Nature Writer Ernest Thompson Seton had an odd bill presented to him on his twenty-first birthday. It was a record kept by his father of all the expenses connected with young Ernest's childhood and youth, including the fee charged by the doctor for delivering him. Even more oddly, Ernest is said to have paid it. I used to think that Mr. Seton Senior was a jerk, but now I'm wondering. Margaret Atwood, 'Payback'
Most of us wouldn't wonder much. Such behaviour seems monstrous, inhuman. Certainly Seton found it so: he paid the bill, but never spoke to his father again afterward. And in a way, this is precisely why the presentation of such a bill seems so outrageous. Squaring accounts means that the two parties have the ability to walk away from each other. By presenting it, his father suggested he'd just as soon have nothing further to do with him. David Graeber, Debt, p.92
What would you feel like if you mother or father gave you a bill like Mr. Seton? What would your reaction be?
Do we owe our parents? Are we obligated to them?
If so, is it something that can be paid back? Is it something that can be paid back with money? If not money, what is our obligation toward our parents?
Let's look at it from the other side:
Do parents owe their children? Do parents have the responsibility, if they create a life, to make that life successful? If they fail to help them set up successfully for life do they owe the child a debt? If you create a life, do you incur a debt--do you owe the person for creating them?
Do you agree with this?
It is strange to wish to be square with ones' parents--it rather implies that one does not wish to think of them as parents anymore." David Graeber, Debt, p.62
Does 'being square' with someone imply that the relationship is over?
Can you substitute money for a relationship? Does introducting money damage the relationship, or our feelings towards the other person? Does introducing money sever a relationship automatically?
"We do owe everything we are to others. This is simply true. The languge we speak and even think in, our habits and opinions, the kind of food we like to eat, the knowlege that makes our lights switch on and toilets flush, even the style in which we carry out our gestures of defiance and rebellion against social conventions---all of this we learned from other people, most of them long dead. If we were to imagine what we owe them as a debt, it could only be infinite." Debt, p.62
Do you agree with this?
How would you describe the relationship we have with all the other people on the planet, and/or all the people who came before us?
Do you feel we owe humanity or the people who came before us anything?
Would you think of our relations to all of humanity as a debt?
What, if anything, do we owe our parents?
What, if anything, do our parents owe us?
What, if anything, do we owe 'society'?
What, if anything, does 'society' owe us?