this works out or not – is a story for another day.

So tell me: What do you think the siblings’ specific crime was? Did the crime originate from the earnest woman who was their ancestor? If so, what grave felony did she commit by attempting to alleviate her own situation and to secure the future of her descendants?

This is justice.

THE END

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