Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Sell You Fish!

Years ago I had a friend and co-worker who was from England. He was an older gentleman, a working class fellow with working class values. He would, from time to time, relate stories from his past.

This is one of them.

The Second World War was raging as he came of age. Barely of age. He joined the British Navy at the age of seventeen, and spent some time in the North Sea and the English Channel. He was engaged in the D-Day assault, and support work after that significant day.

During one of those support cruises his ship was taking on supplies off of the coast of France. A French fisherman was selling his catch to the English liberators.

One sailor quipped, "I bet you are glad to see us."

The fisherman continued to unload his catch. As he did so, he said "When the Germans were here I sold them fish. Now you are here. I sell you fish!"

I could visualize this practical man who drew his living from the sea. Before the German occupation of France he sold his fish to the French. With the German occupation he sold his fish to the Germans. With the liberation he sold his fish to the English.

His life probably did not change much over the course of the war. His life was well ordered, though probably far from easy. He knew how to fish. Fish provided food, and procured the other things he needed in his simple life. He may have been contemplative, a deep thinker as well as deep fisher.

By his answer I would think he was probably not.

I certainly find appealing the idea of a life unaffected by the social and political winds. I just don't see our country falling to an outside foe. We still have too much power for that. I do see the possibility of us falling to economic changes, and some inward upheaval which will redefine the United States of America as something else.

Could I ride out such a shift? Could I sell my "fish" to whomever comes seeking them?

In thinking about this, I realize how bound I am to the existing way of life. I have vesture in a government pension, one for which I have worked and upon which my later life shall largely depend. I am not yet old but I am far from young. To be compelled by world events to start over is a rather unpleasant and overwhelming prospect.

It is unlikely that I shall ever be tested in this. Thinking about it, however, does emphasize just how dependent I am on the system as it is. I may long for change in that system, but I can no longer comfortably harbor thoughts of radical change.

Thinking about this old story, one I heard years ago, has compelled me to think a bit more about myself.

Perhaps I need to go fishing.

No comments: