Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In It For the Money?

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? On Tuesdays I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish. And if you find this becomes a novel-length answer, I'd appreciate a thank you in the acknowledgements.

I recently saw some of a documentary called Smoke and Mirrors. It's a fascinating history of the tobacco industry. They knew that smoking was deadly by the 1950s, yet still they promoted it, focusing on their bottom line rather than... oh, I don't know... phasing out something that KILLS PEOPLE.

This is the sort of thing teeming with what if possibilities...

What if you (or your main character) suddenly learned your livelihood was based on a lie? Would you give up your stability to do the right thing?

I have no idea if the link to the movie will work or not. Or if it's permitted to post. If there are any issues, let me know and I'll take it down. I was looking for a different link, but all I could find was the tape on eBay (for something like $100).


  1. oh my this is one to truly ponder. I really don't know what I would do. I would like to think that I would take the noble approach but I don't know. I think that if I worked in a field like the tobacco industry, I probably would still work there thinking that people have the free will to stop or not. It is just like fast food places today. Would I quit on principle if i made 6 figures working at McRaunchy's knowing the food was horrible-I don't think I would. If I was working high up in a factory in Germany in 1942 and knew the people would die because they are Jewish. I know i would do what i could to save them. Strange isn't it as the second one would be more life threatening but they did not have a choice and it is simply hellish not to help despite the fear of my own family and myself being killed. I can say, proudly, my mom and her family helped where they could, giving food when they could. Anyway that is my long winded answer

  2. I think that's a great what-if for a dystopian. Of course it's been done before, but it can still be made into something fun. Also, what's this "tape" your speaking of? Is it like a DVD?

  3. It would be hard to do, but I do think I would give up my stability. I know hubby has been asked to lie about certain things in certain positions he has had, but has gone out of his way not to lie because it would go against his ethics with the way he does business. I also told him if they had ever insisted that he do something unethical or a lie, then I thought it would be okay to quit on the spot rather than compromise his beliefs. So, yep, I think I would expose myself so to speak and get out of that particular livelihood.


  4. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I knew I was producing a product that kills, and since I've given up my stability more than once on ethical grounds, I can say without hesitation, I would give up my stability to do the right thing. That said, I don't have a family to support. If I had children, my answer might be different. Another issue? I'm not wealthy, and I've never been wealthy, so my giving up stability (income) isn't the same as Bill Gates giving up stability.

    VR Barkowski

  5. This is a tough question. The idealist in me says that I should give up my stability.

  6. It would depend on the lie, the consequences of that lie and who and what my livelihood was supporting.
    For instance, if I found out that the clothing factory I was working in was using 90% cotton in their blouses instead of the 100% they were claiming and that if I quit my job and could not pay my mortgage my 11 children would have no food to eat and would have to quit school and get jobs to help support us, or worse yet might end up selling drugs and then be put in jail, and that the mwahahahaha evil mustache twisting banker would tie me to the railroad tracks because he wanted my three room house which sits in the middle of an oil field, then no I wouldn’t give up my meager, getting along by the skin of my teeth livelihood.
    On the other hand, if I found out that the bank I was CEO of was handing out mortgages to people who I knew couldn’t afford them and I was gambling on a sure thing by selling these bad loans to other banks who in turn were selling them to other banks and that the country would fall apart, once these loans came do, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have to pay the consequences, and I could keep my four 35thousand square foot homes and my cars and yachts and my children could keep going to their private $50,000 a year school, yeah by then I would be so corrupt that I would probably be able to justify anything.

  7. I think I'd give it up. I used to work in sales and promotions at a Casino and couldn't stand the idea of that so gave it up. You know, something as simple as promoting the idea of people gambling away their hard earned money. It seemed such a terrible, pointless thing to do. I wanted to do something meaningful so went to University and became a teacher. It's much more rewarding (sometimes) as you know Liz.

    1. That's interesting. When I posed this question, I didn't think that some of you had experience with this. Glad to see you went with your conscience.


I appreciate your comments.

I respond to comments* via email, unless your profile email is not enabled. Then, I'll reply in the comment thread. Eventually. Probably.

*Exception: I do not respond to "what if?" comments, but I do read them all. Those questions are open to your interpretation, and I don't wish to limit your imagination by what I thought the question was supposed to be.