Aug 19, 2008

A fable for our times

Once there was a country, large and important, but burdened by many debts, and with most of its financial systems bankrupt. The country was also very short of oil and gas, and had to spend huge amounts every month to import these, adding to its debts, and its infrastructure, its roads, bridges, sewers, viaducts, and transport systems were all very old and crumbling.

A very long way away there was another country, three or four times the size of the first one, less advanced in many ways, but with vast stores of oil and gas, which were making it very rich. (It also had many missiles aimed at the first country, a relic of the “Cold War” between the two, lasting some fifty years, though without direct attack. Its people, though much poorer, had centuries of experience of fighting invading armies on its own soil.)

Now the first country could have said to the second country, hey, we could give you a hand in all sorts of ways, technical expertise to develop your resources, all kinds of organizations we belong to, and we’d really appreciate some help with our oil and gas shortage, but instead of taking this obvious course, the first country borrowed even more money to increase its military, and worked hard to make arrangements with the neighbors of the second country to cause them as much trouble as possible, and surrounded the second country with as many missile bases as it could persuade the neighbors to let them build.

Both countries also faced some fifty years or so of climate change, with floods, drought, and storms of increasing violence.

What the first country had in mind was never very clear, since it clearly could not take over and rule such a vast country, several times its own size, so far away. Nor was it clear how the various military adventures could help their bankrupt institutions, or rebuild their crumbling infrastructure.

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” Perhaps that was the moral.

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