Friday, January 7, 2011

The needs of the one vs. the needs of the many*

(Yup, I like Star Trek. *The Wrath of Khan was a great movie.)
In Judaism is there is a well known saying supposedly from the Talmud "To save one life is as if you saved the world." It is likely derived from the Talmudic principle that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious consideration. I can't disagree with the principle, except that I would leave out the religious qualifier.
That saying came to mind when I read the story of the superhero vigilante in Lynwood Washington that patrols the night-time streets in costume like the kid in the movie Kick-Ass. I liked Kick-Ass the movie, so I love this story.
Phoenix Jones is his name and he has been doing this for 9 months so far, and as he says: "I symbolize that the average person doesn't have to walk around and see bad things and do nothing."  Jones saves lives and protects property; admirable, but dangerous.
Fortunately Mr. Jones has some military training and a team that assists him. I think this makes the local police look bad, remember in most towns the Police have the monopoly on protection, but they are generally not around to do it. I know, Police aren't omniscient or omnipotent, but I like the idea of competition in the protection racket, so I hope Mr. Jones and his team can turn this into something lucrative. Here is Mr. Jones on YouTube:

The reverse kind of story happened this week, a homeless man in Columbus Ohio with a radio voice was saved by many. Ted Williams who has a checkered past, was taken off the streets of Columbus and given another chance. There are a couple of reasons I think this story is important.
The most obvious reason is that this story shows the power of YouTube and the internet. The internet has become a tool of referendum. The "share-ing," the blogging," the "Like-ing," all of it from YouTube, to Facebook, to Google and beyond, adds up to a new and powerful force that can satisfy the needs of the many and in this case the one.
The Williams story also shows that people like to help people, one-to-one, it's a natural instinct. It does not require the coercive force of government along with the bureaucratic infrastructure that frequently gets in the way of help. Help can be given informally, without strings on a local scale.
Both stories are very local, tiny, but ultimately huge. I hope they end well.  

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