Pirates and Emperors : Or, Size Does Matter!

Humans have wrestled with notion of ethics since millennia. Ethics appear relativistic; they seem to change with place, time, culture, class and so on. Attempts have always been and will be made to put them on a firmer footing – to create absolute ethics that are inviolable in all climes and times, but have failed so far. When Arjuna flounders in Kurukshetra at the competing demands made by ethics, Bhagvad Gita portrays how Krishna ably demonstrates the hierarchical structure of ethics and how one needs to sacrifice the ethics lower down to uphold the higher ones. Arjuna’s dilemma is dissolved and his resolve firmed up to prosecute the epic war.
A cynic may always point out, disconcertingly but correctly, that hierarchy itself is a matter of taste and choice – i.e. relativistic. There is yet another dimension to ethics – Scale.
Scale is a notion that everyone seems to sense albeit inchoately, but rarely therefore it gets articulated. There is a apocryphal anecdote that how one wise parliamentarian drops a rupee coin so that it makes a resounding noise, when he sees fellow MPs voting on hundreds of billions of rupees worth budgetary proposals without a debate or even a murmur. At the sound of the coin rolling down, many MPs start checking their pockets to see if they have dropped anything of value. That is when the wise parliamentarian gets up to say, “you are worried about your coin but are mutely watching this loot of tax rupees of your electorate, whose interest you are here to represent”. True or not, the story has a lesson. That Scale matters.
 If one steals a rupee one is a thief, if one steals a fortune one is a mighty Wall Street Investment banker. When one kills a fellow being, it is murder whatever the circumstances. But if one kills by thousands, one is a patriot fighting a national war. With one nuclear device in hand, one is a terrorist. Possessing them in multiples of tens makes a nation pariah state.  But if one has a stockpile of them, then one is a super power – respected or not but certainly feared. So scale up a crime, it becomes respectable. Scale it up real big, it becomes too big to fail. The loot gets now not prison but support of the State.

Eric Henry is a genius – both as a conceptualizer as well as presenter. He has captured this powerfully subversive idea in a cartoon video that plays for little over three (3) minutes. But simplicity doesn’t mean trivialization. Real life facts have been woven into the narrative. Watch this great creative effort – Pirates and Emperors (or, Size does Matter) – at your own risk.


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