Who can you trust?

A scorpion ready to attack
A scorpion ready to attack





One of my favorite stories is about the scorpion who stood on a river bank and looked at the far shore.  He couldn’t swim, but as he longed for the other side, he  noticed a turtle lying on the bank near him.

The scorpion approached the turtle and asked if he could ride on his back across the river.

“I would love to help you, Mr. Scorpion,” the turtle said.  “But we are natural born enemies and I know half-way across the river you will sting me and we shall both perish.”

“Why would I do that?” the scorpion said.  “If I did so, I would kill myself in the process.”

So, against his better judgment, the turtle relented.  The scorpion stepped up on his back and began to navigate the current toward the far bank.

When the duo was in the middle of the treacherous stream, the scorpion stung the turtle.

As they began to sink into the water, the turtle cried out.

“Why did you sting me? Now both of us will die.”

“It is the nature of a scorpion to sting,” the scorpion replied as they sank to their doom.

Since I write about legal fiction on Fridays, I will make the first application of the story to that subject, then we will talk about social media.

The American legal system is all about scorpions. It is an adversary pursuit in which both sides realize that their constant goal is not the search for truth, but the battle to destroy their opponent.  But sometimes, it’s hard to tell who is the turtle and who the scorpion.  From time to time, situations arise, especially when there are multiple parties involved in a case, when informal alliances develop.

Someone on the opposite side of a case from me may share my interest in uncovering some facts that build my case against another party in the case.  When that happens, the scorpion hops on my back and we head out across the river. I know the sting is coming, but I hope I can wiggle around enough to throw the scorpion off before the fatal moment arrives.

If you are writing about a courtroom case, you can use this dynamic to build conflict. This dynamic pits everyone against each other.  It is not as simple as the plaintiff versus the defendant.  The  more complicated the dynamic is, the better the story.

So, let’s talk about social media.

It shouldn’t be the turtle and the scorpion.

Social media has by in large replaced face to face interactions.  The thing about this is that it has made it much harder to determine if the virtual person on the river bank is a turtle or a scorpion.  Or to put it another way, social media is a world that only works if we can trust each other, if our interests really are common ones, not just the ephemeral alliances of enemies.

I suppose I am writing this simply to encourage writers in particular to abandon the “us versus them” mentality.  In the virtual world of digital publishing, we are all on the same team.

Or as a very wise person once said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

That sounds like a good motto for independent writers, and everyone else.



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