15 June 2010

Parable (after Idries Shah)

There was a certain potentate who had taken to stockpiling chemical weapons - mustard gas, sarin, you name it - in the cellars under his city.

This took up a lot of the city's budget, and in consequence the city was kind of run down and unattractive. Also, over time these chemical nasties had begun seeping into the water supply, causing all manner of health issues for the citizens.

All of this, thought the potentate, was worth it, in that now any enemy who tried to attack the city would get an extremely nasty surprise. For the potentate kept this stockpile secret - if anyone knew of his weapons cache, he thought, they would instantly retaliate with deadly, possibly nuclear force. So it didn't even have the deterrent effect that such WMDs often do.

All that the city's neighbours knew was that this city was run-down and dirty, and the people who lived there seemed suspicious and unwell. This, as you can imagine, did nothing for the tourist industry or for inwards investment, so things in general did not get better.

The potentate would wake up screaming in the night, occasionally, with terrible nightmares of his city being destroyed for lack of WMDs. Or because his neighbours found out about the WMDs. As he saw it, he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't change strategies.

The moral of the story is: You know where you stand in a hell hole.