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A fable of fools

(Published in "Vidya", the Journal of the Triple Nine Society, September 2007)

July 2007

In the land of fools, fools fool greater fools.
Once, not so long ago, the mighty king of the greatest and wisest of all nations was advised by his wise and trusted counselors: “There is an evil king”, they said, “in a far-away land who does not behave according to our laws and morals.” The king angered at this news, and being an exceptionally foolish king, decreed that the evil king of the far-away land should suffer defeat, dismissal, and death. The mighty king took his plan to the people's high senate, which blessed the plan with a mighty and unanimous cheer. The mighty king, having the ability to carry out his plan, did so. His righteous army dismantled the evil king's evil army and dismissed all the evil king's evil counselors and bureaucrats.

Now, the evil king with his evil army and bureaucrats had kept order in the far-away land, where many good religious people – those of the right faith – stood ready to do God's will, if only given the opportunity, by slaughtering their neighbors who held to the false faith. And since everyone was quite sure that theirs was the right faith, no sooner had the mighty king dismissed the evil king, the evil army, and the evil bureaucrats that kept the good godly people from each other's throats, than all the godly folk commenced to slay one another with enraptured gusto.

The wise counselors of the foolish king were astounded at this predictable disorder, and were seized by confusion. But, putting on a brave face, the king proclaimed that all would soon be well in the far-away land, for they would see that the way of the great king and his army was the way of goodness and truth. Then the people would rise up as one, said the great and foolish king, and embrace the way of truth, while they also embraced invaders and neighbors alike in understanding and brotherhood.

But, strangely, the godly people of the far-away land did none of those things. They couldn't get enough of slaying their neighbors of the false faith, and it soon became the national sport. The great king's soldiers, who tried to referee this unseemly sport, got caught up in the game, and a goodly number of them fell along with the losing players. "Oops," said the senators of the people's high senate, "no one told us they would die when we bravely sent the soldiers off to war. We sent them to kill, not to die. Our foolish king has fooled us!"

And the women at the well talked among themselves and said, "Surely someone fooleth someone." And they liked neither their foolish king nor their fooled and foolish senators. But it came to pass that the senators of the people's high senate saw that in a mere two years the people would choose a new king, and they shouted, "Me, me!" And they went to the women at the well and said, "Me, me!" And the women said, "But you are just as foolish as the king. You started the foolish war together. You applauded our foolish king's plan with a mighty cheer!" And the senators said, "That we did, but we didn't mean it. We didn't know our soldiers would die. We sent them there to kill." And each senator said, "I was foolish then, but I'll be wise if you choose me as king. And look at my lovely smile and my hair." And the women at the well looked at their lovely smiles and hair and listened to their elegant lies and were mightily impressed. "Yes," they said, "we believe you. You were foolish then, but you'll be wise when we choose you as king."

So, in the marvellous way of the wisest and best of all nations, for two full years the people marvelled at the lies and admired the hair and the smiles of the foolish senators who started a war but did not mean it, and when they were thus fully informed they chose as their new king ... well, who knows? Perhaps, when this is history, one fool followeth another.

© 2007 H. Paul Lillebo

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