We all have nightmares.
Often these nightmares are extensions of activities we dread, such as public speaking, singing solo in front of your peers, giving a book report naked, being the only server in a restaurant on a Friday night with every table getting sat in succession with barely any time to get a drink order, let alone food order, and the guests all get so mad they refuse to pay, meaning you’ve worked your ass off and will get no tip and on top of that, they all leave reviews of the restaurant that are so bad that business tanks and you’re out of a job and your boss blames you and you’re blacklisted from all the restaurants in the city and have to move elsewhere except you can’t because you don’t have money and holy fuck can I get this sentence any longer (I tried, really I did)?
Then there are real nightmares. Those things that would just be abso-fucking-lutely awful if they happened in the real world. I was recently introduced to just such a nightmare. I won’t rank it in terms of absolute awfulness, but it’s gotta be up there-like in the top 1 (not a typo).
Put down the drinks. Surround yourself with soft pillows. Lay on the floor. Prepare yourself for:
GILES: In every generation there is a Slayer. She is the Chosen One. She alone will stand against the forces of darkness –
BUFFY: What does it pay?
GILES: What do you mean?
BUFFY: I’m being expected to risk my personal health and well-being on behalf of those too weak to fend for themselves, yes?
GILES: I wouldn’t put it exactly like that.
BUFFY: Surely this kind of specialized labor merits compensation, if my skills are so highly valued on the free market.
GILES: Well, we can’t really offer the Slayer money, if that’s what you mean.
BUFFY: Then I will find someone who can, and work only for the highest bidder.
[a group of vampires bash their way into the library and begin chewing on Giles]
GILES: Buffy, help –
BUFFY: If you really valued my services, you would pay me.
GILES: I’m dying –
BUFFY: This is emotional extortion and I won’t respond to it.
There are more examples at the link.
By the way, I actually do think the Slayers should have been paid. They got the short end of Mr. Pointy-living an incredibly short and violent life. Given abilities they never chose and a destiny they never asked for. All of this and they don’t get paid?! I think that people should get paid for their jobs, even if that job involves helping others, saving lives, or battling vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. The Slayer should be paid.
My gripe with so much of Ayn Rand’s Libertarian bullshit is the selfishness, as seen in the above example. Not caring about the plight of others is pretty much the antithesis of who I am. I might not be able to help others as much as I’d like, but I have a great deal of empathy and hearing of the suffering of others, including people I don’t know and never will has an effect on me. If I was in the same situation as “Buffy” was in the above scenario, I’d save Giles. Yes, there’s a risk, but given her power levels and her skills, that’s a minimal risk to her life, especially for the benefit of y’know, Anthony Stewart Head being able to keep his head.
Why? Because of empathy. Because I know that if circumstances were different, I could be in the same car accident, have the same debilitating disease, face the same bullying, or deal with the same oppressive, theocratic government that calls for LGBT people or atheists to be killed. If I were in that same situation where my life was in danger, I’d want someone to help me if they could. I wouldn’t want someone to sit on the sidelines and not offer assistance if they were able to (assuming they wouldn’t have to face too great a risk of harm to themselves [a risk that is up to each individual to determine]-I’m not saying that someone should rush into a burning building to save my life, although if they did, and saved me, I think I’d be a bit grateful). Moreover, since I don’t want to be made to suffer, I don’t want that to happen to anyone else. I don’t want anyone to suffer, and since I realize that suffering does happen, empathy causes me to react in a sympathetic, compassionate way.
I neither need nor want any divine commands to act in a moral way. At the heart of my morality is empathy.