Point System: keeping score

We all live by and adhere to a bevy of social contracts.

One of those contracts is the equity of gift exchange. If I take you for lunch, you must, eventually, take me for lunch — or breakfast, or drinks or… Whatever it is, it must roughly equal the value offered in the original transaction. If you spring for a fancy dinner, the onus of return has now shifted back to my shoulders. And so we live, social debt flowing to and fro.

Until one side takes, the other side gives and an unbalanced ledger results. I borrowed your lawnmower, your shovel, your chainsaw and never repaid you in kind.

Without effort from my side, this slight will grow and fester. An unspoken feud may molder and spawn, like some fetid mushroom pushed up through rotting soil.

There is however, one system which lives for an unspoken unbalance: The Mormons.

The Mormons have a charity point system; they must do good deeds, in excess of those good deeds done back onto them. When we lived in Utah, we confounded them and their points-for-heaven tally sheet. We would be our neighborly, good-natured and giving selves; going out of our way to help and assist and donate whatever we could — simply because that’s how we were wired. They, in turn, would try and surpass normal social mores and attempt to double up in pious points.

Now, to be fair, I’m sure this equanimity generally stemmed from the aforementioned social contract. But, on occasion, we were well aware that we’d flummoxed a number of our neighbors with excessive kindness, a gift that tipped the scales in a way that no doubt confounded them no end. We were, after all, the infidels of the neighborhood. The score could not be left teetered so.

Eventually, the weight would shift and we would accept that to remain amicable, we must be a smidgen in arrears; they were headed to heaven, we realized, and the score must tip in their favor.


14 thoughts on “Point System: keeping score

  1. Down here it’s never refuse a gift from certain cultures. Even if you don’t want it. The trouble really starts when assistance is assumed, and how the score is kept. If you don’t keep score and someone else does you’re either always ahead or behind. With the other party used to score keeping and assuming you’re trippin’ some way because you haven’t asked for anything. And that’s their devil, waiting for it. When’s he gonna come ask me for…sometimes they throw money at you even if you volunteered, sincerely. Look, I don’t mind. Really. I don;t see it as altruistic or paying it forward. No, I don’t want to stand in the cold drizzle and help you start your car, but I don’t you and a baby sitting in a McDonald’s parking lot in a cold car even more. Is just is, if you catch my drift. But I can see the wheels turning on your neighbors. Infidels is a great word when used in the context of suburbia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kismet, karma, pay-it-forward, fate, just desserts, The Giving Gene (EOWilson), lots of psyche goes into understanding human trade balance/not. It’s so damn primitive, buried deep in our uniqueness in the universe. Only a altruistic culture could arise and flourish as we’ve done. Of course, it’s all for naught. Doom follows all life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The basic tenet of existential nihilism. Add a touch of relativism and nothing means anything except to the one and where they happen to be standing. I think we could start a religion called GPSism, a form of be here now relativism. You know, be in the immediate moment in your current place in the space time continuum, and justify it somehow. The trick would be how to monetize it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “Been there, done (the transcendental/spiritual dance) that.” A shared location+experience social site where you can log GPS long/lats with an out-of-body experience you had there.
          “Cool, I stood right where you’re standing and slit my metaphorical wrists too! What are the odds?”

          Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s a book series about this, the Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson. The Martian colony has a gift economy, in which they barter but try to make it so that the other party gets the better deal. Although there are certainly issues with it – as you point out, at some point one side has to take more than they give – it was a well-intentioned system used to contrast the rampant capitalism back on Earth.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Reciprocal Altruism is useful for survival. Next winter it may be you whose crops failed and is now starving. It’s a genetic code that makes humans the dominant species on the planet.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi A.Mole,

    The phrase “to give as good as you get” has just the opposite meaning in my mind. It is based upon violence and pain. Humans enjoy subverting words to mean the opposite of what custom intends…”that’s the shit” or “that’s bad”, etc. The Mormons did the same thing, take a perfectly good ethic and turn it into something that causes embarrassment. Judgement of others is a terrible thing, unless, of course, I am judging you and therein lies the rub. Round and round I go in my mind about these sorts of things and I can never be at peace, but the misery is somehow exhilarating and it makes me feel alive like entering a city under siege. Thanks. Duke

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s