Yesterday afternoon, I asked the checkout boy how he was. I was surprised by the answer.
“Well thank you,” he replied. “But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking today.”
Before I could asked what he’d been thinking about, he told me. “Do you think there is an actual difference between right and wrong, or do you think it’s all a matter of perception?”
I blinked and took a breath. “I think that right and wrong are generally culturally constructed understandings generated within a population by a dominant hegemony.”
It was his turn to pause for a moment. “So, subjective according to circumstance.”
“Absolutely,” I replied. “That’s why I prefer to think of things as having either positve or negative consequences and try not to judge them ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”
Then he hit me with the second barrel. “And do you think that the consequences of an action determine the relative value of the action?”
This time I actually did laugh. Who has these conversations with the checkout boy (who looks barely old enough to shave), on a Saturday afternoon? I tried for a decent answer anyway. “I think that all consequences are the result of intention and action. Sometimes, a person can be well intentioned but because the following actions are poorly organised or planned, the consequence ends up being less than positive. That doesn’t mean the entire process was ‘bad’, does it?”
He thought about that one as he put my potatoes and herbs into my bag. “Well, you’ve certainly given me more to think about,” he smiled. “Have a good afternoon.”
“You too,” I replied, and walked away smiling. How often do you go to the supermarket for herbs and spuds, but walk away with a smile and some hope? If a checkout child can philosophise while scanning groceries, life can’t be that bad, can it?