Friday, 21 July 2006


Here's one of my favourite jokes.
The Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion Tonto are riding through one of many canyons when suddenly rising from the hill on their right are hundreds of
Indians in war garb. They spur their horses forward when they realise that there
are hundreds of Indians ahead of them. Wheeling to the left they see hundreds of Indians rising from that hill. Things are looking ominous. They begin to back away in the direction from which they had come and they realise they are surrounded. They have fallen into an ambush.

The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto, his faithful and life-long friend, and says, "Tonto
my friend, I think I must say that I have treasured our many adventures together, but now I think we are doomed."

To which Tonto replies, "What's with the 'we,' white man?"
As you might have deduced, it's not one of my favourites because it's funny. It's one of my favourites because that punchline can be used so often. You hear it all the time:
"What are we going to do about the state of our chooldren's health/obesity/future/safety? [Delete any that don't apply.]"
"How can we solve [insert latest fashionable concern]?"
"We all agree that [insert favourite liberal nostrum]."
"We should ban [insert latest Green concern]."
"We should pass a law."
"We should get out more."
"We should share more."
"We should give more."
"We should consume less."
"We should stop
"We are destroying biodioversity/the planet/sustainability."
"Shouldn't we allow a degree of reserve when choosing which parts of nature we take for ourselves?"
"How should we feel about this?"
"Can't we all just [insert favourite fashionable folderol]?"
"What are we all doing with our lives?"
"What are we gonna do now?"
Answer to all of these: "What's with the we, white man?"

"We should share." "We should recycle." "We should compensate Maori for injustices of the past." No. 'We' shouldn't. If you want to do anything about anything, then you go right ahead. If you committed an injustice against someone then you pay up, but don't make me pay for or share your feelings of guilt for things I didn't do to people I never met. If you want to recycle, then you go right ahead, but don't get the Government to make the rest of us join you or pay for your enthusiasm. Stop thinking of people as part of a collective; realise that 'we' are all individuals, and we all have the power of choice.

Ayn Rand's novella Anthem has this to say:
The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
To paraphrase Leo Tolstoy, if you want to change the world, then try starting with yourself. So what are we going to do about 'our' chooldren? Personally, I'm not doing anything. They're not mine.

LINKS: Anthem Page - Noble Soul
Anthem, complete text - Noble Soul
Cue Card Libertarianism - Individualism - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - 'No man is an island'
- Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Harmony of interests - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

TAGS: Ethics, Politics


  1. "What's this we, white man" is one of my favourite responses to when I suddenly get grouped together in something. Must appeal to my inner libertarian!

  2. 'We' live in a society. Our actions - or inaction - send ripples.


    'I' feel genuine concern for the future of people and place.

    'You' come across as an arrogant elitist.

    Quoting Rand does not make you exempt from societies ills.

  3. "Our actions - or inaction - send ripples."

    Sure do. Especially when we talk nonsense. "Nonsense has wings, while the truth often takes a horse and carriage." :-P

    "'I' feel genuine concern for the future of people and place."

    But do your feelings make you right?

  4. There's the rub. I don't necessarily equate my feelings with being either right or wrong. They are formulated in response to what is actually happening, and what the possible alternatives could be. As I stated, 'we' live in a society, and despite our philosophical or ideological preferences, 'we' have to endeavor to make it habitable. Out on my limb, 'we' would do well to indulge in less sneering, and more acknowledging the root causes of 'our' difficulties.

    I would be interested to know if you are satisfied your position is 'right'. And if so, does that make those who disagree wrong and nonsensical?

  5. Knock me down with a feather ... I just used this "what's this 'we' white man" line the other day, and had to explain of my favourite lines too.

  6. I think this line:
    "We should ban [insert latest Green concern]."

    shows that you are far to generous to the greens on their personal issues score for your "NZ political spectrum"

  7. I have always heard it as, "What you mean we paleface?"

    But either way. It is wonderful and works in almost every situation.


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