Thinking Allowed - Including musings by Daan Spijer.

From the Kitchen

May 3, 2016

From the Kitchen #182


Once upon a muddled time, in a country full of uncertain people, there was a confused king, bouncing from one ill-defined idea to another. No-one seemed to know that things could be different, because everyone had forgotten that they ever were different.

The country was called Odd. It once, longer ago, had schools that prepared young people for adult life, teaching them how to contribute to society in meaningful and creative ways. Graduates of these schools could understand complex issues because they had been taught to think clearly and to not accept anything as immutable. They could read and write in their own language and in at least two foreign languages. They could multiply and calculate long division in their heads. They entertained themselves through participatory sports and intellectual games.

All that had gone, or the essence of it has disappeared. Now the schools taught ‘a possible history of the future’, on the basis that, if all the citizens believed in it, it would come to be the reality. Mathematics was no longer taught, as all necessary calculations were available within computers. I suspect that computer programmers belonged to a secret society that still taught mathematics and logic.

Students no longer learned any language other than the Odd language, and they learned even that poorly. They no longer knew how to write, because they needed only to speak to their small computers, which they carried with them at all times, to communicate with others and to compose their shopping lists.

The king, Ennui IX, felt useless. He was advised by a group of citizens appointed by the major corporations and he felt compelled to carry out all their advice, as the corporations paid for his palace and his servants and anything he might have asked for.

Ennui’s great-grandmother, Queen Lib, presided over a different country. It was Odd, but still had a semblance of normality – its citizens elected men and women from among them who debated about laws and whether to pass only ones that favoured the corporations. They occasionally passed laws that favoured the citizens, or some of them.

Gradually, debate became meaningless, because those who were traditionally responsible for arguing for or against one side, started habitually agreeing with each other.

Ennui occasionally remembered his grandfather telling him stories of how it was in Queen Lib’s time and earlier: that the king or queen could decide by themselves what laws should be enacted and which ones should be scrapped. But Ennui had not been taught how to think for himself, or to think at all.

King Ennui’s wife, Dhargey, had come from a country near the highest mountains in the world. She had been educated in mathematics and literature and philosophy. She was brought up believing that there were consequences created in response to everything one did. She was concerned what might be visited on them in response to what was happening in Odd.

Dhargey took it upon herself to teach her beloved husband as much as she could of the things she had learned in her native land. But Ennui found it difficult – everything his dear wife tried to teach him was at odds with everything he had learned before he had met her and everything he believed. He struggled with her un-Odd way of thinking.

Ennui did quickly come to believe in Dhargey’s philosophy of consequences, for, when he bravely declined to ratify one of his council’s laws – because Dhargey had pointed out how terrible it would be for a large part of the population – the corporations reduced the King’s allowance and he had to sack some of the palace servants.

The more he learned of Dhargey’s way of seeing the world, the more confused Ennui became, and the more the corporations criticised Dhargey for not being Odd. Dhargey remained unfazed, pointing out that the people of her native land were the happiest and most contented people in the world.

Ennui loved his wife and continued his attempts to put her ideas into practice and then resiled when the consequences came. He vacillated so much that he felt he would go mad.

Then, one day, all the resources the corporations had been plundering ran out. They told Ennui that they could no longer keep him in the manner to which he had grown accustomed. In fact, they could no longer contribute any more at all and they were leaving for another kingdom that had lots of resources to be exploited, ruled by King Tristan.

The corporations left. Ennui and Dhargey could no longer remain in the palace. Dhargey told Ennui that they could be happy in a four-room bungalow with their three children. She could open a school for teachers to instruct them in the essentials they should be teaching.

So it came to pass that the king’s council dissolved. The people remained confused for several generations until the newborns grew up, were educated and became at one with the world, and happy. King Ennui and Queen Dhargey became a happy old couple with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren around them.

© 2016 Daan Spijer

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