Sunday, August 09, 2009

Many Moons

A Fable. An older writing from college. Left un-edited to preserve my style at the time

Many moons ago in the land of Mechalopolis, the people of Mechalopolis grew weary and tired of their despotic tyrant of a king. So, being a weary and tired people, they overthrew their king and installed a puppet king. However, this puppet had a bad case of not liking his strings being pulled and so he cut his strings to become another despotic tyrannical king.

So the people of Mechalopolis once again ousted their king, in favor of new leadership. This continued for several iterations, for who knows how long, until finally someone had the bright idea of doing the same exact thing as the last time they installed a puppet king, except that this time they would not install a puppet king, but do something else. Whatever this something else would be, no one had a clue.

This is what happened. The people were trying to decide what to do about their government with each person stating their case about what should be done. First, one citizen would say, "Let us put John Rooflayer in charge." And then someone else would say, "No, let us put Bob Dirtshoveler in charge." Then some would say, "Let us not put anyone in charge." Others still would say, "Let us just go to bed." Then one wise person said, "Let us just do this." And so they did.

From then on, every week the people of Mechalopolis would congregate to the old King's castle (which was now used to house cattle and also to congregate) and discuss the policy of the land and make rulings based on what most of the people wanted. What ended up happening was that whoever was loudest or prettiest or whatever would get their way and everybody else would end up not caring, so that eventually only a few people would show up for these meetings.

Once this happened, several people started making all of the decisions for all of the people, but anyone who wanted to come to the meeting could come if they wanted, but they didn't (come or want to come). So once a new rule or decision was made, the people of the meeting, or Meetingpeople as they called themselves, would go about their business with some new rules guiding them. As soon as they noticed that no one else was following their rules, they would say, "Hey you, yeah you, Mary Watercarrier, you are not supposed to carry water buckets on your head. It is forbidden." So the Meetingpeople would get very upset at the citizens for not following the new rules of Mechalopolis.

It took the Meetingpeople quite some time to figure out that the reason no one followed the new rules was that no one actually knew about the new rules, except the Meetingpeople. They convened a special meeting to decide how to go about letting the common folk know about the new rules and decided to publish a weekly rule paper that would inform each citizen of each week's new rules. The Meetingpeople would print enough copies for all the citizens of Mechalopolis to have a copy, and then distribute the copies to everyone through their rule paper boys.

And so the Meetingpeople were quite delighted with themselves and their new rules and their new rule papers. As they went about their business in Mechalopolis, they were outraged to learn that the new rules were being broken left and right. Not one citizen was obeying the new rules. For instance, Jane Horsebreeder was found brushing a horse tail on a Friday afternoon-a grievous crime under the new rules. Solomon Bridgebuilder was caught hammering nails into lumber while facing the west. The list of crimes went on and on.

During the next town meeting, the Meetingpeople decided that a way of enforcing their new rules was needed in order to make sure that no one broke one of the rules. While they were not very clear on how they would enforce their new rules, they did have many ideas on what punishment should be dealt for what crimes.

Now, onto the enforcement of new rules-the Meetingpeople went through several ideas of rule enforcement before they found one that worked. At first, they operated on the honor system. The rule was that anyone guilty of a crime would immediately turn themselves in for punishment.

At the next week's meeting, after an apparent failure (which the Meetingpeople could not understand), the Meetingpeople decided to try a different approach: crime-sniffing dogs. They would train the dogs to smell any illegal activity and then bite the perpetrator. Then anyone found with dog-bite marks would be punished for whatever crime it was that they had done.

There were three main problems with this approach. First, it would seem that dogs are not so good at smelling crime. Also, the dogs ended up biting everyone they saw. Lastly, the Meetingpeople had no idea of what crime they bitee was guilty of. So yet again the Meetingpeople congregated at the old castle to discuss more possibilities for rule enforcement.

This time, someone, namely Jacob Loudspeaker, came up with a brilliant idea (or at least a loud one). His idea involved putting people in the city that would sit and watch all of the citizens, and when someone broke a rule, the rulewatcher would hit that person in the head with a big stick and then bring them to the old castle for the offender's punishment. This policy seemed to work fairly well. In fact, the stick-hitting was a bigger deterrent to rule breaking than the actual punishments (which typically consisted of cleaning the floors in the old castle or rubbing Melinda Stichweaver's back). So the Meetingpeople had finally found a way to get what they wanted, which promptly led to the next logical step: taxation.

The Meetingpeople soon realized that their gracious gifts of legislature they had bestowed upon the citizens of Mechalopolis deserved some monetary reimbursement. They had, after all, improved the quality of life for all the people of the land through their wise rulings. So, in order to continue giving people such gracious gifts, they would require some small amount of money from each citizen. In order to collect their new taxes, the Meetingpeople recruited more stick-wielding watchers, except now they would be collectors. Anyone who refused to pay the tax would be struck in the head at least once. And now that the Meetingpeople had a positive cash flow, they were able to afford watchers and collectors, both of the stick-wielding variety.

As many might imagine, the citizens were none too happy with the new rules, which included taxation of all non-Meetingpeople citizens. Most of the previous rules and punishments were minor inconveniences, which could be altogether avoided by simply keeping an eye out for the crime watchers. Now, with the taxes, everyone's first inclination was to start attending the town meetings in order to avoid paying the new tax.

However, as everyone found out, at the next meeting stick-wielding guards were posted outside the old castle doors and blocked access to all but the Meetingpeople. No longer could anyone attend the meeting about which they cared nothing for, but rather they would have to continue paying taxes (or getting struck in the head with a stick).

The next inclination of the people of Mechalopolis was to again overthrow their suppressors in order to again enjoy their freedoms to the fullest. However, the Meetingpeople now had three groups of stick-wielders and the funds to hire more. Whenever a citizen would start a rebellion against the Meetingpeople, that citizen would soon be found in one of two predicaments: dead or in a new job with a new salary paid for by the Meetingpeople. In this way the Meetingpeople (who now, since meetings were closed events, were referring to themselves collectively as the Council) would reduce all opposition to their rule. Apparently twenty-four heads are better than one. For the first time, the people of Mechalopolis had failed in overthrowing their government (something that they had gotten quite a knack for in the past century or so).

Now that the Council was the established ruling group of Mechalopolis, each member decided to take up residence within in the old castle. Each member moved their belongings and their families into regal suites within the castle. All except Jacob Loudspeaker, that is. For he had moved his residency into the old king's chambers, since he was, after all, the most important member of the council (or was that the loudest member?). It was this action that set the precedent for Jacob to begin his rule of the council.

Although Jacob Loudspeaker soon became the most prominent member of the Council, and eventually the Council Head, he still could not control the whims of the Council, yet. Jacob used his ability to speak loudly to influence others and get his way. This led to him finding more and more ways to put money in his pockets. The more money he stuffed his pockets with, the more influence he could purchase. Soon, Jacob could buy off any Council member and get anything he wanted.

But then Jacob Loudspeaker died because he was getting pretty old and speaking loudly all the time was not very healthy for large men like Jacob. So, without a Loudspeaker to run the Council, the remaining members got along without anyone speaking loudly. This went well at first, since they actually got some things accomplished without having someone who spoke loudly at them whenever they did anything that didn't directly put money in his pocket. Eventually, however, the Council lost its direction without a motivation to drive its decisions.

This was solved when the Council finally found that they could use their 'councilar' powers in order to line their pockets just like Jacob did. Instead of having one greedy money grabber, the Council was now completely filled with them (all thanks to Jacob). The system was far more decentralized since some members wanted to steal money from the poor to paint their ceilings while others wanted to charge a tax for walking on the streets so they could import fine cheeses from Wisconsylvania.

All in all, the Council members got whatever they wanted and the citizens of Mechalopolis got by. The people of Mechalopolis still managed to have happy and productive lives while tolerating the Council's 'rulings.' But should the Council one day truly step out of line, like so many of Mechalopolis' previous rulers, the people would be there to throw them out, find some new way to run the land, and go about their lives as always.

1 comment:

Josh said...

It is rather remarkable what a significant portion of the proceeds that governments take in from the citizenry is spent simply to keep the whole operation going.

I think members of Congress should be paid whatever the mean salary of every household in the country is. It's an idea that's bound to appeal to both sides of the aisle.