Share and share alike

Years ago a friend asked me to rewrite his parents’ wills to make sure his newborn daughter was added by name. His parents were happy to do this, I went to meet them. Reading the two short documents they already had I noted one serious flaw — the signature of the attorney, by wild coincidence, in addition to being scrawled in the same eccentrically blue-green ink as the witness signatures, was in the exact same handwriting as the signatures of the two witnesses to the will. When I pointed this out to them they smiled at me, and at each other, and told me fondly what a lovely man their now deceased lawyer was. Each will was an otherwise standard will, except for a phrase I really enjoyed. The assets not otherwise spoken for above were to be divided among the grandchildren equally, “to share and share alike”. I made sure to retain the phrase in my rewrite of the wills.

Share and share alike is a formula for avoiding conflict. There’s one less big reason to fight if we share everything fairly. Most people I know have this impulse. When you cook and put the food on the plate, or slice a cake, you try to give the same portion to everyone at the table (unless somebody indicates they want a smaller portion). When Sekhnet and I were domesticating the Feral Five this summer, we both reflexively did the same thing: made sure they all knew they’d get the same food, attention and playtime as all the others. One kitten would start eating, the others quickly learned that within a moment they’d have their own bowl in front of them. When giving them treats, each one got the same amount tossed to them and there was almost never stealing or attempts at hoarding. There was little anxiety or any reason for competition for these things because they shared and shared alike. It seems pretty clear that this is the fair way to divide things — share and share alike. It’s a basic philosophical stance, it seems to me– that everyone should get, to the extent possible, the basics that they need to live with safety and dignity, particularly in a place where others have a thousand, or a million times, what they need.

I think about that, in our gilded age of Inequality with its insane, often lauded, greed and — in an environment of the artificially enforced scarcity, the glorification of the “winners” of our natural “competition”. Our greatest citizens are not those who learned to “share and share alike” they are the audacious ones who learned to grab, and bring lawsuits against others like them, dominate the competition, take it all.

The supremely entitled twat who runs Facebook? One of the greediest fucks on earth, and supremely destructive in his limitless greed and arrogance, but– hey, don’t knock what he’s accomplished! Bill Gates? Arguably a slick monopolist at one time (with the lawsuits to prove it) but today one of our greatest philanthropist, although he is the ultimate expert on everything and determines precisely how his donations are spent (he always knows best, after all), and rightfully so, he’s about the smartest man in the world, as demonstrated by his vast, hard-earned fortune. But who am I to judge these great men so harshly? What fortune have I amassed? The People rest!

There is no downside in America to super-sized greed and hoarding — no matter how obscene — if you are a success. Our greediest and most avaricious [1] citizens are seen as the best of us by most of us — a kind of natural aristocracy in American life. Sekhnet doesn’t disagree when I snarl at the seemingly insane greed of a Jeff Bezos (not that she likes my frequent snarling), but she also loves the innovations in convenient shopping he’s made possible and defends the sick fuck, at least for the excellence of his genius instant-gratification delivery service. Bezos, I note, never leaves a penny on the table when he can grab it for himself.

It seems to me that once you’ve amassed, say, a $100,000,000,000 personal fortune, you can afford to stop obsessively snatching up every penny in sight. It’s probably safe to allow your hardworking employees to form a union, let’s say, or to have certain benefits at work (like bathroom breaks), a work site that is as close to a modern day salt mine as exists in our enlightened nation. For Jeff “Democracy Dies in Darkness” Bezos, it’s the principle of the thing. A penny left on the table, or in a mere employee’s hand, is a sin. A fucking sin!

I imagine that in the childhood homes of every supremely greedy acquisitor (often wealthy homes) there was an ethic (false, of course) of “zero entitlement” and of “working to earn everything you get.” “Share and share alike” was considered a recipe for losers. Fred Koch made his boys literally fight it out for his approval. The young Koch brothers punched each other in the face, and Fred was all for this manly vying over who was the most ambitious, the fittest to survive and therefore the most entitled to inherit oversight of his fortune.

Think of young Donald, with his charismatic, much older brother getting so much of daddy’s attention and praise — until the brother broke his father’s heart by showing himself much less ruthless than necessary to run an empire. Young Donald, fourth pup in the litter of five, angry, spoiled, entitled, bullying, acting out, fledging rich young juvenile delinquent, was then sent to military academy in an unsuccessful attempt to make a mensch out of him as Frederick Christ Trump groomed the young narcissist to become Trump.

Back to the opposite of these types and share and share alike. What is wrong with share and share alike as a view of life between siblings, life in a community? One thing that pops out of the American/Puritan myth — if you always get what you need, where is the incentive to create wealth, to dominate and become “great”?

Greatness, in the capitalist ethic, means constant expansion — continual growth of the enterprise, of profits, of wealth. Success is measured in immensity of expansion and the scope of your personal dominance. That’s why you can rape the earth as much as you want (as long as their is no priggish progress-hating government nanny there to coerce you and force you to stop) if the end result is being the richest man on the planet you murdered.

You want to raise children who are less susceptible to jealousy and corruption? Teach them to share and share alike, by your fair example. The alternative is what we are living in now: Betsey DeVos as the Secretary of Making Education An Earned Right Again as Christ Himself teaches.

[1]

I use, employ and deploy this synonym for greedy (note this is greed for wealth and material gain, as opposed to simple greed) in a nod to the pettifogger’s habit of stating and restating, reiterating and repeating, the obvious, the plain, the too clear to need clarification, the open and shut, in as many words and variations as possible, to cover every contingency, circumstance, event, foreseen and unforeseen, every possibility, in this world or any conceivable world. I learned that this laughable, risible, ridiculous habit derives from the age when we used to use scriveners, men with excellent handwriting, to write our legal papers. These weasels were paid by the word, hence the endless series of qualifiers, synonyms, distinguishing marks, clarifiers, the ostentatious, overbearing, absurdly ornate and, frankly, wordy restatements of the same thing:

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