Everything is Fine Until It Isn’t

Turkey Parable

  1. In the morning, a nice man comes for a visit.  
  2. He puts food in your bowl.  
  3. The food is fresh and tasty.  
  4. The food is always in plentiful supply.
  5. At night there's a warm place to sleep.  
  6. The next day, the process is repeated.  The nice man visits, he feeds you, and you sleep comfortably.  It repeats day after day.   
  7. You think: everything is right with the world.  How could anything possibly go wrong?  In fact, the only thing I really have to fear is getting hit by lightening when it rains or a the rare chance a fox might get under the wire and into the coop (which very seldom happens).  The Turkeys that worry about this are pessimists.
  8. One day, the nice man arrives.  
  9. The nice man grabs you.
  10. He lays you across a stump, your neck exposed.  
  11. He raises an axe and cuts off your head.    

This parable is courtesy of my compatriot, the philosopher of risk, Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan).  He uses it to demonstrate how estimates of financial risk are fatally biased.


I think this parable can also be used in another way.  It can demonstrate how people are unwilling to think through their vulnerabilities (why am I in a cage?) and dependencies (why is the nice man the only way I get my food?) until it's too late to do anything about it.  In fact, they can't see anything wrong with it, even when there are signs that the entire system that cared for them is about to turn deadly.

Taken in the context of today’s Black Friday madness, we ought to be taking a serious look at the US economic system and lifestyle choices. How long can it sustain itself? It’s dependent on ever more expensive and diminishing oil, an overreaching bankrupt empire, a crap shoot financial system, & consumer and government debt at unprecedented levels. Any number of events or system failures could turn us into the turkey in this parable. What do we do?

I think we can learn a lot from the way our ancestors lived in the formation of a new/old indigenous style economy. I, personally, am in the process of moving toward what I call Fish Camp 3.0 in Tlingit Aani. The ultimate goal is to spend a season or two using renewable energy extracted from the wilderness to hunt, fish and gather the calories needed to sustain my family through the entire year. Of course, many or our peole are already doing this with fossil fuels, but I’d like to move toward 100% renewable energy, gathered from the environment just as we would gather fish or hunt game. This is the sort of thinking we need in order to make it in the long run.


About Vince

I am a Tlingit, born and raised in Tlingit Country, and a proud member of the Tlingit Nation.
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