Friday, March 7, 2014

Your Money or Your Life

A story came through mmy newsfeed this morning of a man in Seattle who was killed for refusing to give up his phone to an attacker. It occurs to me to discuss the idea of your possessions not being worth your life.

First off, the obvious- I put a much higher value on my life (and my family's lives) than on any personal possessions. The point I'd like to emphasize is that the person who offers good old fashioned violence in exchange for not giving them any money DOES NOT. Their opening statement is that they are valuing your life at lower than the sum of what you MIGHT be able to give them. Furthermore, they are explaing that they are just as prepared to take both as they are to take only one. This person does not have your best interests in mind, therefore it would be less than wise to entrust them with either your life or your possessions.

Frame it as a transaction- person A has some money. Person B has some valuable possessions. Person A wants Person B's possessions and offers to trade- except that person B is not particularly interested in person A's money, and would prefer to retain his possessions. Transaction over? Not quite. Person A has another thing- person B's life (or at least the ability to end it, which is, for our purposes, equivalent). By offering to exchange these two things, they are making a statement of equal value (or acceptably similar value) just the same as they were with the money. Person B thinks their life is precious, while person A is making the statement that the same life is worth, oh lets say $100. Does it make sense to trust someone at their word when they've just made the statement that your life is worth $100?

Take it another step- Person A has made it clear that he has valued B's life at $100 but he also makes it clear that he is willing to take BOTH. So what he's really asking is for you to agree with him- your life is worthless. Less than $100. He'll take both if he wants to, but he MAY, if he feels like it, let you keep a little of it. He's not offering anything you want, and if you don't give up the goods he may just kill you and take them, or he may kill you anyway after you give them up. Either way, they aren't much value to him. He has now defined the value of life, and its unacceptably low.

I don't agree with that. My life is pretty damn valuable, and I intend to keep the value of it. Joe Stickupguy is offering violence in exchange for a life he values at nothing and $100 phone- I'm offering an equivalent amount of violence in return. If he decides HIS life is worth more than my money, he'll decline to continue the transaction, and we'll all walk away from it. If not, well, we'll throw both lives in the fire and see which one burns first. I'll take that chance before I let someone kill me over the cost of a telephone.

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