The Owner and I are taking our walk in the park when we see the Group. They are standing together, smoking and chatting and things.
I glare at them.
Why are you pulling that Funny Face? Asks the Owner.
It is not funny, I say, it is my Potentially Vicious Dog Face. I am expressing Dispproval.
I see, says the Owner.
They do not look like a Family, I say, and they are less than Two Metres apart. Actually they are less than Two Inches apart in Some cases.
Indeed, says the Owner, throwing my Ball.
They are Gathering in the Middle of the Path, I say. It is impossibly to pass them on the Path with a Two Metre Space, I say.
That is why the Moral Dog and I are walking on the grass, says the Owner.
Should we not tell them to Go Home? I ask.
No, says the Owner.
Why not? I ask. I will be Right Behind You, I say. I will wear my Potentially Vicious Dog Face, I say. That way they will not Dare to be Rude.
What do you think will happen if I and my Potentially Vicious Dog tell them to Go Home? Asks the Owner.
They will be Shrivelled into Submission and go home in a contrite fashion, I say.
The Moral Dog, says the Owner, needs to look at his Potentially Vicious Dog Face in the Mirror.
But they are perpetrating an Outrage, I say. Shrivelling is too good for them.
Do you not think that this gathering we are Witnessing is a Small Protest by the Helpless against the Injustice of what is Happening to them? Asks the Owner.
Do not make them sound Oppressed, I say. They are Gathering and should be Stopped.
That may be true, says the Owner, but we are not the ones to do it. Our Role is to Understand each other, not to Pull Each Other apart.
Surely if everyone in the Park gets together and reminds them of their responsibilities they will Fall into Line, I say.
Or perhaps they will feel even more Cooped up and Stressed, says the Owner. They may spend all day in Accommodation they did not Choose with Family Members they have fallen out with. They may have needed their Brief Gathering more badly than we can Possibly Imagine.
But you told me we must not Break the Community Solidarity, I say. If we cannot break it, why should they?
I agree that they should not, says the Owner, but You and I and the Man are Confined together in a Pleasant Home with a Balcony you can relax on, a Cave full of Squeaky Friends and all the Cheese we can eat. We are in no position to judge others whose situations we cannot guess. Therefore it is not for us to Force them to Behave as they Should.
What is the Point of Upholding Community Solidarity, I ask, if you are not Prepared to Force those who do not to Behave Properly?
Because then it would not be Solidarity at all, says the Owner, it would be Coercion.
That sounds like a Paradox, I say. Those are tricky, I say.
It is a Paradox, says the Owner. You can either create a Community and Ask it to Obey, or you can create a Police State and Oblige it to Obey. Only the first has True Solidarity. The Second is Oppressed and has only Fake Solidarity, whilst States which rely on individual Citizens to Force one Another to Behave Properly have No Solidarity at All.
I see, I say. Well, Could you not just Tut a bit as you walk past? I say.
No, says the Owner, that would be even worse. I am not the Moral Police. You cannot create Solidarity by Reprimanding people, still less if you do so whilst pretending not to do so. Instead you will make them feel more Alien. I am proud to live in a Country where people can fail to show Solidarity and Nobody walks past Tutting, or Orders them to Behave. Do you know why?
I am sure you are about to tell me, I say, your question has That Flavour.
Because doing the Right thing for the Right Reasons, says the Owner only signifies Solidarity in a Society of Persons who have Free Will.
Oh I see, I say. We are back to Paradise Lost again, are we.
I made him just and right, says the Owner,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the Ethereal Powers
And Spirits, both them who stood and them who fail’d;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have giv’n sincere
Of true allegiance.
I knew you would say that, I say. You always say that.
It is my favourite bit of Paradise Lost, says the Owner.
It is the only bit you know, I say.
It might be, says the Owner.
So you are saying that Solidarity only has Value if we can allow people Not to Show It, I say.
That is the challenge of the Paradox, says the Owner. Solidarity is only Solidarity if it is Freely Chosen. If we want to live in a Community based on Solidarity and Tolerance, rather than one that relies on Discipline and Snitching then we have to accept that some will occasionally, for reasons we can only guess at, break the rules.
We walk past the Gathering again and head home. I do not tut.
Oh Look at that Dog, says one of the Teenagers as we pass them, isn’t he cute?
The Owner says Nothing.
What? I say.
Cute, she says.
I have no idea what you are talking about, I say.
I think you have, says the Owner.
I maintain a Dignified Silence. When we get home I am going to find a mirror. It is clear that my Potentially Vicious Dog Face needs a little work.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.