We arrive at the Park. Tennis Players are Tennissing, Runners are Running, Squirrels are Flaunting, Ducks are giving the Moral Dog Insinuating Looks regarding our Mutual Possession of Webbed Feet. Ladies in Pink Trousers Abound. It is a Positive Heaven for the Moral Dog. I Lunge for the Gate in Great Excitement.
Hergest, says the Owner in That Voice, Sit.
Why? I say.
Because I have asked you to do so, says the Owner.
That does not sound like a Morally Compelling reason to me, I say.
It is Discipline, says the Owner.
Discipline has to have a Point, I say, otherwise it is Totalitarianism by another name.
Totalitarianism is a dictatorial system of political ideas, says the Owner. Asking the Moral Dog to sit, on the Other Hand, represents a continuing and previously-negotiated contract between myself and the Moral Dog which provides for the Moral Dog’s Bottom, upon my saying sit, to be lowered instantly to the floor without his Owner having to beg, wheedle, shout, sulk, argue, persuade or simply Push It.
Faced with the brutal reality of paradigmatic cases like Stalin’s USSR and Nazi Germany, I say, I am not surprised that you do not wish to Admit to Totalitarianism. Nevertheless the Imposition of Dictatorial Commands upon the Moral Dog without any Useful Purpose seems to me to meet the definition of Totalitarianism in every way. Scratch the surface and There it Is. And the Floor is Quite Chilly on the Moral Dog’s Delicate Areas at this time in the morning.
I have asked the Moral Dog to Sit, says the Owner, in order that he Gather Himself before Encountering the Delights of the Park. That is not Totalitarian, it is Sensible, bearing in mind the presence of the Lady with the Pink Trousers and the Moral Dog’s tendency to Forget Himself and his Contractual Obligations in their presence.
The Moral Dog is Revoking the Contract, I say. I do not need to Gather Myself, I say, all my Parts are properly attached, and indeed since the Vet took such an Unhealthy Interest in them I check frequently to see that they have not inexplicably Dropped Off in the Night. I merely see absolutely No Moral Point in Sitting purely to Satisfy the Owner’s Controlling Tendencies. I regard any behaviour suggesting otherwise as a mere Phase in the Relationship of the Owner and the Moral Dog that has Now Passed.
You still Sit upon being requested to do so when in the Kitchen, says the Owner.
The Kitchen floor is subject to Underfloor Heating, I say, whilst the Park Path is Damp and Somewhat Chilly. The Moral Dog’s Parts are Sensitive to such things. I say. And I had not Previously Realised that my Owner was a Totalitarian, I say. You may regard yourself as Unmasked, I say.
Such Delicacy of Constitution does not appear to prevent the Moral Dog from Jumping in the Pond, says the Owner. He will forgive me, therefore, for being suspicious of his Motives for Refusing to sit since he has previously explained that the Pink Trousers exert an inexplicable and powerful Siren Call. And by the way, he should beware of using the claim that those Parts are getting in the way of good behaviour as an excuse for anything, given the Vet’s view on them.
That is exactly the kind of thing that a Totalitarian would say, I say. I am however exercising Free Will. It is up to the Owner to explain the purpose of the sitting and to negotiate how the benefits and downsides should be balanced. It is then up to the Moral Dog to decide what to do with that information.
The benefit is that it prevents the Moral Dog’s encounter with the Pink Trousers from mushrooming into Dry Cleaning Bills and accusations of Poor Dog Management, says the Owner. The Downside is that the Moral Dog has to stop wittering about Totalitarianism and accept Common Sense.
Aha, I say, I might have known. You are seeking to order the Moral Dog around merely to make Yourself look Good. I seem to remember Chairman Mao did the same thing in the Great Leap Forwards.
You cannot possibly equate being Asked to Sit with the Humanitarian Disaster of the Great Leap Forward, says the Owner.
A Moral Dog, if confronted with orders that do not appear to him Moral has a duty to disobey, I say. The UN Human Rights Committee sees the right of conscientious objection as part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and expression, I say.
Indeed, says the Owner, but conscientious objectors must both have a Conscience with which to Object, and must expect to face the consequences of following an internal value system that is in conflict with State Policy.
That is exactly what I am doing, I say. Moral Dogs should not be told to Sit, they should be asked to sit. It is rather like the difference between Imposing Lockdown by Force and asking for Lockdown through Solidarity and Altruism, I say. The First is Totalitarian. The second works only if you have the Trust and Support of the People. I am a conscientious Objector. I say.
Or, says the Owner, Totalitarianishly, perhaps you are a Slippery Eel.
I simply do not wish to sit, I say. You have not made a sufficiently rational argument. I may sit later, in the Kitchen. Closer to the Cheese.
And I may put on the Lead in the Park, says the Owner.
You would look Very Silly wearing it, I say, injecting humour into what is becoming a Tense Standoff.
Hello, says the Lady in the Pink Trousers. I am approaching now. Your Dog is watching me with a Look of Intent. Do I have your reassurance that my Trousers can Pass Safely By? You will notice that they have recently been Dry Cleaned.
As she speaks the Trousers call me with their Siren Voice. I do my best but it is Pavlov again. My hind leg muscles start to twitch. the Trousers hum and beckon. The Moral Dog cannot be expected to worry about Trivia such as Dry Cleaning. The Trousers are too Pink. The Trousers smell of Chemistry and Fabric Conditioner. The Trousers have a Quality of Pinkness that Shrieks for rescue. The Trousers need Pawprints…
Sit, Hergest, says the voice of the Totalitarian Owner from a very Distant Place.
I launch myself at the trousers in one moment of Glorious Revolution. It is, in a sense, also a Great Leap Forward. I realise I am mixing my metaphors but the Moral Dog cannot worry about Metaphors when the Trousers beckon…
And I am caught in mid air by the lead which the Owner has slipped around my neck, and Yanked to the Ground by the Momentum of my Own leap. The Trousers walk by, Pristine, disappointed. I am dragged in the other Direction, on a lead like a Dog with No Morals.
I cannot believe you did that, I say.
I do not care what you believe, says the Owner.
You only have to Scratch the Surface to Find it, I say. Totalitarianism Prevails.
I am not even having this Argument any more, says the Owner.
I expect that is what Totalitarians always say.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.