This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Monday, 26 November 2012
The Baboon Chronicles
So say the Chronicles of the Baboon People:
There was once a baboon troop, wandering the savannah not far from a lake, that lived in a stand of acacia trees. The troop was large and flourished, and it had lived in this stand of acacia since as long as any of them could remember.
And in this troop was born a Child.
The Child grew up agile and clever, a genius among the baboons, but not the biggest or the most handsome.
As the Child grew, his intelligence grew as well, and the other baboons began listening to him sometimes. And they listened to him some more.
And the years passed, and the baboon troop grew more and more numerous and more and more prosperous.
And the Child grew too, and his wisdom grew with him, and the troop sometimes called him Master. And the World of the troop was his to know, and solutions to their problems his to advise.
Now there was a Leopard that preyed on the baboon troop. It was a big Leopard, strong and fierce, and once in a while it snatched a baboon and carried it off and ate it, its piteous cries ringing out the while. But that is the way of the world.
“Master,” said the baboons, “save us from this cruel Leopard.”
“There is no way I can do that,” said the Master. “The Leopard too is part of this world, and its nature is to kill and eat. In any case, it kills only a few of us a year, and then only the halt and lame and the unfit to survive.”
And there arose a Baboon of the baboons, a Leader who had the ability to Lead. He had the strongest muscles of the troop, and the biggest mane, and the sharpest teeth, and he had the greatest success with the females, because he had the reddest buttocks.
And this Leader told the Master, “If you shall not suggest a way out for our people, I will. There is fresh land to the south of the lake, where the cliffs are high and hang over the water. There we can live in safety from the Leopard.”
“But,” said the Master, “on the cliffs lives another troop of baboons, and they have lived there as long as we have lived here among the acacias.”
“Then we shall destroy the other troop and take over their territory,” said the Leader. “There are many fewer of them than there are of us.”
“But that would be immoral,” answered the Master. “Besides, such a course of action will weaken our troop as well, and so badly that the Leopard will have a free run of our troop, not to mention the Crocodile that lives in the lake under the cliffs.”
“You are a weakling and a traitor,” said the Leader. “You want the Leopard to keep killing and eating our people.” And he, along with the rest of the troop, drove the Master away. This he could do because he was big and strong and handsome and because he had the greatest success with the females because of his red buttocks.
And the troop left the acacia and attacked the baboon troop on the cliffs, and after a short and violent battle they drove the small baboon troop that lived there away. Great were the casualties on both sides, but the troop captured the cliffs and made them their new home, and joyous were the celebrations indeed.
But then, because there were no baboons (except for the lonely and agile Master) in the acacia, the Leopard went to the cliffs, and the baboon troop was so weakened that it could not resist; and, being unused to life on the cliffs, it had nowhere to hide except in the water, where the Crocodile waited. And great was the slaughter indeed.
Meanwhile, another troop of baboons came and lived in the acacia, and flourished, so the Troop could not return to its former home.
And the Leader said, “This is the work of the traitor, the Master, who should have stopped us from making these mistakes. It is he who is to blame. Cursed be his name for eternity.” And because he had the biggest muscles and the shaggiest mane and the reddest buttocks, his words endured for eternity and forever. And that was only just and proper and correct.
Such are the words of the Chronicles of the Baboon people.
“Brothers,” said He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon, “hearken unto me.
“We have sinned,” continued He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon, when the troop had gathered. He stood on the rock, upright on his hind legs, and looked around until all the troop had fallen silent, yea, even the Leader and his Council. “We have sinned, and for this we must suffer.”
“But how,” asked a small baboon in the first rank, who had been busy grubbing for worms under rocks, “can you say we’ve sinned? What have we done?”
He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon – he had no other name, and it was compulsory to refer to him by his entire title – ignored him. “Do you not see how the water in the lake shrinks every year, yes, not just every year but every month, every week, every day? Do you not hear the terrible growls of the Scourge of The Great Baboon, the Leopard, as he walks the night and decimates us? Do you not feel the wind as it blows off the savannah? Can you not smell on it the smoke of manfires? Whence comes the smoke, brothers, whence the Leopard?” He paused dramatically. “Answer.”
“The Great Baboon,” he continued when nobody answered. “It is He who sends all this- to chastise us.
”And the Great One is unhappy,” he continued. “He created us, and yet we do not honour him. We exist at his pleasure, and he could wipe us from the tablet of existence, but he chooses only to chastise us and show the error of our ways.”
“But,” said the small baboon, “if he created us, did he just create us to honour him? In that case, why didn’t he just create us so we could honour him automatically?”
He Who Speaks To The Great baboon frowned slightly, but ignored the small baboon in front. “We have sinned,” he continued, “and in sinning have invoked his displeasure. We have gone against his commandments. We have fornicated, we have coveted one another’s mates, we have allowed our children to wander from the righteous path, and, most of all, we have forgotten Him.”
“But,” said one old baboon, “what can we do? These things you say are true, but how can we find our way to his favour?”
He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon was silent a moment. “You must realise,” he said at length, “that the baboon form is the most perfect in the whole of Creation. This is because the Great baboon chose to create us in His image, and if we profane this form in any way that is terrible in his eyes.” He looked at the younger baboons. “Your females,” he said, are naturally inferior. That is why they are not invited to this meeting. They are smaller, weaker, and lack the intellectual refinement that male baboons have.” The small baboon snorted, but nobody paid any attention. “They have no ability to think, so the sins that they commit are yours to prevent, Brothers.
“Think, therefore, for them. When they choose to adorn themselves in the juice of berries, are they not offending against the Great Baboon? Are they not slighting His holy work? Why should you not then stop them and put them right? Chastise them, Brothers, and show them the error of their ways.
“And there are your sins, too, Brothers, sins of omission, such as when you allow the females to have their way, yea, and sins of commission, those that you yourself commit, of pride and eating the fruit of your neighbour‘s branch.
“Then, Brothers, you cannot perhaps comprehend the Great Baboon. But you can certainly understand Me, the Great One’s anointed. And if you fail to show the proper reverence due My office, you are offending Him, because I hold my place only through His favour.
“Chastise your females, Brothers, deny them rest. Force them to work for you, because only a female so tired she cannot do anything other than work is a safe female. Beget children on them, because siring more and more baboons is pleasing to the Great Baboon since they can praise Him.
“And then,” he added as the small baboon snorted again, loudly, “there are the enemies among us, the minions of the Devil Crocodile himself. These are those who would drag us further into the mire and degrade us utterly.” He nodded slightly and three big baboons jumped forward and seized the small baboon. “They are the enemies of the Great Baboon. They are the enemies of the Leader. They are the enemies of the Holy Office I hold. And they are the enemies of you and me as troop members.” He paused.
“What shall we do with them?” asked the old white-muzzled baboon, on cue.
“Kill them,” roared the troop, Leader and all. And so it was done, and the small baboon’s corpse thrown out for the Leopard.
“We must fast,” said He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon, “for guidance. I shall myself eat not more than once a day for a week…” And so it was done.
“Why does the lake still shrink?” asked another small baboon after a moon had passed. “Here we have been beating our females and eating almost nothing for a moon, and the water in the lake still shrinks, and nightly the Leopard prowls, and still nothing happens to show the Great One is happy.”
“We must sacrifice,” said He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon. “We must throw the most coveted of our females into the water for the Crocodile, or drive them out of the group for the Leopard. This will reduce the temptation to do wrong that the Devil Crocodile constantly throws in our way.” And so it was done.
“But why does the lake still shrink?” asked the small baboon some months later. “Here we have been killing our females and…”
“Kill him,” roared the troop, quite unprompted. “He’s a heretic, an enemy of the troop.” And He Who Speaks To The Great Baboon smiled, and so it was done.
Nowadays they don’t speak of the lake shrinking any more.
Once upon a time, two baboon troops lived on either side of a river.
In the centre of the river was a small island. It was a beautiful little island, covered with fruit trees, with abundant shade and springs of clear cool water from which one might drink without the danger of being taken by crocodiles.
The baboon troops both coveted the island, and so they fought a War. They fought, but neither side won. Therefore they kept on fighting.
Now the island had its own small population of baboons. In truth, the island was so small it could only support a small troop of baboons. It was far too small for the two troops that were fighting over it. But fight over it they did, as though the native baboons did not exist.
Decades passed. The original baboons died, and their successors grew up, achieved maturity, and therefore fought and died in their turn. And so the War went on.
Then, one day, the leaders of the two baboon troops both had an idea. Each of them summoned his most trusted spy and told him, “We have been fighting the War for so long, and yet we know little of what we are fighting over. I want you to go to the island and see what those laggards, those ungrateful ones, the natives are doing while we fight on their behalf.”
“I go,” said each spy, bowing low, and off he went.
Days later, each spy returned to his master.
“Lord,” he said, bowing so low his head touched the ground, “the island is ruined. The river has changed its course, the land is eroded, the soil is dry and cracked, the grass and trees are withered and sere. Great crocodiles with gaping jaws now bask where the springs would bubble forth from the ground.”
So the baboon troops no longer fought for the island. Instead they kept on fighting, because the members of one troop had red bottoms, and those of the other had blue.
Once upon a time, in a valley through which ran a sparkling stream, there dwelt a large troop of baboons.
The valley was full of trees bearing fruit, and these provided the baboon troop with plentiful food, just as the stream provided it with water enough and to spare. And great was the happiness of the baboon troop, and it flourished indeed.
Now among the baboons there was one who grew to be known as the Economist. “Away yonder on the hill,” he declaimed, “there are many other troops, which do not have the fruit that we enjoy. We can trade our fruit with them.”
“Why should we do that?” the baboons asked. “What will they be able to give us that we should trade for?"
The Economist thought for a moment. “They have pretty stones on the hills,” he said, “which we can use to decorate ourselves. Just think how much trade can be generated from this.” And so persuasive was he, that it was done.
Soon many of the baboons were walking around with strings of pretty stones round their arms and tails, and hanging round their necks. And the fruit from the trees went to the baboons up in the hills. But the stocks of stones imported began to rise, and were not being taken up by the troop.
“Not enough baboons are wearing stones,” the Economist said. “”We must persuade them that the stones will give them higher status and better mates.” And so this was done.
The baboons dearly loved their stones, and began making sacrifices to accumulate more and more. Soon almost all of them were laden down with so many that they could barely move. And still the demand kept rising, for he who had the prettiest stones was the most admired, and the most sexually and socially successful.
So, it happened that there was a minor trade hiccup.
“We are managing a slight deficit in our balance of trade,” the Economist declared. “We import more than we are exporting. We must export more fruit.”
“But the fruit season is almost over,” the baboons objected. “We must keep some for the winter.”
“Then,” the Economist stated, “we must export water.” And so it was done.
And then so it happened that a young baboon, with her baby at her breast, was hungry, and went to the nearest tree that still had fruit, for a bite to eat, Before she could so much as put a paw on the trunk, a big baboon stepped into her path, baring his teeth in warning. “Beware,” said he. “The fruit of this tree is earmarked for export.”
“But the other trees have no fruit,” the young baboon complained. “And I need fruit to make milk for my baby.”
“That is none of my concern,” said the big baboon. “The Economist has declared that the fruit of this tree must be preserved for export. All fruits are reserved for export.”
Fuming, the young mother went down to the stream to quench her thirst, but another guard baboon arrived.
“Water from the stream is rationed,” he snarled. “You must go to the end of the valley to drink, because all of the water here is reserved for export.” And this the mother baboon had to do.
“The more stones we can buy,” the Economist said, “the more stones we can sell to our troop. And in order to earn these stones, they may work and gather food enough for export. This will promote economic growth and overall prosperity.”
“But,” the baboon troop said, “most of us have almost as many stones as we can wear, and our food and water are running out.”
“Then,” the Economist said, “those of us who have more stones than they need can lend them, at interest, to those who have fewer. This will be incentive for them to work hard to repay the loan and buy even more stones.” He paused. “We can even set up stone banks,” he said, “which can lend stones against collateral…”
Just then the hungry young mother baboon came up to complain. “I have a right to the fruit and water!” she shouted.
“That’s socialist talk,” the Economist said. “In the bad old days, none of us had these wonderful stones. Do you want us to go back to the bad old socialist days?”
“My baby must have milk,” the young mother whined. “And for that I need fruit and water.”
“You must pay for it,” the Economist said. “I’ll be willing to sanction a loan for the time being, at fifteen per cent interest and collateral of course. I will lend you stones, which you can use to purchase fruit at market prices.”
“I have no collateral,” the young baboon said.
“Then,” said the Economist, “I cannot lend you anything.”
“Why?” the young baboon shouted. “A few months ago, we had all we wanted to eat and drink, and nobody knew want. Now, we have nothing except want. Why, tell me that?”
The Economist smiled. “That’s called Progress,” he said.
Once upon a time, there were two troops of baboons which lived in a deep and lush valley in the middle of the savannah. These two troops kept to their own territories and did not interact with each other, though sometimes a baboon or two from either side would meet to squabble or mate when nobody was looking.
But then, one day, in the middle of the valley, a most wondrous thing happened. A tree suddenly grew heavy with fruit, its branches weighed down with luscious orbs that just begged to be eaten. As soon as they had seen it, both troops of baboons rushed upon the tree in order to strip it of its edible load.
“It belongs to us,” the birds which lived in the tree protested, but they were chased away, their nests destroyed and their eggs broken. The two troops of baboons then had the tree to themselves, with no competitors...but for each other.
Promptly, the two baboon troops began fighting desperately over the fruit, biting and scratching at each other, until the branches of the tree were broken.
Then a young baboon rose up from amongst the troops and said, “Brothers and sisters, we must make peace. For if we do not, if you fight each other, soon the fruit will be knocked off and trampled into the ground, and there will be nothing left to eat – for anyone.”
But the baboons paid him no heed, but rather intensified their fighting, until the fruit was knocked off and trampled into the ground, and there was nothing left to eat, for anyone.
And then they set upon the young baboon and tore him to pieces. They were quite justified.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a baboon troop lived in a valley in a mountain beside a great savannah.
The valley was comfortable and fertile, well-provided with water for the baboons to drink and acacia trees in which to sleep at night, with fruit and insects aplenty for the baboons to eat and satisfy their appetite. The baboons who lived in the valley were fortunate, for they had all they needed, and were well aware of the fact.
Each morning the chief and priest of the troop would climb to the tops of the highest rocks of the mountain which bordered the valley and would gesture at the savannah that stretched, arid and brown to the horizon.
“We must be thankful to the Great Baboon,” the chief would intone solemnly, “because we do not live out on that terrible plain, where the lion and the cheetah roam, not to mention the Evil One, whose real name must not be taken; where the elephant breaks down the acacia trees, the spitting cobra coils through the grass, and the crocodile cruises the water-holes. We must be thankful to the Great Baboon that we are not like the troops which live out on the savannah, which have to fight amongst themselves for food and water and shelter in the tallest trees during the night, when the Evil One comes with sharp tooth and bitter claw.”
“We must pray to the Great Baboon,” the priest would continue, “to keep Him happy, that He does not send the Evil One to chastise us. We must be sure to propitiate Him and follow His dictates in all things.”
Then they would go down into the valley, and collect the fruit that each baboon family owed as an offering to the Temple of the Great Baboon, which was in the tallest of the acacia trees in the valley. It was half the food the baboon families could collect, but it was worth it, of course, for the blessings of the Great Baboon. And although, by the Rule of the Great Baboon Himself, the families of the chief and priest were naturally exempt from this imposition, they could not eat all of this fruit, so bountiful was the valley. Instead, the surplus would be thrown away on to the rocks, and the Rule forbade the ordinary baboons from touching it, even in case of hunger. And there it rotted in the sun, and caused some restiveness among the troop.
At night the young baboons would sit in their perches in the acacia, and shiver with delicious terror as they listened to the tales of the Evil One ghosting through the savannah, the starlight shining in his eyes, the moon sliding over his dappled pelt. Sometimes they would hear the shriek of other baboons, less fortunate than they, who had invited the wrath of the Great Baboon and been punished with a visitation by the Evil One. On such occasions the elders of the troop would be sure to lecture them in admonition and warn them to keep to the Great Baboon’s ordained ways.
One day, the priest of the troop, an ancient traditionalist, died, and was replaced by a young and fiery radical. “We,” this young priest said to the troop, “have been selfish too long. We have kept to the Great Baboon’s Rule, and have been suitably rewarded with food, water, shelter and prosperity. But those poor baboons on the plain – they have no knowledge of the Great Baboon, and so, for no fault of their own, they suffer from the lion and the cheetah, the cobra and the elephant, the crocodile and the hyena – not to mention the Evil One.”
The baboons of the troop looked at each other uneasily. Nobody liked the idea of being selfish, but nobody knew quite what to do about it. Fortunately the new priest had a plan all ready.
“We must,” he said, “immediately send out missionaries to the troops out on the plain, to convert them to the Rule of the Great Baboon, so that they too find peace in life and respite from the Evil One.”
And so the missionaries were selected and sent out, in twos and threes, and a hard time they had of it.
“The troops of the plain,” they reported back, “do not wish to hear of the Great Baboon. They claim that they have their own gods – or none at all – and they wish to keep to their own ways.”
That year the Great Drought struck the mountain valley, so that the water began to dry up and the food supplies dwindled. Soon, the baboons began to face hunger, for they still had to turn half of all they found to the Temple of the Great Baboon, and there was little enough to begin with. And still the Drought went on.
The sky by day was a burnished bowl of blazing brightness, and by night the stars were cruel shards of light, with not a trace of rain. The priest called for mass prayers to the Great Baboon, and still the Drought went on.
The leaves withered on the branches of the trees, the parched soil began to crack, and the troop faced starvation. In response, the priest called for the baboons to turn over two-thirds of all they found to the Temple instead of merely half, because the Great Baboon must have His share – and still the Drought went on.
“It is the Wrath of the Great Baboon,” the priest declared at last. “He is consumed by anger, for we are selfish, and we have not persevered in our duty towards our brothers and sisters on the plain. We must educate them in the One True Path, so that the Great One is appeased and sends the rain back again.”
“But,” a couple of the baboons argued, “the troops out on the plain have no desire to know of the Great Baboon. They have made that clear.”
“Then we must send out armies in a Holy Crusade,” the priest said, “to convert them by force, lest they persist in their sinful ways and displease the Great Baboon.”
“Are you quite sure,” one of the dissenters argued, “that the Great Baboon will be happy to have other troops made to follow Him by force, especially taking into account all the bloodshed it will entail?”
“The Great Baboon has told it to me with His own voice,” the priest replied. “Do you dare raise your voice against His authority?”
“How can we know,” the other dissenter asked, “that the purpose of this Holy Crusade is to convert them to the Rule, and not merely to seize their food and water, for the plain is less affected by the Drought than we?”
“How dare you impute such base motives to the Priest of the Great Baboon?” the chief of the troop snarled. “He speaks to the Baboon Himself, and knows all that is in His holy Mind. He has also told me that there are Heretics and other Servants of the Evil One amongst us. Keep strict vigil against them.”
Then the chief of the troop organised armies and sent them out on the plain to do battle with the baboons who lived there. And the armies had a hard time of it.
“You had told us,” they complained to the chief and the priest, “that the baboons of the plain would recognise that we had come to bear them the Holy Word of the Great Baboon, and would, as soon as we had overthrown their chiefs and priests, welcome us and convert to our ways. But instead they fight us tooth and nail.”
“It is only the deluded amongst them,” the priest and chief replied, “those that hate the Great Baboon and worship the Evil One. You shall triumph eventually, for the Great Baboon is on your side, and blesses this Crusade.”
Then the armies sent back to say, “We no longer understand what we are doing out on the plain fighting baboons who do not want us. They continue to resist us, and at night the Evil One stalks our encampments, and drags us off one by one into the wilderness to consume us. None of us is safe.”
Then the priest and the chief said, “You are fighting because if you do not, the Evil One will come to our valley, and consume our own children. You are fighting to preserve the Rule of the Great Baboon against the barbarity of those who will not believe, and those who worship the accursed Evil One.”
Meanwhile the Drought intensified, and the water in the valley thinned almost to a trickle, which was reserved for the use of the chief and the priest. The baboons of the troop began to starve almost to death, especially because they were now compelled to give over virtually all the food they could collect to the Temple of the Great Baboon. And at last some of them had had enough.
“We no longer wish to give the fruit of our labour to the Temple,” they declared. “We were once content and well fed, and we were the envy of the baboons who lived elsewhere. Now, we are poor and starving, and we are held in hatred and contempt by those whose lands we have invaded for reasons which seem more and more a lie. We want our fruit and our water back again.”
“You are lazy, you are lazy,” the priest said. “It’s simply that you don’t want to look for fruit and nuts, berries and insects for the Temple. You are parasites.”
“There are no fruit, berries, nuts or insects to be had,” the protesting baboons declared. “They have all gone to the Temple and to the armies fighting out on the plain.”
“It is a conspiracy,” the chief countered. “A conspiracy, hatched against us by baboons who are envious of our food and water, our prosperity and our Rule, baboons who live even further out on the plain. We must at once raise fresh armies, and send them out to make war against those baboons, who are slaves of the Evil One. Meanwhile, for speaking out against the Great Baboon, you are traitors, and the Rule of the Great Baboon specifies that traitors must be destroyed.”
“We never spoke against the Great Baboon,” the baboons said. “Our grouse is against the Temple, and the priest and the chief who misuse it for their own benefit – not against the Baboon Himself.”
“Who speaks against the Temple speaks against the Baboon Himself,” the priest said.
“Does the Rule say so?” the baboons demanded. “We do not recall the Rule saying any such thing.”
The priest showed all his teeth in a yellow grin, and clasped hands with the chief.