July 11, 2011


Looking out my kitchen window this morning, I saw two squirrels at play. One had a nut of some kind and was being chased by the other. They ran up the bark of one tree and swung to the next with a speed difficult for my eyes to follow.  Eventually they disappeared from view.

Thinking about what I’d seen, I realized the squirrels might not have been at play.  Perhaps one animal had stolen the nut and was being pursued by the rightful owner. If so, should I think of the offending squirrel as a thief?


Of course not. Morality is a human concept. For some, it is a set of divine principles. For others, it is a pragmatic tool: the glue that holds societies together. Morality and justice are central to human thinking and are the cornerstones in most literature, whether it is in Melville’s novel, “Moby Dick” or Ugo Betty’s play, “Corruption in the Palace of Justice.” 

Unfortunately, if one reads widely, one discovers how varied these two notions can be from culture to culture. The idea that a woman can be gang raped by the male members of one family for a trifling offense by a member of hers is prevalent in some parts of the world. In other parts, the practice flies in the face of decency and common sense. The word to describe it is barbaric.    

Given the plethora of rights and wrongs and the various forms of justice meted out in different societies, one wonders where the World Court gets its moral imperative. The cynic in me doesn’t place much hope in imposed notions of universal justice. Avarice is the great leveler. Commerce, the child of greed, requires standards of fairness to flourish. Those who wish to play will have to conform. That requirement is how humans differ from squirrels.