Thursday, June 8, 2017

Give the Man a Fish!

"First feed the face and then talk right and wrong"
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Yesterday, right after I had posted my previous blog entry, “Cut Bait,” the above excerpt from the song “How to Survive” (Bertholt Brecht/Kurt Weill, The Threepenny Opera) floated into my head. So today I am posting an addendum to the previous discussion of “Give a man a fish . . . Teach a man to fish.”
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There are only two things I remember from my three years of Junior High School, both acronyms: PAIL and BAPS.

PAIL is a reminder of the four types of skin injuries: Puncture, Abrasion, Incision, and Laceration. Good for one's general knowledge, but PAIL doesn't rise to the level of usefulness of BAPS.

The latter acronym spurs us to the correct order of treatment should we happen to stumble across a man in shock who has swallowed poison, been asphyxiated, and is simultaneously bleeding. (Now, I must admit that my BAPS knowledge has never been called into play, as I have never met such a distressed human being. The only person that I can imagine coming across such an unfortunate is Hercule Poirot, but that prissy Belgian, I believe, would be of no use in the matter.)

At any rate, in case you do come across such a case, here's the battle order:

First, deal with the most life-threatening problem—the Bleeding;
Only once that is under control, do you turn to the second most threatening issue—the Asphyxiation;
After that is seen to, you move to an antidote for the Poison;
And lastly (assuming the poor chap is still with you) you attend to the Shock.
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And so, class, what is the relevance of all this to our fish story of yesterday?

First things first. Before attempting to turn a starving man into Izaac Walton, feed his face!







Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cut Bait

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

A saying that originated—according to the first page of Google results—in ancient China (Confucius, perhaps), or with Maimonides, or maybe as late as 19th century England (with a certain Anne Isabella Richie).
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It’s not worth my while trying to figure out whether the above saying is an aphorism, an adage, a maxim, an apothegm or—well—just a saying, and I certainly have no idea who thought it up. What I do know is that there is a stink (like a three-day old fish) of mock profundity about it.

In reality, the saying is an example of a false dichotomy—the fallacy that there are only two (polar opposite) positions that can be held in an argument (“Better dead than red.” “Better red than dead.”). 

The fish story is generally reeled in nowadays by those big-hearted econo-moralists who would walk past a beggar but drop $$$ into the greasy palms of the 1 percent, who—as the plot is expected to unfold—will spend the loot on factories and mills that will eventually employ said beggar. Top-down economics, Reaganomics, “voodoo economics” (in the apt phrase of George H. W. Bush, before he ate crow and became that bad actor’s running mate).

Sure, teach the starving man to fish. But if he isn’t fed first, he won’t be around to be taught. 

As John Maynard Keynes retorted to someone who was blowing on about “the long run”: 

“In the long run we shall all be dead.”