Yesterday I stopped by the deli-café where the avocado delivery nearly went awry. The young woman behind the counter confirmed that they had received their order.
I had a momentary wish that she would reward me with an avocado, and when she didn’t, a slight pang that I hadn’t just taken one. But really, I couldn’t have. I just mentally could not have stolen a piece of fruit, even if the theft were to have gone unnoticed.
So ingrained is that anti-theft block, that it triggered another meditation on why we are moral, as I was lying in bed this morning, contemplating avocados lost: If we humans developed our societies as grazers/hunters/gatherers, then shouldn’t it be normal to take what we see (foodwise), without even thinking about it? I assume our forebears found the best spots for sweet berries and nutritious roots — maybe they shared that information, or maybe they just showed up at about the right time as best as they could figure and took what was available.
And it occurred to me: we think of water and healthcare as a human right, so much so that we expect not to pay for these goods in some places, or to pay very little, especially according to some systems to which we have become accustomed — such as here in Sweden, where I am shocked whenever my healthcare needs end up being so cheap, as it is considered a citizen’s right to good inexpensive healthcare (admittedly paid for by our taxes, but you see what I mean). But food is not so cheap here in Sweden; food may be downright unavailable in other places (http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/en/). Isn’t food a human right, even if one considers only the most basic nutrition?
But our food is not free — and perhaps it never was. There’s work lurking behind these kinds of transactions, past and present. Even when we were hunter-gatherers, one person’s work to get food could have led to bartering, I’m assuming: Imagine a specialized hunter, who could bring back enough meat to feed his family and someone else’s — what do you give him? Cloth? Leather goods? Tools? Such trade eventually could have led to cold hard cash or other monies, the tokens with which to buy things.
And these early morning thoughts led to a self-serving comparison: Information is valuable. Perhaps it should be free. But perhaps it should also be paid for: it takes effort to gather information, to share it and communicate it clearly. I think that stories are also necessities, a human need, and perhaps a human right. Information is powerful. A hunter can tell stories that lead to the best hunting grounds, or can pass on survival information. People who possess information can make things happen — change governments, change minds.
Information at the moment is free — hello, Internet! — but how valuable is some of that information? How accurate is it? We’re not paying much for it.
What a conundrum. Would a free avocado taste as good? Sigh. Yes, if it were ripe…