By William S. Jamison
A Play for the members of the Ethics Class
Spring '97 (based roughly on "Turandot")
Location: A class room somewhere in the world
Cast of Characters:
Princess Earth (daughter of King Dum)
Prince of Procrastio (challenger)
Workaholicus (blind old man, father of Prince Solutio)
Silencio (talkative slave to Workaholicus)
Members of the Jury
Prince of Solutio (Incognito)
The People are gathered in the town square outside the Palace. There is a gong in the middle under the balcony. The horns announce the arrival of Princess Earth on the balcony above the square. Saygan approaches the middle of the square and begins:
Saygan: People of Earth, if any of you here have ears, then hear this:
The Prince of Procrastio sought the hand of Princess Earth and offered to take the challenge. He who seeks the hand of the Princess must give the Great Solutions to our Ethical dilemmas. The Prince of Procrastio didn't read all his assignments and failed to give the Great Solutions! The penalty for failing this challenge is death!
Saygan: Death! Bring forth the Prince of Procrastio!
Prince of Solutio (Incognito) to himself: Wow. Princess Earth is incredibly beautiful!
The Guards bring forth the Prince of Procrastio.
People: There is the Prince. He is so handsome! He is so charming! He so lazy looking. But we shouldn't kill such a handsome prince just because he couldn't solve our Ethical Dilemmas! Have mercy on him! Have mercy on him! Have ... oh what the heck, you won't listen to us anyway. Go ahead and execute him.
Ping: Here comes the Peeler!
The Peeler enters bearing the instrument of her trade, the Ecco.
People: The Peeler with her ECCO! The Prince has had it now. Have mercy on him!
The Peeler decapitates the Prince.
Princess Earth leaves the balcony and goes back inside the palace.
People: The poor Prince. He was so handsome. He was so charming. He was so lazy.
Solutio: Wow, I think I might give this Ethical Dilemma stuff a try. (approaches Saygan) What does one have to do if one wanted to try his hand at the solutions?
Saygan: All you have to do, Stranger, is go bang on that gong over there.
Workaholicus (to Silencio): What is Solutio doing?
Silencio: He is talking to Saygan.
Workaholicus (to Silencio): Oh no! What the heck would he want to talk to him for?
Silencio: Saygan is pointing at the gong, so it looks like your son has asked about the challenge to answer the great Ethical Solutions.
Workaholicus: You have to be kidding me. Is that in the script? What about the Peeler? Doesn't he realize no one can ever get those solutions right?
Silencio: Yes. It says right in the script here, that's what he does. You can't see it because you are blind. Hey, come to think of it, since you are blind who is feeding you your lines?
Solutio: Well, Saygan, I think I'd like to go bang on the gong.
Saygan: Heck, call me Carl. Please feel free to bang on the gong. I get paid by the word and this stupid move on your part will make me a fortune. Besides, I'm always interested in someone that comes up with some new solutions. You're not a fundamentalist are you?
Solutio: A fundamentalist? No, I believe in diversity and overlapping consensus.
Saygan: Well! We have had a few of those for lunch. You think you have better solutions than all the others?
Solutio: I hope so, I don't want to end up getting peeled. I want to win the hand of Princess Earth.
Saygan: Well, just step right up there and wail away on the gong and you'll get everybody's attention for sure.
Workaholicus: (to Solutio, grabbing him by the arm) Hey son, what do you think you're doing?
Solutio: Hey dad, how'd you find me in this crowd? Glad to see you. Oh. Sorry about that. I keep forgetting. Anyway, it turns out I have a terrific shot at a great job. Princess Earth over there needs someone to help take care of her. It looks like a lot of work and I want to grow up to be like you and work hard all my life so that I don't notice I am passing up quality time with my family.
Workaholicus: Don't do it son. You'll end up blind and old and have nothing to show for all your efforts.
Solutio: I can't help myself. I grew up watching you instead of all those violent cartoons and want to lead the same kind of life you did.
Workaholicus: Silencio, help me convince him not to get involved. He's going to throw his life away.
Silencio: Prince, listen to your dad. Can't you see by the miserable condition he is in that you should not get involved? Relax. Princess Earth doesn't need anyone, she can take care of herself. The ozone will come back. The forests will grow again, the balance will come back all on its own. We're just a small part of the picture, like bacteria floating on the surface. Come away with us and enjoy your father's retirement.
Solutio: No, let me go. I want to go and bang on the gong. Princess Earth is beautiful and she needs me. I want to go help her find the solutions to our Ethical Dilemmas and spend the rest of my days living in peace and harmony with her.
Silencio: (to Workaholicus) Shucks. It looks like he just won't listen to reason.
Workaholicus: I knew I should have spent more time with him when he was younger. Now it's too late.
Solutio heads for the gong. But Ping, Pang and Boing see him heading that way and get in-between him and the gong.
Ping: Where do you think you are going stranger?
Pang: Have you thought this thing through?
Boing: Have you no fear?
Solutio: Who the heck are you and why won't you let me pass?
Ping: I am the minister of Industry. I am in charge of keeping the production of goods going fast enough to keep everyone occupied in low paying unsatisfactory jobs, polluting the environment so that they can eke out a pitiful existence making products that make them feel alienated and angry at their day to day existence.
Pang: I am the minister of Welfare. I am in charge of keeping the people hungry for more and more things that they really don't need. Thanks to me everyone wants what they don't have and are dissatisfied with what they have. Everyone feels like they don't have enough no matter how much they have.
Boing: I am the minister of Nature. I am in charge of telling everyone not to worry about what is happening to the environment. Don't worry, everything will bounce back. It's all cyclical in Nature. The atmosphere will trap more and more heat until the carbon builds up enough that less light can penetrate and then it will get colder and everything will clear up again. Don't worry about pollution It's a product of our work and we are part of Nature and all of nature is natural and harmonious.
Solutio: If what you all say is true, why does King Dum want his daughter Princess Earth to be wed to the Prince that comes up with the solutions to the great Ethical Dilemmas?
Ping: Don't worry about what King Dum wants. Those Dilemmas are unsolvable. Princess Earth doesn't really want to be married. She has no intention of letting some male chauvinist pig into her life. The challenge is just her sly way of making sure she never has to get married. There are no solutions to the Great Ethical Dilemmas.
Pang: The challenge keeps Princess Earth free from those liberal philosophy majors that want to change the way our great capitalist system works.
Boing: It's only natural that Princes take up the challenge. Without it they would try to get jobs in our various ministries and mess everything up.
Solutio: I don't care what you say or who you are. I want Princess Earth!
Ping, Pang, Boing: Guard the gong!
Solutio: Let me pass!
Workaholicus: Stop that mad impetuous boy!
Silencio: Stop Prince and come away with us! We'll even get you a super nintendo!
Solutio: Nothing can stop me! I want Princess Earth! (Runs to the gong and bangs on it three times.)
(Yells) Princess Earth, Princess Earth, Princess Earth!
People: Someone is banging on the gong! Someone is taking the challenge for the Princess' hand!
The trumpets sound and Saygan approaches the stranger by the gong.
Saygan: So, you've decided to try the challenge, heh? Well, you'll soon learn some respect. It won't be long before you meet the Peeler.
King Dum and Princess Earth appear on the balcony.
Saygan: (to the King) Your highness, another has come to attempt the challenge for the Princess' hand and give his solutions to the Great Ethical Dilemmas.
King Dum: And who is this young Prince that comes to take our challenge?
Prince Solutio: I dare not tell you who I am for it is mightily unjust of you to pretend that all can make the application but make it clear that paternalism determines who shall get all the top jobs.
King Dum: Very well. Just fill in the application leaving your name blank, but fill in your social security number on the top. We'll just call you Stranger. When you've finished filling out the forms, the Princess will present you with the Great Ethical Dilemmas.
Prince Solutio: (fills in the forms). OK. I've filled in the forms and I'm ready for the questions.
Princess Earth: Once upon a time in a land far away, a young princess friend of mine was betrothed to a young prince. He was a handsome and rich young psychology major and they got hitched on a beautiful Spring day. But soon it became apparent that her new husband was abusive and had no ethics. All he thought about was personal pleasure and he enjoyed putting his young wife through great pain. Eventually, he became so abusive that he killed her. They found her poor young body left to rot in the woods behind their house. He claimed to have no idea how she got there and had the money to afford the best lawyers. After two years the trial ended with the jury finding him not guilty. Everyone got rich and wrote best selling books about the whole thing, but no one cared about the poor princess. Right then and there I decided that the man I would marry would have to have an ethical theory that would enable him to lead the best possible life. I decided that I would not join any man in union unless he had the solutions to The Great Ethical Dilemmas and would lead a life that valued the Earth and all who live on it. So that is why, Stranger, anyone who seeks my hand must answer The Great Ethical Dilemmas. Fail to answer the questions and you will die! There is no backing out now. Are you ready for the first question?
Prince Solutio: Sure. Go ahead.
Princess Earth: The first dilemma is Euthanasia. When a person is old and sick and knows they are going to die soon, should doctors be allowed to help them die? Beware your answer! If you say "yes," then there will be those cases where some doctors may overlook the rules we set and kill those who yet want to live, but if you say "no," then there will be those cases where people in great pain can not find relief because doctors will fear the law if they help them. So you see stranger, there is no answer to the dilemma. Answer "yes" or "no" and you will receive death as your reward!
Prince Solutio: (ponders for a moment) Ah yes! I have the answer! Your dilemma is only there because you think there is an answer for all cases. But each case of this sort must be determined on its own merits. To do this, doctor and patient must know one another and be sincere with each other. The law does not create this sincerity, people do. Whether you have a law making Euthanasia illegal or not, patients and their doctors will have this relationship. What is important is care. Both patients and doctors must care for one another and how their actions will effect others. If the patient only cares about their pain and not about others, their actions are selfish. If the doctor does not care about his patient's desires, then some patients will die before they are ready. The answer is, "Care."
Members of the Jury: (reading from the first scroll) Care! The answer is "Care.!"
Princess Earth: Very well stranger. You have answered the first dilemma correctly. But the second one is far more difficult. The second dilemma is Suicide. When a person decides they no longer want to live and either kill themselves or try to kill themselves, should society condemn them? Beware your answer! If you say "yes" then there will be those who have tried to kill themselves for reasons we can understand and society will suffer the guilt of unjustly punishing or condemning those we love. Say "no" and you allow those who fail to see the tragedy of their loss from us to place too high a value on their emotional attachments and juvenile desires. So you see stranger, there is no answer to the dilemma. Answer "yes" or "no" and you will receive death as your reward!
Prince Solutio: (ponders for a moment) Ah yes! I have the answer again! Your dilemma is only there because you think there is an answer for all cases. But each case of this sort must be determined on its own merits. To do this, families must communicate their mutual concern for one another. Each individual is to their self as they are to others. Let the others show mutual concern for one another and the individual will know their place and their importance to others. The answer is, "Mutual Concern."
Members of the Jury: (reading from the second scroll) Mutual Concern! The answer is "Mutual Concern!"
People: The Stranger is getting the answers right to the Great Dilemmas! Can this be true? Can he go on?
Princess Earth: Yes. The answer is "Mutual Concern." Very well stranger, so now you have two answers. You shall fail on the third and your life will be forfeit! The third Dilemma is War. When man confronts one another, can violence be used to settle disputes? Beware your answer! If you say, "yes" then you allow man to kill man for the simplest of things. If you say "no" then you allow only those who break our laws to rule! So you see Stranger, there is no answer to the dilemma. Answer "yes" or "no" and you will receive death as your reward!
Prince Solutio: (ponders for a moment) Ah yes! I have the answer again! Your dilemma is only there because you think there is an answer for all cases. But each case of this sort must be determined on its own merits. Dialogue is what is necessary here. To settle disputes and confrontations, the rivals must engage in dialogue. As the disputes are among individuals, their dialogue must be judged as fair among their peers. Among nations the same. And so the answer is, "Dialogue."
Members of the Jury: (reading from the third scroll) Dialogue! The answer is "Dialogue!"
People: The Stranger is right again! How can this be? Can he continue?
Princess Earth: Yes. The answer is "Dialogue!" (She comes down closer to the Stranger.) The fourth Dilemma is not so simple as the others have been! The fourth Dilemma is Capital Punishment. When a man has unjustly killed another can the State kill him for his deed? Beware your answer. If you say "yes" then the State will be guilty of the same! If you say "no" then men will unjustly escape punishment for their deeds! But here you have no such recourse to an in-between answer! There is no higher authority to judge the State, so the State must choose to err either way! How do you answer Stranger!
Prince Solutio: (ponders)
Princess Earth: Aha! So now you fail at last and will meet your death!
Prince Solutio: Yes! There is the answer to the Dilemma! There is no higher authority to judge the State and so the State may kill those it judges guilty of murder, but it must judge rightly. Beware the State that puts the innocent to death! The answer is "Judge Rightly."
Members of the Jury: (reading from the fourth scroll) Judge Rightly! The answer is "Judge Rightly!"
Princess Earth: Ah!
People: The Stranger has judged rightly still again! How can this go on?
Princess Earth: Yes, the answer is "Judge Rightly!" Guards! Take him. He has surely cheated and seen the scrolls!
People: Ah! King Dum! Stop her! He has not seen the scrolls!
Members of the Jury: No one has seen the scrolls, they are closely guarded and still have the royal seals on them!
King Dum: No daughter. Allow the Stranger to continue. I judge rightly that he has not cheated, but does know the answers!
People: Yes! King Dum judges rightly! Let the Stranger continue!
Princess Earth: Very well Stranger! You shall continue for yet another question, but if my father judges rightly then you shall surely die after the next question. The fifth Dilemma is Abortion. Shall we allow a woman to kill her unborn child? Beware your answer! If you say, "yes" then you allow a woman to kill her innocent children. If you say "no" then you take away a woman's right to her own body! The one decision kills those who have no defense, the other forces pain and even death on those who may not even have chosen to bear them!
Now you see at last, Stranger, there is no answer to this dilemma. Answer "yes" or "no" and your future is no more!
Prince Solutio: I have answered the Great Ethical Dilemma's you have posed to me! But this one, I agree, is too hard for me. I have no answer to give you.
People: Aha! Stranger! You were doing so well! No one has answered any of these before, why can you not go on now that you are so close?
Princess Earth: Now is mine the victory! You thought you were going to win me, but now you see that my dilemmas are too hard. Not even such as you can answer them all! And now you must die!
People: No! Princess Earth, he is so handsome and brave and good! How can you kill him for trying his best?
King Dum: Daughter, think well! He is so brave and good! How can you do this?
Princess Earth: Stop trying to change my mind! The rules are the rules and he has lost. My decision is made.
Prince Solutio: Yes! I agree. I have tried my best and I have lost. I thank you all for defending me, but my fate is now in the hands of Princess Earth. I say to you, let the woman decide!
Princess Earth: Ah! The answer!
Members of the Jury: (reading from the fifth scroll) Let the woman decide! The answer is "Let the woman decide!"
Prince Solutio: That is the answer?!
People: That is the answer! That is the answer!
Prince Solutio: That is the answer! Let the woman decide. Yes, that would be the answer of love. For a woman who loves her child will make the right decision. It should be the woman's choice.
Princess Earth: So, Stranger, even your luck is with you. Now you have come to the end, for the next dilemma is impossible to solve! The sixth Dilemma is Hunger. Throughout the world people are starving while many are eating more than their share. What do we do, Stranger? Beware your answer. If you say Feed the Hungry you challenge us to do more than we can. The hungry will be without end and all will perish! If you say "Let them starve" you allow your brothers and their children to perish while even our dogs find a life of ease! How will you feed the hungry, Stranger? Shall we choose who will live and who will die? Speak! How do you answer this?!
Prince Solutio: This one is not as hard as it seems! You say this is difficult, but it is not. We certainly must feed those we can without taking away their dignity. The answer is "Dignity."
Members of the Jury: (reading from the sixth scroll) Dignity! The answer is "Dignity!"
People: Yes! He has the answer again. Only two more!
Princess Earth: Yes, perhaps that was an easy one, for a man who truly understands a persons dignity. But do animals have dignity, Stranger? The next is harder by far, for the seventh Dilemma is Life! Who has the right to life? Beware your answer. Are men worth more than cockroaches?! Who has the right to life?
Prince Solutio: (Thinking out loud) Yes. Who has the right to life? What life should perish that I may live? Who should die to save what life? We each have our place, but is it our right to choose what place that is? Does the grass enjoy the tread of my feet? Again I do not know the answer to the Dilemma, but there is no luck that will save me this time. I have no answer. There is no answer. And so, with this Dilemma, to death all must surrender. All must surrender!
Princess Earth: Ah!
Members of the Jury: (reading from the seventh scroll) All must surrender! The answer is "All must surrender!"
People: This is incredible. We can't believe what is happening before our very eyes! The answers to the Great Ethical Dilemmas are here! Only one more to go. Will he be able to answer it?
Princess Earth: Well, Stranger. You have me in a dilemma now. Should I read you the last dilemma? If you answer, then you win my hand and I will have to go with you. Will you kill me as my friend's husband did her? I can't allow myself to surrender to you. What if I ask you the question and you answer it right? It is either you or me.... What can I do?
King Dum: You must ask him the question, it is the Law.
People: Ask the Stranger the question, Princess, it is the Law!
Princess Earth: Prince, I cannot ask you the question. If you answer it rightly, I am yours. If you do not, then the one who alone, it seems, has the answers to all our other dilemmas must die. My fate is now in your hands. You must decide whether I must ask the question and let you take me against my will, or show whether you value me above yourself. Choose Stranger! What is more important, you or Princess Earth?
Prince Silentio: Oh beautiful one, how can I answer you? You are the woman of my dreams, the most beautiful in all the universe. Shall I let my own desire to have you destroy you? Then what will I have won? There is no victory in my taking you against your will. I can only have you if I leave you as you are, beautiful and safe from all harm. If by forcing this last dilemma on you I destroy you, then there is nothing to be gained by my victory. I choose not to force the dilemma on you. I choose for Princess Earth.
Members of the Jury: (reading from the eighth scroll) Princess Earth! The answer to the last Dilemma is "Princess Earth!"
People: Princess Earth! The answer to the last dilemma is Princess Earth! Yes, we all must choose for Princess Earth or we will have no victory at all. The Stranger has answered all the Great Dilemmas! He has won! Yet in winning, has he lost?
Princess Earth: Yes, Stranger. The answer to the last dilemma is, "Princess Earth." In answering the last question in my favor, you clearly show your love for me above yourself, and that is the last dilemma, what is the most important thing in the universe? By choosing me above all else, you show that you will not abuse me or kill me but would rather sacrifice yourself in my defense. This can only be love and so I accept you as my husband. But tell me, who are you that have so gallantly won my hand against all the odds?
Prince Solutio: I am the Prince of Solutio, the land of solutions to all dilemmas, the land of thought and reason and love. I will marry you Princess Earth and our children will live in love and care for one another and their Earth Mother until the end of days.
People: Yes, we will all live in love and care for one another and our Mother Earth until the end of days.
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