Friday, November 21, 2014

A Modern Fable

The Fable of the Lazy Security Guard 

A man stood outside the bank.  He had a gun, and a handwritten note demanding 100,000 dollars in small, nonsequentially number bills. An alert security guard stood inside the bank, behind a locked door. Having been alerted to the pending robbery attempt, he had locked the door.  He refused to open it.

The would-be robber's presence came to the attention of a bystander, who heard the robber banging on the bank door and demanding admittance to the bank.

"What's going on," the bystander asked.

"This darn security guard," replied the would-be robber, tucking his gun into his waistband to avoid detection, "he won't open the darn door and let me in.  I want to make a withdrawal!"

The bystander, thinking he correctly perceived the circumstance as being one in which the unbeknownst to him would-be robber was, he thought, a valued customer of the bank, became belligerant and directed his loudly projected voice at the door and the security guard behind it.  "Open the door, damn it all to hell, people have business in there, and you need to start doing your job!"

A crowd gathered.

They saw the bystander taking up the cause of the robber, and heard him chastening what now seemed to be, to their perception, the indolent, shiftless, lazy security guard for "failing to do his job."

Finally, seething with indignity, the bystander took a crowbar, prized open the door of the bank whereupon the would-be-robber became a robber in fact.  As it happened, he was able to clean out the vault at the bank, including all the safety deposit boxes.

The next week, a hue and cry arose as account holders began to receive notices that their payments were being reversed for NSF (insufficient funds).  A few were further dismayed when they discovered the loss of important personal valuables, even items they planned to bequeath to their children, now long gone from the vault.

The Moral of the Story:

Sometimes, doing "nothing" is doing your job.  Sometimes, bystanders who criticize others for doing "nothing" are blithely ignorant of duty and honor.  And sometimes, when you think that someone has a valid moral claim on the property of others, they do, in fact, not have such a claim.