WARNING: THE TALE OF ROBIN HOOD HAS EVOLVED, THERE ARE MANY VERSIONS AND NO SINGLE AUTHOR…IN ESSENCE, IT IS A FOLK TALE. MY ENTRY IS BASED ON MY UNDERSTANDING (i.e. VERSION).
Here is a short synopsis of my version: Robin Hood has a band of Merry Men, who steal from a usurping tyrant king (Prince John) who takes property forcefully from the citizens through a “tax.” Robin and his band then distribute the loot to those who in fact earned it in the first place. In the end, a new king (King Richard) returns and everyone is happy because he is a “just” ruler (what life is like after King Richard returns is unknown…in any case, he represents a more fair government). Oh…and there is Robin’s love interest as well (Maid Marion).
Which means I agree with the blue text of this image, which I recently posted on Facebook:
Note: The red text is actually a false statement about the story. In fact, Robin did steal from the rich and give to the poor. I’ll provide a better caption below, but read on…
So anyway, I posted that photo above on facebook. Well, I now know that at least one of my friends read my blog, because sure enough, based on my previous Altruism post one of them asked, “but was he altruistic?” Well that is a darn good question, but it also leads to another question, “Was he good?”
So, let’s start with the second question first. Is Robin Hood a good guy? More precisely, in the context of the story, is stealing from whom he was stealing a good or a bad action? First, let’s check the premise. Does Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor?–Yes. Did these rich obtain their wealth through their own hard work and by providing value to someone else, or did they steal their riches through force? I say the latter. So, assuming Robin Hood is taking from the rich ruler who obtained his riches by threatening force upon a populace (i.e. robbery), then I would say that indeed Robin Hood’s actions were noble.
Notice that my judgment is based on looking at the issue at hand deeper than a topical news media headline: “Robin Hood Works for Common Man, Takes from Fat Cats and Gives to Poor!” In fact, when you look a degree or two deeper, you find that, “Robin Hood Locates Thieves of Citizens’ Riches, Returns Goods Back to Rightful Owners!” Language is very powerful, more powerful than even logic. Most of the time, most of us (including me), don’t take much time to evaluate a situation. Most of the time, we can be manipulated by slogans and catchy words.
OK, according to my version of the story (not that he simply stole from the rich to give to the poor, but that he returned to the citizens what an oppressive ruler took from them), Robin performed a good act. So, assuming his actions are good, were they altruistic?
I would argue that he is not altruistic for these reasons.
- In many versions of the story, Robin benefits from the patronage of King Richard, The Lion-Hearted (the “good” King). He may be looked upon as holding down the fort until Richard returned and brought a just society.
- The citizens are immensely grateful for his services. He can feel good about the service that he performs for them.
- This “gratefulness” gives Robin a type of defacto power (power is a big incentive for many). He is an elder of the people.
- Maid Marion – his actions get him the girl (our reproductive drive is a HUGE motivator…somebody should remind me to post on that later)
- I’m sure there are more, can you think of any?
I would like to return to the “steal from the rich give to the poor” moral of the story. If indeed Robin Hood was stealing from a rich person just because they have “too much” and those who are poor “deserve it,” this would not be a righteous action without knowing the premises (for example, the premise that the “rich” were actually “criminals”).
So here’s my suggestion for a more truthful caption to the image above: Pay Attention! While Robin Hood did steal from the rich and give to the poor, what made his actions justifiable were that he took people’s stolen stuff BACK from an oppressive CRIMINAL GOVERNMENT and gave it to the people that produced and OWNED the stuff in the first place!! The fact that his victims were rich and benefactors were poor, did not justify his actions!!
And now you see, why I have no future in writing headlines or political slogans.
What are your thoughts?