A father roused his son from sleep and said, â€œToday you will learn the joy of catching bluefish.â€
They set sail toward the rising sun on the barnacled Northern Star. When the shore was but a haze, sails were drawn and stone anchors released. Men crowded the sides of the ship and dropped their hooks of herring.
The boy pouted about not being able to see and about not getting his own pole. â€œYouâ€™re still too weak,â€ the father said.
A drunk nudged the boy and crouched to his ear. â€œTell your father to mind the fish.â€ The father turned to find the thick rod bent to a bow ready to distance its arrow. He took the rod from its holster and paused before ripping back to bury the hook deep in flesh.
â€œLetâ€™s see your strength, boy.â€ But the son could not turn the reel and the pole dipped low over the edge. The father took control and wore the fish down: releasing line, reeling line, releasing line.
Plucked from the water and set on the floor, the blue slapped its tail and flapped into the boy, knocking him down.
The slaps and flaps few and weak an hour before the end of day, the Northern Star began to ease the shore out of its haze. â€œLetâ€™s see if we can win some money,â€ the father said. The boy followed the father and the fish to the center of the boat. There a man held up a hand scale, a blue hooked on either side. The scale man removed the blue of lesser weight and put the fatherâ€™s in its place.
â€œMy boy got this one,â€ the father said, as the seesaw tipped in his favor.
The fatherâ€™s fish proved heaviest until the final round, where the drunk took the prize.
â€œHow could this be, father? Our fish was bigger.â€
â€œThe drunk stuffed his blue with more stone.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not fair, father. Men shouldnâ€™t use stones to win.â€
â€œBut son, this is how we have always done it. We keep our slaves to stay competitive among farmers and stuff our fish to stay competitive among fishermen.â€
The next time the boy sailed the Northern Star he was a man. The air of early autumn reminded him of the first tripâ€”he, wrapped around his fatherâ€™s legs, shielding himself from the cold. At the bow alone, heaving toward the gusts of mist and the source of light, the man said to his heart, â€œI must honor my father.â€
Before the anchor was dropped, his hook was sinking into the school of bluesâ€”the other men still filling with drink and laughter. With dedication he eyed the line, reeling it a bit. When the rod bent he gave life to his father and was aware of it. Forearms tan and rippling, he took the pole from the holster with care, planted its butt right of his groin, and tore back.
â€œThis is no war, young man,â€ the drunk said.
These words did not phase his rhythm. He dipped the rod forward, reeling. He pulled the rod back, not reeling.
People cheered as the great blue was brought to light.
â€œThis is sure to win the prize,â€ said the drunk, teeth gone and chin closer to his nose.
Before the young man could remove the deep hook, the pole of the drunk pitched forward.
â€œAh, I might be giving you a run for it,â€ he said, reeling in a fortyinch blue by the magic strength of years. No one had ever seen a fish of this kind that big.
But the young man had brought a pocket full of stones. He gorged the blue to the point of ripping and took the prize. The drunk hugged and kissed him.
â€œYou sure came prepared to win. Well played, young man. Well played.â€
The next time the young man sailed the Northern Star he was a father. He took his son as his father once took him. He even let his son reel the pole, relieving him when the struggle proved to be too much.
At the competition, the father-and-son team faced a former slave with a fish not much bigger.
â€œYeah!â€ the son said when the seesaw tipped in their favor.
The former slave was angry. He stomped the ground and ripped open the winning fish. He picked up the stones that clinked the floor and punched the father with a fist full.
â€œThisy noty right. Thisy noty right!â€
â€œBut this is how things have always worked,â€ the father said, holding his jaw. â€œThis is what we do. Next time you will stuff.â€
â€œNever do,â€ the former slave said. â€œNever do!â€
The father turned. â€œCome on, son.â€ But the man punched him in the back of the head and threw him overboard. Holding on tight to his fatherâ€™s leg, the son would have went over too were it not for the drunk that reached out and grabbed him.
The choppy sea banged the father against the bottom of the boat. He was left alone with his shame in the black.
â€œThat it was always done like this is no excuse,â€ he said to his heart. â€œIt is no excuse.â€
â€œYou are not responsible for what you have done.â€
He was swarmed by bluefish.
â€œYou must release your shame,â€ they said in unison.
â€œBut I cannot blame my ancestors. I decided to do it. I was responsible.â€
â€œYou will die soon, so you must listen. You would be wrong to blame your ancestors. No one is responsible to such a degree as to deserve punishment or reward. It may be right to punish or reward in order to change or preserve behaviorâ€”or just to appease others. But no being deserves punishment or reward. No one is responsible for anything they do. No one is responsible even for actions planned out beforehand. We who are deep know this truth.â€
â€œHow can this be? Help me before I die in shame.â€
Zooming around the man, the school gave its case.
If you are morally responsible for action O, then
you must have contributed to giving rise to O
and you must be morally responsible for at least
some partâ€”call it â€œZâ€â€”of what you contributed.
If you are morally responsible for this Z, then
you must have contributed to giving rise to Z
and you must be morally responsible for at least
some partâ€”call it â€œYâ€â€”of what you contributed.
This chain will go on in an indefinite amount of steps
until some point is reached, at best your fertilization,
where you are clearly not morally responsible for that
part of what you contributed in question at that point.
Never does moral responsibility get conferred to O.
You are not morally responsible for O, or any action.