Category Archives: Fables for Our Time

A Real-Life Fable: The United States of $Rand$

Once upon a time a Russian expatriot who hated the Soviets because they destroyed her father’s pharmaceutical business emigrated to the United States and wrote a few books about how wonderful money and the people who make it and spend it are. She postulated a “philosophy” called “Objectivism” that 15 yr-olds with untreatable acne and rich people who fancied themselves Masters of the Universe found fascinating and rewarding. This “philosophy”, by her own definition, was one that was built around the concept of man as a heroic figure as long as he was making a lot of money and a useless wimp who was a boil on the ass of the universe if he wasn’t. Perhaps that explains its appeal to the two groups mentioned above.

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A Fable for Our Time: Why Lemmings Jump Off Cliffs

Once upon a time there was a King of the Lemmings. At any rate, he said he was a king and he seemed like such a nice guy that nobody had the heart to argue with him. Besides, they didn’t really know what a “king” was. They noticed he had lots of food and was surrounded by lots of other lemmings who were well-known hoarders and also had lots of food, but what of it? Maybe a king was some kind of banker. And so what if there were rumors going around that during the Lemming Wars he had enlisted in the 16th Lemming Flying Corps and then hid in his hole so he couldn’t be called up to the Front? Nobody could prove it. So let him be a “king”. What harm could it do?

His first order of business as a “king” was to take all the food of the poorest lemmings and sell it. A few lemmings were concerned about this but he answered, “They have more food than they need and anyway, they’d have a lot more if they weren’t so lazy. Besides, my friends need it more than they do.”

“But your friends have more now than they’ll ever eat,” somebody objected.

“They need it,” King George replied (for that was his name), “so they can make sure the rest of you have enough food.”

Maybe his friends were going to give the food away, they thought, and George gave them each a leaf to prove it. “At least he didn’t take our food,” most of them agreed, and someone added, “And he gave us this leaf.”

But one lemming named Merridew scratched his head and muttered, “This doesn’t make sense.” And sure enough, the King’s friends kept the rest of it for themselves.

King George used the proceeds from the sale of the poor’s food to build himself a giant Golden Palace, and then he moved into it with all his friends. Whenever any of the other lemmings came to visit, a big burly lemming with a shotgun would yell, “Go away!” and shoot them in the face. “What happened to nice George?” they asked themselves. No one had an answer. They never saw him any more. He stayed in his Golden Palace most of the time until one day he appeared on his gold-encrusted balcony and gave a speech.

“I am the Decider,” he said, “and I have decided you should move closer to the cliffs where there’s more food.”

“There’s plenty of food around here,” Merridew called out. “At least there would be if your friends would stop hogging it all.”

“You will address me as ‘Your Decidedness’,” King George said with a smirk.

“Why?”

“Because I am the Decider and I’ve decided it would be an appropriate show of respect for the King – that’s me – if you said ‘Your Decidedness’ whenever you talked to me.”

“We never had to call anybody ‘Your Decidedness’ before,” Merridew protested. “We’re democratic.”

“You never had a king before. Now you do and you’re not democratic any more. This is now a republic–”

“What’s a republic?”

George smirked again. “Sort of a monarchy the way I play it. Anyway, the point is that you don’t get to question my decisions. I’m the Decider and you have to do whatever I decide you have to do and I’ve decided you’re going to move closer to the cliffs. Tomorrow.”

“What if we don’t want to move?” Merridew persisted.

“Then my enforcer – uh, my Vice-King -” he pointed to the burly man with the shotgun who was standing beside him “- will move among you and take down the names of the lemmings who won’t do what they’re told and we’ll throw them into secret prisons where they’ll be tortured until they tell us the names of the other lemmings who won’t do what they’re told and then he’ll shoot them in the face because clearly they must be Enemies of the State and deserve whatever they get.”

“Oooo!” said the crowd. “We wouldn’t like that.”

“You bet your sweet bippy you wouldn’t,” King George said, and the next morning everybody packed up their belongings and moved closer to the cliff.

There was more food there, but King George’s Vice-King, whose name was Dickie-Bird, waved his shotgun and all the King’s rich friends – who called themselves the “Oyl Magnets”, whatever that meant – took most of what everybody gathered and then sold it back to them at prices they could barely afford. Pretty soon that area was stripped, too, and King George appeared on the golden balcony once more.

“I am the Decider,” he said, “and I have decided to invade the area right on the edge of the cliffs. There’s more food there.”

“We can’t do that,” Merridew said. “There’s another colony of lemmings that live on the edge of the cliff. That area belongs to them.”

King George shrugged. “We must have food or we’ll die. Anyway, we have to attack them before they attack us. It’s only a matter of time. They’ll run out of food and when they do, they’ll try to take ours. It’s a matter of National Security. Are you against National Security? Then you’re a traitor!” He was getting quite excited and smirking a lot.

“But,” Merridew tried to interrupt, “they haven’t attacked us -”

“They did, too,” King George snapped. “Besides, what do you care about them? We are beautiful brown lemmings, sleek and pretty and proud, but they are gray lemmings – dirty gray, greasy gray – ugly little buggers. They deserve to die!” Dickie-Bird cocked his shotgun and aimed it at Merridew’s face. “You got a problem with that?” King George smirked.

“But who’s going to fight them, Your Decidedness?” asked a voice in the crowd. “We don’t know how to fight.”

“You won’t have to. I’ve decided to have my Vice-King round up all the poor young lemmings and pay them to do it. We’ll promise them an education or some food or something and tell them how they’re saving democracy and how the gray lemmings will be better off if we’re in charge. They’ll be proud to go.”

“Well,” the crowd said to itself, “at least we won’t have to fight.”

And so the war began. At first it all went well. The King’s army of the poor proved to be able fighters and swept into the center of the cliff colony with little difficulty. It was after they had taken control that things started to break down: the Grays went into hiding, emerging at night to burn the food stock King George’s friends were attempting to loot; food they left unburned they often poisoned, killing the troops who ate it; the troops did not speak Gray and couldn’t tell guerrillas from innocent civilians. The situation became chaotic. Continue reading

When Is a Hole Not a Hole?

Iraq v VietNam:

“Vietnam.”Even now, decades later, the word evokes such painful memories that to say “Vietnam” and “Iraq” in the same sentence is to risk accusations of disloyalty, as if merely noting the obvious parallels was an act of treason. It is not. In a recent Newsweek poll, 64 percent of Americans said that they were very or somewhat concerned that Iraq might become another Vietnam, and their concern is fully justified and rational.

Approaching a man digging in his back yard:

“I see you’re digging a hole in your back yard.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You’re not digging a hole?”

“Nope.”

“Sure looks like a hole.”

“Well, it’s not. A ‘hole’ is bigger. If this was a ‘hole’ I’d be using a backhoe, not a shovel.”

“Huh. It has all the earmarks of a hole. You’re standing in it up to your knees and there’s a pile of dirt right next to you that you just took out of it. If it’s not a hole, what is it?”

“It’s a personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity.”

“Uh…yeah? But it’s not a hole?”

“Not a bit of it. Nothing like a ‘hole’, in fact, nothing at all.”

“Looks like a hole.”

“That’s because you’re so negative. You’re looking at the absence of dirt in a specific area.”

“And that’s not what I should be looking at?”

(up to his waist now:) “No, of course not.”

“What should I be looking at?”

“The pile of dirt, of course.”

“The pile of dirt? Why?”

“Because that pile of dirt represents the progress I’m making.”

“And what progress is that?”

“My progress toward a better garden.”

“You have a garden?”

“Not yet, but I will have when I spread all that dirt.”

“Oh, I see. But what about the hole?”

(up to his shoulders:) “Why do you keep harping on that? It isn’t important–and it isn’t a ‘hole’!”

“Right, right. Don’t get excited. It’s very different from a hole, I can see that now. There are only a few superficial similarities between that–” (pause)

“Personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity.”

“–what you said, and a hole. Oh, yes, I can see that. Don’t know why I couldn’t see it before. But–”

“Yes? But what?”

“But…jeez, it’s getting so deep I can hardly see you down there…but you’re still gonna have this…thing in your back yard. What if one of the neighbor-kids falls into it and gets hurt? What then?”

“Not my problem.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not my back yard. Now go away. You’re interfering with my programmed hole-digging activity.”

“That hole– Personal whatever-it-is, is getting awfully deep and you don’t have a ladder down there. Want me to get one for you?”

“For the last time: This is NOT a ‘hole’, it is NOT ‘deep’ because I’m not using a backhoe, I don’t need a ladder, and I don’t want your help. Now GO AWAY!”

“Ok, if you say so.”

A little while later, from the depths of the personal, access-neutral program of a structure-like hole-digging activity, come faint cries as darkness falls:

“Help? Help? Can anybody hear me? I’m stuck in this hole and I can’t get out. Help! Could somebody throw me a rope? Is anybody out there?”

A Fairy Tale for Our Times: Ahmad and the 40 Thieves

Background:

An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.

Ahmad (as he is spelling it now) Chalabi was a con-artist. Every intelligence agency on the planet knew it, from the CIA on down. Jordan actually convicted him of bank fraud. But they couldn’t arrest him–he was in the US under the protection of Neocon Wonder Boys Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Lewis Libby, and Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom, with a naivete which is almost touching, believed everything he said.

He told them he was innocent of all charges, and they believed him. He told them he had an army of dissidents and defectors that he could put at their disposal, and they believed him. He told them stories about how they should get the US to storm into Iraq and throw out that monster Saddam.

We can’t, they said. We’d love to but we can’t just start a war for no reason. We need an excuse.

So he told them about nuclear scientists who didn’t exist creating WMD’s that didn’t exist to fulfill plans by Hussein to attack the US which had never existed. Only he pretended they did exist. The Wonder Boys believed it all. They were overjoyed. Wait ’til we take him out, they told him. You’re our boy. We”ll make you a King. Ahmad didn’t want to be King–he wanted to be President, like Saddam, and have palaces and many secret Swiss bank accounts. Or failing that, Finance Minister.

But then the CIA told them that Ahmad was a crook, a fraud and a liar. The DIA told them that he was coaching the defectors on what to say, and that almost all of it was unreliable at best and untrue at worst. Interpol told them he was wanted on charges of stock-and-securities swindling. Jordan convicted him of bank fraud in absentia and tried to extradite him so he could serve his sentence. MI6 and the Surete confirmed it all. The NWB’s either didn’t believe any of it, or they didn’t care. Ahmad was their ticket to control of the 2nd biggest oil field in the world, and the song he sang to them was sweet and sentimental and full of promises. They were putty in his hands for 15 years, and they loved it.

So did he, except sometimes he wondered what was taking them so long to invade.

First they said, Poppy is a weenie. He won’t do it. Some claptrap about “unacceptable consequences” and “de-stabilizing the region” and “potentially igniting WWIII”. They were disgusted by his cowardice, but what could they do?

Then they said, We got a damn Democrat traitor running the show and he sold us out to the UN, that useless, good-for-nothing, debating society where idiots actually listen to the French, if you can believe it. Ahmad believed it. He remembered Algeria. But he kept his remembering to himself–the NWB’s wouldn’t have liked being reminded and he didn’t want to do anything that would get them off the track he’d so carefully set them on. Instead he asked, What are you going to do?

Oh, we’ll get rid of The Traitor, don’t you worry about that, they said. We’ve made plans. He won’t survive his first term.

And they did have plans, and they executed them all, paralyzing The Traitor’s Presidency by manufacturing rumors, innuendos, and pointless investigations of scandals that had never happened and crimes that had never taken place. They used their tame right-wing media-giants to pound away at the stories day-after-day to convince people that something real was being covered up when they knew it wasn’t, and they intimidated the media they didn’t control by influencing their mostly-right-wing advertising money to drop their accounts if the media said something they didn’t like. It was a well-planned operation and it went off like a well-oiled machine doing something it’s done a million times before and knows like the back of its hand and its perfection was a marvel to behold.

There was only one thing wrong: Despite their obvious success in painting The Traitor as a diseased maniac who should be taken out and shot for the good of society, the goddam people had the nerve to re-elect him!

The NWB’s were livid. All that work, all that time, all that money spent on buying testimony and coercing witnesses to make investigations of thin air seem as substantial as mud. All for nothing. They were frustrated. But they kept at it, even attempting to impeach The Traitor for adultery (which wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Constitutional issue at all, but what the hell? You go with what you’ve got).

Ahmad waited through all this, chomping at the bit. To pass the time, he trained a cadre of Iraqi “defectors” in what to say and how to say it, and then fed them to the NWB’s, who sucked it up with a silver spoon and whined for more.

In return, they fed him to a mole they’d placed at the NY Times named Judith Miller, and Judith dutifully printed all of his fascinating stories without, needless to say, doing any independent investigation of her own–this was Gospel, and you don’t question the Gospel. She was so credulous that Ahmad discovered he could tell her the most appalling lies, lies that anyone who knew the slightest bit of truth about Iraqi culture or history would know weren’t true, and she would simply gasp with awe and delight and then run off and write them down for posterity.

Interesting, he thought, looking at a paper one day; I say it here and it comes out there. Now he understood the definition of the American expression, “mouthpiece”.

Finally, in the fullness of time, The Traitor finished his 2 terms and had to be replaced. The NWB’s backed a born-again fundamentalist knucklehead with a C-average brain and no experience whatever. They did so chiefly because they knew him–he was Poppy’s kid, Junior–and they knew he would believe everything they told him.

The election was a real squeaker, and in the end had to be stolen by Junior’s bro in Florida and a right-wing Supreme Court willing to throw out all its previous commitment to stuff like “state’s rights” to swing it. But they won, and that’s all that mattered to them. Junior appointed them all to positions of power and they no longer had to persuade the govt to do what they wanted–they were the govt and they could damn well do what they wanted without asking anybody. Well, except Junior, of course, but with Dick “Halliburton” Cheney behind them (all they had to do was promise Dick that Halliburton would get the reconstruction contracts), that was just a formality.

They thought. So as soon as Junior was sworn in, they started planning the Iraqi invasion. They told Ahmad it would be any day now, and he was very happy.

Unfortunately, it turned out there was a fly in the soup: some guy named Karl Rove. Rove was in charge of the politicals, and Junior was enthralled with him, wouldn’t make a move without his say-so. And Karl wouldn’t OK the Iraq invasion.

We need an excuse, he said.

We’ve got an excuse, they said. Saddam’s planning to attack America with balsa-wood planes full of chemical and/or biological weapons.

Incredulous, Karl asked sarcastically, Where’d you hear that malarkey?

They pointed to Ahmad over in the corner. Him? Karl rolled his eyes and muttered, You’ve got to be kidding, but passed it and went on:

It doesn’t matter. That’s not enough. He has to actually do something. Plans aren’t enough, I can’t sell it on plans, we’re going to have to scare the people out of their shirts before they’ll buy this. Something has to happen. Something bad.

Well, before long, something bad did, and even though the perp was an old enemy of Saddam’s, Karl was able to sell fear to the American people wholesale, and they didn’t look too close at the lies he had Junior tell about the “proof” or the unsubstantiated assertions he had Junior make about how Saddam was behind 9/11. The NWB’s jumped on Rove’s fable like The Lone Ranger on his horse–at last they had the excuse they needed–and before you could say, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!”, Ahmad was flying in a USAF plane on the way to Baghdad with some of his “army” to tear down a statue of Saddam for FOXNews’ cameras, who obligingly shot it all in close-up to make him and his small band of dedicated followers look like the whole population of the city.

He was on his way.

Moral: If you tell him what he wants to hear, you can lead a Neocon to water and make him drink it, or drown in it, or spit it through his nose, and he won’t just thank you for it–he’ll give you your very own country to play with.