Robin Hood – Religion and Politics

We’ve all heard the name, fictional though it is, and to so many, he is a hero—Robin Hood.

In reality though Mr Hood is anything but a hero. In fact he sounds a great deal more like government than about anything else for which one might mistake him. The primary difference being that government takes far more that they don’t need or deserve than would Robin Hood for himself.

Other than that though, he bears a striking resemblance to much of the World’s modern government. Take from the “rich” and give to the “poor.” The first interesting fact about this idea is that, perhaps in the time when Robin lived, it was truly possible to know by some measure other than look and the apparent opulence thereof, who was and who was not wealthy.

The second idea, is that it appears that, in Robin’s world, there were pretty much only the rich and the poor. Put another way, the concept of a “middle class” seems to have been an entirely foreign one.

Now to be fair, in many societies, this has tended to be not too far from reality. It has not been very long at all, that South Korean society more or less entirely lacked a middle class of any size at all. People there tended to either be rich or poor. There was little in between them. This may therefor, be said to be fairly true in Robin Hood’s world as well.

Even so, there are some interesting realities to be explored in the story. One thing is that, where some of the people who happened to be wealthy may have come by their gains illegitimately, we have to ask, “Was this always the case?” If not, the question arises, “Did Robin Hood distinguish between the ‘noble’ rich and the ignoble?”

I’m no expert on Mr Hood, but I see in most of the presentations celebrating his escapades, no such distinction. It’s entirely possible that those telling the tale simply see no reason to talk about the existence of those who were not wealthy as a result of ignobility. This seems highly unlikely, but it’s possible.

But even if we ignore the possibility that one may acquire substance without defrauding others in the process, there are other issues with the tales I have heard.

One such conundrum surrounds the idea expressed in an old adage I have in past employed. The essence of the saying in question being, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a liftetime.”

I should say, to begin with, that this expression is actually incorrect. Why? Because if teach a man to fish, you make it possible for that person to feed him or her self for a lifetime. Put simply if you teach a person to fish, you take yourself out of the equation in large part.

What Robin Hood appears to have done, by and large, is give people fish. What this means in the long term is, most of those people were probably little better off after his actions than before them. And let’s be fair, if that were not the case, unless Mr Hood actually did differentiate between the noble and ignoble rich, as time went on, those who gained from his actions likely ultimately became his potential targets.

While we’re at it, let’s consider another idea. Let’s think about the concept that Mr Hood chose to take wealth, and rather than use it to build a lasting legacy for himself—making so he could help so many more people with what he created than continuing to risk his life and liberty—forgetting that of his “merry band of thieves”—instead “gave it away,” making it so he continued to count on others for his ability to “help others.”

If by this point, you’re not seriously questioning the fictional legacy of Robin Hood, I have to ask if you’re really paying attention to what I’m saying.

Even if you’re not, perhaps you should consider the lesson Mr Hood passes on to those younger than himself.

One of the interesting realities of life, is that folks looking on already don’t tend to  pick up on nuances regarding the things those people do. Imagine, for example, in Robin Hood’s case, that children watching him rob others are entirely unaware of a couple of facts:

  1. That he wasn’t just keeping what he got.
  2. That he was robbing people because they were the “ignoble” rich.

The second is more likely, I think, than the first, but both are certainly possible. You see, Robin Hood never seems to be concerned about the appearance of his actions. I’m not saying that one ought to go about failing to take action because what one does appears to be something other than what it actually is. I am saying that controversial actions are more likely to result in misunderstandings, than standard or uncontroversial ones. As such, a person doing things that are “out of the ordinary,” ought probably to be more concerned about how he or she looks to others doing them.

Adding all of this up, you really begin to wonder exactly why it is that Robin Hood has gathered such a “following.”

As for me, I believe the reason to be that there are a good many people out there “guilty of wishful thinking.” The problem being that those folks often more or less completely fail to consider the unintended consequences of the actions they applaud.

From the standpoint of a “poor person,” it probably seems like a wonderful idea that someone is “taking from those that have” and “giving to those who don’t.”

One of my favorite economists (Thomas Sowell by name) makes an interesting point about this approach to life. At least in the United States, the rich don’t necessarily stay rich and the poor generally aren’t always poor. If we apply the “If it’s good for one, it’s good for all.” Measure with which so many seem to agree, that would mean a poor person who managed to acquire wealth would become a target of such a philosophy.

There’s certainly more I could say here, but as is often the case, I have “run out of time and words.” As such, they probably will find themselves taken up in another article. As usual, thanks for reading and I hope your time is good.

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