Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking through the flotsam and jetsam dealing with the current political scene I came across an interesting short story (or parable) on the subject.

On Stumping Our Way to the Future
- a short tale by Mr. North

It was election time among the people; of course it was almost always election time, but this was the Big election. Everybody was talking about the issues; what was good for me, what was bad for me, what was best for me, what was worst for me, what I liked, what I didn't like, what I wanted, what I didn't want, what I was afraid of, what I wasn't afraid of, how things would affect me, how things would hurt me, how things would help me, how I could get more out of the election than I would lose, how I could steal from others, how I could prevent others from stealing from me, etc. All the big issues of any campaign.

These were politically minded people and loved elections; especially Big elections, and so they talked about the issues all day long, and even in their dreams. They talked as the ate, they talked as the walked, as they scurried about on errands, as they looked after the little ones, as they collected food, as they went to the bathroom, as they combed their hair and their whiskers. As they moved through the day they talked about the upcoming election. It seemed as if this was what life was all about.

The leaders tried to rally people to vote one way or the other. They lied, they schemed, they deceived, they told stories, they invented mythologies, they bullied, they told stories to make people mad, to make them afraid, to make them jealous, to make them wild, to make them dream, to keep them confused and off balance, to get their heads spinning so as to prevent any possibility of rational thought. The leaders were very clever, good at using powerful words and images, good at lying with a straight face, good at pleading, good at scolding. (Good at everything but being useful cynics said.)

And like in most elections the leaders, and their talking minions, offered the people everything but gold to vote the correct way, to vote for the correct person. They auctioned off a plethora of goods and services too numerous to list here; everything but gold coins. The people loved these auctions; and drooled over the smorgasboard of goodies offered by the politicians. What a mountain of goods was offered; and all free. (All free. Just think of it.) It was like baiting traps with a thousand kinds of cheese. The smell of success was in the air; and the people became greedier and greedier with with every passing week, as they got closer to the Big Day.

And the people moved incessantly toward the big day; with no time now to rest, not even for a meal. They ate on the run, they drank on the run, as they were all swept toward the Big Day. Emotions ran high; with great hopes for success, and with dark fears of failure. Here and there among the thronging masses, small voices could be heard questioning the process and prophesying of danger up ahead. Their calls for reflection were dismissed, their fears were dismissed, their criticisms were mocked; they were called traitors, fear mongers, haters of progress, and the like. The Electioneers squashed them like bugs. "To doubt is to betray the people,'' they said to defend their actions.

Cries abounded about the need to engineer a new society. "We need to stop being spectators at a bad play,'' the cry went up. Slogans like, "The past is over, the future is here,'' filled the air. "All we have to fear is the fear of doing something,'' said some. "To do nothing is an evil thing,'' said others. "The past must be murdered to make way for the future,'' said the most fierce. People became so intoxicated by the fumes of these slogans that almost no one could see what lay just up ahead. Their eyes were watching the clouds, and fixated on the stars. They were blinded by the dreams of the auctioneers and so were blind to danger.

And so it was, that one fine fall day, with sunlight dancing on the leaves of all the trees, the people marched over the edge of a cliff no one had seen, and fell hundreds of feet to the rocks below. I'm not sure anyone knows exactly what happened to them, but we assume most died and were swept away to sea.


Notes; Oct/19/2008
1. Intense efforts on my part have led to the information the true author of this tale is M. D. Johnson. (In current anthologies the tale has been given the title 'The election of the Lemmings' but I've used the original title in this post.
2. Yes; I promise not to deceive the public again in this way. (But alas; politics has corrupted us all.)


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