Bullies claim that "might makes right," but everyone else disagrees. Fortunately for good people, it is more often true that "right makes might."

To illustrate this point, consider the "story of the tropical island." Suppose we place 20 people on the island, and provide some way for them to harvest food. We will assume that they are picking fruits. They eat the fruit and plant the seed therein, so that they are harming no living thing.

Among the 20 individuals is a bully. He is stronger than any other individual. Using his strength, he picks no fruit himself but only takes fruit from the others. In his opinion, "might makes right". The others, however, find this to be oppressive.

Therefore, the 19 other individuals form a group with the motto, "all for one and one for all". The bully can no longer take from an individual, because he would have to fight the whole group. He is not capable of overcoming the group.

Is this ethical, or the group essentially the same as the bully?

To answer the question, it can be pointed out that the group does indeed have "might". From the point of view of the bully, the group is enforcing its might. But from the point of view of individuals within the group, this is not a case of "might makes right" but rather "right makes might."

What is your opinion? Do you consider the 19 individuals to be "in the right?"

Most independent observers will be on the side of the 19. Why? Perhaps because cooperation is an essential element of most people's concept of "what is good." Also consider that the group is never attacking anyone, but only defending. They do not use force as a means of deciding how the fruit is distributed; instead they have limited the situations in which force is permitted as a solution. The result is a high degree of cooperation, which yields the greatest power of all.

Nobody can promise that the "good guys will always win", but over the long term there is indeed a tendency for the "good guys" to prevail.

From Pathways daily ideas file, copyright Arthur de Leyssac, 2009; all rights reserved.