There was a queer little smile in his eyes, a look of amusement, calm and curiosity .
‘So how do you propose to begin? I suppose you mean to reform the whole order of society? He asked his colleague.
Nelly had a slight, tense frown between his eyebrows. He too was impatient with the conversation that had gone for almost half an hour.
‘I don’t propose at all,’ he replied. ‘When we really want to go for something better, we shall smash the old. Until then, any sort of proposal, or making proposals, is no more than a tiresome game for self important people.’
The little smile begun to die out of Mike’s eyes and he said, looking with cool stare at Nelly:
‘So you really think things are very bad?’
The smile appeared again.
‘In what way?’
‘Every way,’ said Nelly. ‘We are such dreary liars. Our one idea is to lie to ourselves. We have an idea of a perfect world, clean and straight and sufficient. So we cover the earth with foulness; life is a blotch of labour, like insects scurrying in filth, so that your boss can have a BMW in his compound, and you have a Corona in your rental house, as a nation we can spot the newspapers and televisions. It is very dreary.’
Mike stood up and adjusted his seating position after the tirade.
‘Would you have us live without houses – return to nature?’ he asked.
‘I would have nothing at all. People only do what they want to do – and what they are capable of doing. If they were capable of anything else, there would be something else.’
Mike didn’t want to be offended by the above statement by his friend; he pondered on it and asked,
‘Don’t you think the boss’s BMW as you call it, is a symbol for something very real, a real desire for something higher, in the boss’s life?’
‘Higher!’ cried Nelly. ‘Yes. It makes him so much higher in his community’s eyes. He sees himself reflected in the neighborhood’s opinion, like he is several feet taller on the strength of the BMW, he is satisfied. He lives for the sake of that, the reflection of himself in the human opinion. You do the same. If you are of high importance to humanity you are of high importance to yourself. That is why you work so hard at your job. If you can produce your assignments to your supervisor who then send them to his and through the organizational hierarchy, a product is sent to the market, and 500 or more people use it, you are 500 or more important than if you worked for your own self to satisfy your own needs.’
‘I suppose I am’ laughed Mike.
‘Can’t you see that to help your neighbor to get what they need is no more than getting it yourself? “I eat, thou eatest, he eats, we eat, you eat, they eat” – what then? Why should everyman decline the whole verb? First person singular is enough for me’ said Nelly.
‘You’ve got to start with material things,’ said Mike. Which statement, Nelly ignored.
‘And we’ve got to live for something, we’re not just cattle that can graze and have done with it,’ said Mike.
‘Tell me,’ said Nelly. ‘What do you live for?’ Mike’s face went baffled.
‘What do I live for?’ he repeated. I suppose I live to work, to produce something, in so far as I am a purposive being. Apart from that, I live because I am living.’
‘And what is your work? Contributing to the many ideas that make a product, everyday. And when we’ve got the product we want and all the great and nice things and the food is cooked and served and eaten, and we’re all warm and our bellies are filled and we’re admiring the new BMW – what then? What then, when you’ve made a real fair start with your material things? Then what?”
Think about it!