Socrates and his pal Piggly-Wiggly are out for a post-Thanksgiving pre-Advent walk down by the river.
Piggly-wiggly: . . . and you know what else? Short people. Short people just need to learn to accept their divinely-appointed height role. It’s not a lesser role, just because they’re not allowed to hold public office or propose legislation. They have a lot of important responsbilities. Their role is just as important as tall people’s role.
Socrates: An interesting perspective, my friend. But, if I may query, why do short people need a separate role?
Piggly-wiggly: Because they’re different! Short people, being closer to the dirt, are much more naturally knowledgable about dirtiness, and therefore so much better at sweeping streets and doing dishes than tall people are. Tall people just wander around with their heads in the clouds and can’t be bothered with practical matters – but where would they be without short people to clean up after them? Shortness comes with such important gifts and callings; it’s terrible to see all these short people today, envying their tall family members, instead of glorifying their own short role.
Socrates: Ah. And I suppose, old chum, that tall people have similarly essential characteristics?
Piggly-wiggly: Naturally. Tall people’s heads are closer to heaven, so they have smarter thoughts. That’s why they’re better suited for an intellecual life. But have you ever seen a tall person try to cook a meal? Hah! Hilarity, I tell you. Can’t even see the stovetop from way up here.
Socrates: Most interesting. But I confess, my dear colleague, I have known a few tall people who were admirable cooks. I even knew one tall person who did her own laundry.
Piggly-wiggly: Well, yes, certainly a tall person could learn to do the things that come naturally to short people, especially in a situation where a tall person lacked a short friend to take care of them. But it isn’t their divinely-appointed height role. Short people are good at scrubbing by nature.
Socrates: Might I propose a hypothetical situation, my good man?
Piggly-wiggly: Of course.
Socrates: Suppose there were a short person who felt that he were not especially suited to being a street-sweeper or dry-cleaner, who was especially good with rhetorical figures and wished to train to be an orator?
Piggly-wiggly: That poor, confused soul would need to learn to embrace his divine height role, and to develop his natural qualities of shortness. He can use his rhetorical skills in the home, to teach his tall children and prepare them for public service. Why should he yearn for a life out in the world, when he can have such influence over the tall people immediately around him? Tall people may be the head of the state, but if short people can just stand on a chair and get their hands around a tall person’s neck, they can turn the head any way they want.
Socrates: Most illuminating, my friend. If I may propose a second hypothetical: suppose there were a person of middling height who felt that she was an equally good housekeeper or politician. What should she do?
Piggly-wiggly: Middling height?
Piggly-wiggly: Why would God do that to someone?
Socrates: An excellent question, comrade. I have only one further question for you: How do you know that these qualities are innate and inborn? How can you be certain that short people haven’t simply learned to cook clean because that’s what they’ve been given to do, and that tall people haven’t learned rhetoric, reason, and leadership because that’s what’s been asked of them.
Piggly-wiggly: Because look how well they fulfill their roles!
Socrates: So, if I might summarize, good buddy: Short people and tall people have different roles. They have different roles because they are in essential, inborn, inherent ways, different: more than just their height, but their natural qualities and abilties. And we know that they are essentially different because we see how they fulfill different roles in society.
Socrates: More briefly: our different roles are justified by our essential characteristics, which are made evident by our having different roles.
Piggly-wiggly: Where’s that short brother of mine? I need my sandals polished.
- 27 November 2010