Thursday, January 11, 2007

Even more allegories...

I got the following letter from an anonomous reader as a comment this morning on yesterday's blog, which of coourse was entitled: Yesterday's blog. I decided that I liked it too much to simply leave as a comment, and after writing a long reply, am blogging both here.

Here is the allegorical comment:

Who is this mysterious commentor?
Once upon a time there was an old crufty man named SU. He owned a large farm with rich soil and farm animals. He traded the products of the farm with his neighbors, but despite this, he had an evil reputation, and his neighbors were constantly plotting to destroy him.
Then the price of milk went down, and SU found himself in hard times. He tried to change the way he run the farm, but his sons started rebelling against him and fighting him for control of the farm. Finally, three of his sons, R, U and B, got together and plotted his murder. They executed the evil deed, and then all of the old man's 15 sons divided the farm between them.
Unfortunately they really didn't know how to run the farm, so they run into hard times. Some of them, pretended that they were really not the sons of the old man, and run to join the neighbors union. The others tried to work together, as the farm property was distributed among all of their property, and they were mutually dependent.
Two of the sons, R and B, started talking about joining their farms. R had ended up with most of the old farm's cows, while B had some cheese making equipment on his farm. So R said to B: "Listen, let's make a deal. I'll sell you my milk very cheap. You can then make some cheese to sell to the neighbors at full price. We can then split the profits." B received the proposal with alacrity and started collecting as much of R's milk as it could process at cut-rate prices. However, whenever R came by to ask for his share of the profits, B would refuse to talk about the subject. This situation continued for many years, with B pocketing all of the cheese-making profits.
In good time, R passed away, and R Jr came to management of R's portion of the old farm. R Jr continued to try negotiating with B a deal to rejoin their farms, and a split of profits. However, now B had other ideas. B and his family, fat with the cheese-making profits they had been pocketing had started to look down on R Jr. and his family: "Look at all the rats and roaches they have over there" they would say. "Why would we want to join our neat little farm with them?"
Finally, R Jr. had enough. He said to B: We have three options: We rejoin our farms, you split the cheese-making profits with me like you said you would all these years ago, or you start paying me for my milk the same that all the other neighbors pay. At this B went into a rage: "But we are family! How can you treat me like a stranger?" To which R Jr. replied: "So now you remember we are family? I have been trying to bring our two families together, and now I hear that you and your lot have been making fun of me! I have been selling you my milk at a discount, on which you have based your prosperity, and yet you refuse to split the profits with me, as was agreed. I have had enough of you. I've laid out the three options we have, you choose."
B now felt threatened. He said to himself: "I'll show this upstart who is boss here. Who does he think he is to put ultimatums on me?" Most of the milk that R Jr. sold to the neighbors passed through a road that the old man SU had constructed through B's farm. So B and his family started ambushing the milk carts passing through his farm, pilfering some of this milk as a "transit fee". At this R Jr. simply stopped sending milk carts through B's farm. The neighbors started an outcry as usual, saying that R Jr.'s milk deliveries were not reliable, and they should look elsewhere. But R Jr. stood tough. He said: "I will not send milk through B's farm to have it stolen."
As the milk started running low in B's farm, he had to scramble to try to come to an agreement with R Jr. on a fairer division of profits. Perhaps B will also gain enough wisdom to realize that if you take, you should also give back in return. And perhaps, B and his family will realize where their prosperity has been coming all this time, and rethink their foolish superiority complex.

First of all, I swear I will not accept any more anonymous comments.

But secondly, in my opinion, this story goes like this:

Part one: A tale of two farms.

Being Had replies
Yes, once there was a great farm. It was not a perfect farm by any stretch of the imagination, but at heart the farm was very special because it existed not for the wealth of the farmer, but rather for the sustenance and employment of the people that worked its lands.

After SU, the head of the farm collective died (and there were many theories as to why he died,) the farm was split into 15 separate individually run farms which were run by SU's 15 sons. Yes, these were now individual farms, though at heart, almost all of the people living on the fifteen farms really believed that it was still just one big farm and perhaps dreamed that one day someone would figure out a way to put them back together again, though maybe this time with some better ideas on how to solve some of the old problems.

These were very bad times after the death of SU. Not only was it very difficult to construct 15 farms from the wreckage of the old SU farm, but also, all of the former SU's farmers were harassed and plotted against because the demanded to still believe that SU's philosophy that all farms should be managed collectively was correct. The harassment came from the neighboring territory, the land of "500 Years of Greed, Exploitation and Usury." (FHYGEU). Old SU was sternly against FHYGEU's way of doing business and the two lands had been at odds for 75 years. True, SU had had a huge effect on life in the lands of FHYGEU and many, many, many people felt that it was only because of SU's existence and its principals that the land of FHYGEU could even be lived in. But the leaders of the land of FHYGEU didn't care about these ideas or how their people felt, they didn't even really care about farming, all they wanted was to line their pockets with gold in any and every way possible, and regardless of any dire consequences to people or to the land.

So for 15 years, all of SU's 15 children lived in poverty but yet still tried to get along as best as they could, and all during this time, FHYGEU laughed and jeered at them.

"Life is so easy for us!" They shouted. "Why work so hard? Why worry so much. Just have fun! Just be rich like us!" They screamed.

But no matter how hard times got, the children of SU knew in their heart that this was not the truth and that this road only led to ruin. They knew that family was the only real truth in the world and that only by working together and sharing could there be real peace and a good life in the world.

Part 2: The milk business

On day FHYGEU died and his son, who was known as EU took over his lands. EU presented himself as a different, more collectively oriented person and offered to buy some milk from R, some cheese from B and to open some shops on U's farm. "It's just innocent business," thought R, B and U. It couldn't hurt. And besides, we want to be friendly and we could use the money." And so for a while, there was some milk trade between EU and R, B and U and the three brothers were content that having a little more money was a good thing.

After a while though, it became apparent that EU was not interested in sharing farming responsibilities, but rather was only interested lining his own pockets and other than the milk, didn't really give a damn about any of the former SU's farms. This started to cause great unrest amongst the people of B's, U's and R's farms. There was even a bit of a scandal down on U's farm when EU wanted to show off some of its weapons. This was not what the people of old SU's farm wanted.

But EU was smart. He knew R was the one who had all of the cows and he knew that he could pay a lot more for R's milk than any of R's brothers. And what is more, EU knew that after 15 years of poverty, the people who actually signed the papers for the milk on R's farm were corrupt and greedy and therefore could be bought with a little money. Oh, EU had lots and lots of money. I mean, of course EU had money; he was the one who dictated the way money was even counted!

"Let the people ssssay what they want," Said EU, "R can be bought. Everone knowsss thisss."

Part 3: Brother B's farm and the cheese business.

Now R's brother B had no cows to make milk from, or for that matter, any other real natural resources to make money from at all. B had been making basically all the money to finance his farm from buying milk from R and selling it to EU as cheese. But really, this was not so much business; no one, anywhere, in any allegorical land could ever possibly say the B was fat. B was living at a standard that would be considered poverty, or even 1/2 of what could be considered poverty for years. And B knew as well as anybody that he was simply lucky to have this business and that he had this only because his farm lay between R's and EU's.

But while admitting that there was necessity to do trade outside of the former SU's territory, B nevertheless hung on the old values and preached them, much as old SU had. And he did do this. And because of this B was much loved and admired by the workers on his farm. They also admired how he had divided what money they did have from the cheese business (and from selling old tractors and such). They also saw how much different life on B's farm was as compared to R's. They saw that there was less corruption, less theft and less social disturbances. They saw that the old folk's were not forgotten and that people got paid on time. In fact 83% of them agreed that he was the best possible farmer there could ever be- well, a few of them liked M, a traveling salesman type who thought that EU should be allowed to run the farm, and K, who only 1 or two liked- but he really didn't have anything to say other than that he just simply hated B. K was sort of emotional and eventually tried to get people to like him by not eating any milk or cheese at all.

Around this time B began to speak that perhaps they should not even be doing business with EU at all. By now people had seen for themselves that EU was just like his father and was only using them for when he could get. In fact, pretty much everyone came to understand that it was really SU's father and his cousin USA who had really been behind SU's death. Maybe, reasoned B and his people, it is time to simply try and put the old farm back together and work together?

So B started meeting with all of his brothers and preaching to them that the real way was to try and rebuild the old farm and quit this EU business once and for all. "Why do we need to cowtow to EU? " Said B, "There are lots of other farms out there who don't like EU, why don't we try and make friends with them?" The other 14 farms had been hoping all along that someday there might just be a reunification and that perhaps they might again be "one farm" and they could all be friends again. And after seeing all the unhappiness that EU had caused, B's ideas started to catch on and his reputation as perhaps being the best possible leader for this new, unified collective farm started to grow.

"B would be the best man for this job," they said, "R has always sort of been the boss, but can he really be trusted?"

Part 4: R and the EU

Of course, R was really, really jealous of this. He had the biggest land parcel; his farm house had always been the center of social life and all of this talk of B being the best farmer made him angrier and angrier.

Well, EU was slick and understood that there was discord to be exploited. EU's father had made a lot of money from tearing apart the unity of the farms of distant lands and exploiting them for their resources. EU knew that this milk business money had R's attention and that R had become greedy over it. So, EU started to play on R's greed and whispered in R's ear and beguiled him with stories of wealth and glamour and fame:

"We also have cheessse making plantsss of our own." Hissed EU, "Jussst sell usss the milk directly. We will pay you the sssame money for the milk that we paid for the cheessse. Nobody likesssss your brother B. Look and ssssee how people talk about him. Jussssst do bisssssnesss with usss, and you will have a lot more money then you have ssseen in your dreamsss… "

"But if I do that, my brother B's farm will go out of business." Said R, "He needs his cheese business. In fact all my brothers need my milk business. Frankly we are lucky that we even have it at all."

"Don't bother worrying about your brotherssss… and esssspecially not about your pompussss old brother B. You have the cowsssss, not him. You are the real farmer. I mean, no one likesss him anyway. He isss not "our" ssssssort of perssson isss he? He is not sssssmart and glamoroussss like we are" Said EU, who mussed R's hair and licked his ear," We are the ssssssssssexy onessss. B isss nothing but a dirty old farmer at heart. You have the real farm. You have the real landssss. You don't need him or his cheesssse any more. Just work with usssssss and your ssstreetssss will be lined with gold and your housessss made from sssssilver…"

"But my workers don't want me to work with you." Thought R, "Even just this last year there were huge demonstrations down on U's farm about this!"

"Jussssssssst take the money." Hissed EU, "You don't need your brothersss…."

"But, they are family…"

"You sssstill think like fool, don't you? Have you learned nothing from 15 yearsssss of poverty? Haven't you learned any of the lessssonsss we have been teaching you yet?"

"Your lessons? Ah, now I see; you were the one behind the fifteen years of poverty weren't you?"

"Yessssss, now you sssssee." And EU kissed R on the mouth, just like in the movie 'The Godfather'.

"Yesssss, I see now…" Said R, now completely beguiled, "You have been very ssssssmart to have made ssssuch a plan…"

"Have no pity for your brothersss." Said EU, slithering out the door, "All will be ok. We have been doing thisssss for 500 yearsssssss. We know how the world really issss: Jussssssst take the money…"

And of course, he did. Just like in 1998.

More soon…

Another allegorical work of art for Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Perhaps we shall remember this date as "Black Wednesday"