The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, August 10, 2014


By the way: A fable for our times
Once upon a time in an amazing archipelago called Insulindia there dwelt a great people, rich in reason and resources.
 “Verily, we are the most fortunate of folk,” they cried. “We can cast a net into the ocean and catch fine fish. The wild fruits of our soil are sufficient unto the day.  We are free to determine our future though the snakes of ego and avarice slither amongst us.”
Now in those days Insulindia was ruled by a regent who’d sat on the throne for ten twelvemonths and was getting a mite constipated. There were mutterings in the marketplace, and many voiced anxieties, for the ancient one’s heirs lacked courage to grasp the reins of office.
So the King gathered the challengers and spoke thus:
“Oh ye ambitious men, harken to my words. Those who would seek to rule this mighty nation must first win the hand of my fair daughter, Demo Cracy.”
Some suitors were aghast.  “But, Lord,” cried one of noble birth, rolling off his froth-flecked stallion. “Demo is comely only in the eyes of the blighted.  You adopted her.  She is not from the loins of our land but a thieving foreigner.  She’s responsible for the leaks, the reason we do not prosper.
“Better by far to embrace the true ways of our ancestors and follow Demo’s half-brother, Mono Cracy as befits our tradition.  For many in this tropical fiefdom are not so learned as us, or of sound mind as to make correct decisions. 
“I am but a simple goat farmer so I know well the simple goats. They need guidance from one raised for greatness, for such was foretold at my Mamma’s breast.”
“Nary, good Sir,” interrupted his most potent rival, a low-born hewer of wood and wanderer of the warungs.  “I will rise to the challenge thrown down by our lacklustre leader and woo yon maiden Demo; forsooth, methinks she is beloved of the masses.  Prithee, Lord, your orders.”
“So be it,” said the King.  “Hence to the smoking mountains and flood-ripped valleys, to the humblest hamlets and the silver cities.
“Tell all who will listen of your plans, and on the day appointed I will ask them to choose.”
“They will be told,” snarled the plump knight of the dark countenance as he mounted his charger with the help of three stout groomsmen. “Summons my little brother to fill the saddlebags with gold to reward the true believers.
“Also call upon scribes to rewrite my biography.  The commoners must not be confused by the lies of those who might recall past misdeeds, though of course these never happened.”
And so the Eurocopter ascended to the heavens above the clenched-fist cheers of redcaps spontaneously shouting “Il Duce, Il Duce,” for they had learned the word from history books. But others trembled.
Meanwhile his rival looked around for a passing pedicab, for his palace-born sponsor had commandeered all flying machines. She knew the people craved to see her princess daughter, not some lean and hungry pretender with no lineage, a frog from a riverbank.
And so it came to pass on the appointed day the electors gathered and spake with clear voice.  The winner consummated the union with Demo, but the loser withdrew to spill his wrath.
“Oh ye dolts and dimwits,” he shouted at the multitude. “I said to stick the nail through the paper once – not twice just to make sure.  Why do you think I paid you?
“I also curse the blind referee.  We told him many dead and disappeared had voted twice – we have their names. But he wouldn’t listen
“We’ll get this fixed at the high place with a fine record of impartial judgments. We have shipping containers – well, folders actually - bulging with your righteous complaints.  These must be upheld – or we’ll cry havoc.
“Fear not, proud yeomen of Insulindia.  I will not allow my, I mean your destiny to be stolen by a wardrobe salesman into heavy metal, not heavy armaments.  A warrior never accepts defeat, even when riddled by eight million votes.”
Now children, time for bed. No nightmares darlings, it’s just an old fairy tale. Duncan Graham

(First published in The Jakarta Post, Sunday 10 August 2014)

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