A Question of Ethics

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a prosperous village, filled with healthy, happy people. They had only one complaint: the baker. He made terrible bread. Sometimes it was dry, sometimes it was doughy, sometimes it was burned. Even the baker didn’t like his own bread, but he was the only one in town willing to rise at four in the morning to bake it every day. And so the people lived prosperously, but complained all the time about the bread.

One day, one of the villagers grew so angry that he decided to make his own bread. Alas, he was no better at making bread than the first baker, and business was very slow.

He decided that to stay in business, he needed to make his bread cheaper than the other fellow. So he started to make his bread out of dirt and sawdust, held together with a little mud from the local pig styes. It looked and smelled and tasted exactly as you would expect, but it cost him nothing to make, and he did not have to rise at four in the morning. So he wrapped it in colorful wrappings, named it Patriot Bread™, and sold it for a fraction of the price the other fellow charged.

Because of the price, and the colorful wrappings, and the compelling brand name, people bought this awful bread, and ate it. They continued to complain about how bad the original baker’s bread was, how much it cost, and that it wasn’t Patriotic — for they had complained about the baker for so many years that it had become a mindless habit. They convinced themselves that the new bread was actually healthier than the old, because what medicine isn’t unpleasant? Surely, any bread that smelled and tasted this bad must be good for you?

Those who considered themselves fair and balanced above all else said that both bakers certainly produced terrible bread, but neither was really any worse than the other.

The very few willing to say that the new baker was far worse than the old and a danger to the community, were branded “alarmists” and “partisans” and “kooks.” They were even accused of being “Unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, the original baker stopped getting up at four in the morning, and started to add a little sawdust to his bread. Both bakers began to grow rich.

Eventually, a few people sickened and died from eating the bread made of dirt, sawdust, and baked sewage. Huge arguments arose over bread, fistfights broke out in the pubs. Hostility and suspicion pervaded the town. People stopped talking to each other about bread, and families were sundered. People refused to admit which bread they bought and ate. They quietly slipped their preferred brand of bread into sandwiches intended for others, and added it to recipes that weren’t even supposed to have bread.

Both bakers grew richer still, and began to conspire to make the villagers hate them even more, for it was good for business. They began to accuse each other, publicly, of the vilest of deeds. People took sides, gave both bakers money just to fight the other, and raged at each other.

Eventually, plague swept the sickened village, and everyone died.

So my question is this: who was really at fault? The first baker, for making terrible bread in the first place? The second baker, for poisoning the town? Or the villagers, who were too stubbornly stupid to recognize the difference between bread and pig shit?

This entry was posted in General.

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