Don’t run with scissors

Simplicity is tricky – you can be accused of over-simplifying things, or saluted for bringing clarity into a muddy picture.

It seems to me that the fundament of society is cooperation and trust. Yes, there is language, there is trade, there is innovation, and so forth. But would any of it be any good at all if people could not, or would not, trust and cooperate? One could argue forever whether the chicken came before the egg, but my money is on the emotional need and impetus to trust being fundamental to developing and sophisticating the means to build trust-based relationships.

Networks of trust are built and maintained in so many small ways every day. If most people on this planet were not doing this on a daily basis, human civilisation (another sticky word) would have gone to hell in a handbag a long time ago.

Using the simple analogy of weaving, the majority of people need to be weavers of the fabric of society. I have come across those who argue that it is not cooperation, but competition that ‘makes us great’. Of course competition is a spur to achievement, but I personally think it foolish to forget that none of us do very well on our own for very long, without the fabric of society supporting us.

Weaving more than you cut out seems to make you nice but dim in the eyes of the world – the winners are the ones who cleverly cut out a bigger piece for themselves than they have woven. True, people get high and mighty about bankers and the people who have largely been blamed for the credit crisis of recent times. But many of their detractors subscribe to the same strategy, just on a smaller scale or out of the limelight.

Oops, I seem to have revealed myself as an old-fashioned altruist. But I have found that my self-respect benefits from being a better weaver than cutter. I am not sure I could wake up in the morning and feel great because I got more than others. I like achievement and earning money, but I am saddled with work ethics and don’t get any satisfaction from not having earned it.

Being a cutter rather than a weaver can undoubtedly work really well on an individual level if you are clever enough (otherwise you will just be seen as a user) but it is a precarious game and relies on being in a minority.

Unless you are blind to the bigger picture – willfully or due to a convenient degree of sociopathy – it still seems good advice to not run with scissors.

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