There’s always something to howl about

Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.1.3: Praising Cain: Change the world forever by learning to love your life the way you actually live it.

Imagine this: You are the High Priest of a nomadic tribe following a herd of foraging sheep. When the tribe needs food, a beast is slain and the meat is shared equally. The political structure is hierarchical, but even the Chieftain is governed by the unchanging traditions of the tribe.

One year the herd wanders toward the seacoast. You encamp a short walk away from a trading post built by a sea-faring civilization.

For the first time in their lives, your tribesmen discover a way of life different from their own. The traders live indoors, sleeping on beds! Their diet consists of more than meat and foraged nuts. They eat grain, fruit and fish, flavoring their water with delectable nectars.

Wealth is not shared. Villagers trade with each other to get what they need — and each family owns its own land! Disputes are resolved by reasoned conciliation, not by fiat. Even so, each family seems to own more weapons than your whole tribe combined.

Anyone can introduce a new tool, technique or idea at any time — upending the whole civilization if it comes to that — and not only is this not forbidden, it is avidly sought!

This is horrifying to you as High Priest, but your horror is nothing compared to the apoplexy of the Chieftain. As he watches tribesmen disappearing into the village one by one, he turns to you for a solution.

Now you understand the story of Cain and Abel.

Cain made a sacrifice of grain, Abel of meat, and the meat — the wealth of the herders — was pleasing to the god of the tribe. Why does Cain slay Abel in the story? To scare the tribesmen back into the herd.

The Greeks found a better way to live, spreading it with capitalistic abandon. Those who abhorred the Greek way of life crafted their mythologies to portray Hellenism as evil.

Would you like to change the world, forever, for the good, one mind at a time? Here’s how:

If you live in Cain’s world, stop pretending to live in Abel’s.

If your life depends on capitalism, private property and free trade, stop pretending to admire collectivism. If you thrive by continuous innovation, stop enshrining tradition. If you govern your behavior by reason and conciliation, stop praising vengeance and retribution. If you want to live free from coercion by other people, stop pushing other people around by force.

You know your way of life is better. Dare to share that secret with the victims of Abel. You are wrong to let Abel’s High Priests make you feel guilty about your wealth, but you are also wrong to hoard this civilization — this incomparable gift from Cain — to yourself. Innocents the world over are starving — in terror, in squalor — because you don’t have the courage to say that Abel was evil and Cain was good.

Make that one small change in your life, and the rest will come of its own…

December 6, 2006

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4 Comments so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds, Tom Hunter, Real Estate Ninja, Mark Risley, My REALTY and others. My REALTY said: Reasons to be cheerful, Part 3.1.3: Praising Cain: Change the world forever by learning to love your life the way … […]

  2. Marc Knight July 25th, 2010 9:12 am

    Leo Tolstoy once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”. If you don’t change, reality in the end forces that change upon you. Change should come from within. You can actually change your life by changing your heart. It is something that does not happen overnight though. But when you do succeed, make the change infectious, make it spread like a brush fire! Not all people may be open to change but remember that the most useless people in this world are those who never change through the years.

  3. Sean Purcell July 31st, 2010 11:14 am

    Twenty years ago I began to think, and I quickly shunned religion. I came to view the story of Cain and Abel as yet another children’s story of fear and obedience foisted upon those who live in fear. But I never took it all the way to incomparable gift from Cain and victims of Abel. You continue to open doors that twist, then free the mind. Thank you.

  4. Greg Swann July 31st, 2010 6:32 pm

    Thanks, Sean.

    Everything we have of the history of the Mediterranean can be read as reactions and counter-reactions to the Greeks. Judaism is literally the answer to the question, “How you gonna keep ’em down in the schul after they’ve seen Athens?” Saul of Tarsus struck a more rational — that is, less pious — bargain for the Christians, but Mohammed and his successors realized that it’s one or the other: People who have learned the benefit of questioning everything turn out to be pretty bad at unquestioning obedience to unprovable dogma.

    I think it is completely reasonable to say that Islam is the anti-Hellenic counter-revolution — not just back then, but always and forever. In all three cases, members of the three churches of Abraham give cash and lip-service to Abel, but they survive by living in Cain’s world. It’s the schism — I claim to believe in the customs and traditions of Abel, but my life depends on my actual observance of the rationality of Cain — that makes people nuts. Sayyid Qutb invented the creed we call Islamofascism when he could not reconcile his life in graduate school in Colorado with his faith. And that much is Cain’s fault, not understanding how much the proper use of the human mind is a topic of devotion. The result is that, even though Abel is risible, he still manages to rule millions of otherwise rational minds.