Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are we wicked step-sisters?

There’s a story I’ve been hearing more and more lately.  It sounds something like this:

You too can create a website that will earn you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars!  Don’t worry if you don’t have a product or a service to sell!  Just take this generic thing, re-brand it, offer it in exchange for e-mail addresses and …

Every time I come across it, I imagine someone sitting on top of an elaborate pyramid whose scheme can only work if there are people out there who want to earn a living without creating any sort of value.

The weird thing is, there appear to be plenty of people who fall into this category.

Where does this come from?  Taking a peek at a particular, ancient story theme, we can see that it’s not an entirely new phenomena.

coins The youngest, out of sheer necessity, leaves the security of home to wander through unfamiliar territory.  Along the way, she meets bedraggled beings (human or otherwise) who are in dire need and she kindly shares or gives away what little she has.  She is rewarded for her generosity, in a way she could not have anticipated. 

After returning home, she is forced by her jealous step-sister to share the “secret” behind her success.  The step-sister immediately sets off to follow the youngest’s instructions step by step.  However, since she is acting out of selfishness instead of kindness, her interactions with those she meets are less than admirable and the reward she reaps as a result is often quite horrible.

We’ve all heard a story like this.  In fact, it’s such a traditional folktale theme that generation after generation of our ancestors have.  I believe there is a reason this story continues to survive, a reason we continue to feel compelled to tell it.

Dear annoying, internet-marketing, scammer,

Thank you for helping to keep the oral tradition alive.


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