"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
A NOTE FROM WORKER #3116: My mom found my online diary, so as of this week I will be using my real name on this column. I figure if there's no more point to hiding, I might as well cash in on all the proposals of marriage and/or blow jobs the Unethicist has received. Now, on to the part where you suck (rimshot).
My mother's property in Czechoslovakia was taken by the Nazis during the war. We recently hired a Czech lawyer to try to reclaim it, but one of my two brothers refuses to pay his share of the lawyer's up-front fee. If we regain the property, must we give him any of the proceeds? I told him that he didn't buy a train ticket, so he can't ride the train. Right? — Richard Whitehead, Plainview, N.Y.
Let me see if I'm getting this right, Nazis confiscated property from your family and you are now working through legal channels to recover what is rightfully yours, but because one of your brothers refuses to contribute to the legal fees, you make a TRAIN METAPHOR? Dude, I don't know where you get your balls, but they are awesome. Still, I think you're holding back. Next time you talk to your brother, make your point undeniably clear: "You didn't buy a train ticket, so you can't ride the train to Dachau to get our belongings back from the giant piles of suitcases and human hair."
My good friend Seth once said, "just because the Nazis did it doesn't mean it's tainted and can't be done again." Granted, this was in reference to one of our co-workers, who was wearing a Hard Rock Caf Las Vegas hockey jersey, but I think there's a lesson in it for you. If something was unrightfully stolen from you by a group of murderous fascists, there is no reason you can't use that same logic in keeping your brother from getting his share. Fuck him, right? He's just lucky you don't use his skin for a lampshade, am I right?
Whether or not you successfully recover your property and selfishly keep it to yourself, it's just nice to know that all of the sacrifices and suffering your family went through during one of the most atrocious genocides in human history was not in vain. It takes something like a Holocaust to remind families that the most important thing in the world is a lawyer's up-front fee, everything else is just bullshit.
My employer skirts tax laws by selling employees merchandise tax-free and by advertising as tax-free items that are not. I have objected many times but am always told, "It's no big deal." I work in accounting, but these misdeeds don't fall under my area of responsibility. If I report this to the state, I risk being fired. What should I do? — Name Withheld, Texas
Well, first of all, you should stop boring me to death. Jesus, don't they have TV in Texas? Or booze? There has got to be something you can do to occupy your time that would be more interesting than complaining about your employer's tax ... tax-free ... I don't even know. It's too boring to try and figure out what you're talking about.
Here's what you do: get a new dress, you know, something simple, like a nice sun dress or maybe a spaghetti strap evening gown. Get some new shoes, too. Wash your hair. Brush it. Then, you put on some make up, and you start socializing in different circles. Go to parties or to the bar, whatever it takes to get you out of the house. If you're patient, honest, and open-minded, you'll hopefully get a boyfriend within a couple of months.
Once you've got your boyfriend, put all of your energy into unsuccessfully trying to make him happy. That should leave you little to no time to waste mine.