THE SUNDAY TIMES
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
BAY Mondli Makhanya
Published:Dec 20, 2008
Little did the little man realise: a plan in the head is no plan at all, but an idea
There once lived a man in a land not far from here. A little man. A very little man, actually, just above midget height.
While growing up — if growing is the right word — various people told him he was very clever. And as he inched upwards ever so slightly, he believed that he was not only the cleverest little man in the land, but the cleverest person in the whole world. So clever, in fact, that he often tried to look down on tall people.
So the little man set about solving all the world’s problems.
First, he said, I will determine the link between viruses and syndromes. Never mind the fact that real scientists had long worked this out. The little man went into his little laboratory (what other people call the Internet) and endeavoured to solve this big problem.
As the people of his land died in their tens of thousands, he stayed in his virtual laboratory till ungodly hours of the morning, hypothesising about the epidemiology of pandemics. “Do not treat anyone until I, the great scientist, have finished my research,” he told the medicine men.
People died. There was wailing in the graveyards. The orphan population grew.
And the little man persisted until he could persist no more.
Let me try my hand at economics, he thought. The currency of my country has suffered at the hands of treacherous markets. Surely, there must be some reason other than the often irrational ways of the markets. There just has to be a conspiracy somewhere. So he got together some useful idiots to investigate this global conspiracy to sabotage his country’s currency. But the useful idiots could not find anything other than the normal stuff that affects currencies.
So off to other pursuits then, said our little man. “I will invent a thing called quiet diplomacy,” he whispered to himself between puffs of whatever he used to put in his pipe.
This is how it will work: if a dictator buggers his people, speak to him nicely. Lick his fingers, his toes, his eyebrows. Tickle his underarm, the sole of his foot and his palm. Stroke his cheeks, his belly and back. Serenade him. Whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Wink knowingly at him.
And then only will the dictator get the message that nobody likes what he is doing.
And so the little man tickled, stroked and licked the body parts of a certain dictator. The dictator discovered new erogenous zones and begged the little man to continue.
The little man started enjoying this as much as the dictator — and the mating game continued for years. People died. Children were orphaned. A country collapsed.
The little man found more pursuits to fill up his time. A little man must always have big tasks, remember. So the little man decided to solve crimes.
The only problem was that he did not believe there was such a thing as crime. It was all in the imagination of these 46 million strange people with whom he was forced to share a country.
If there was crime in the land, how come he could not see it from his house on the hill? Why could he not see these hideous deeds from his jet?
So he got someone who knew how crime worked to help him understand it so that he could solve it. The knowledgeable man was a large policeman, who shopped with the Cosa Nostra, gambled with the Yakuza and ate prawns with assorted cartels.
The wise ways of little men.
Meanwhile, there were other things on his little hands. A little man must always have big problems on his shoulders, remember.
Why do I not sort out Africa, he thought to himself. I know it’s quite a big place, but who else but me could do it? I am the cleverest little man of them all, am I not?
So the little man got his little fingers working on his little computer. Voila! A document called the New Partnership for Africa’s Development popped out.
“Once this plan is complete,” the little man told everyone, “there will be no wars, no famine, no hunger and no disease in Africa.”
Alas, the wars continued, famine persisted and disease spread.
Little did the little man realise that a plan in the head is no plan at all. It is but an idea. Time was running out and the little man had achieved nothing with his cleverness.
He decided to add more minutes, more hours, more days, more weeks, more months and more years to the time he had to complete his big tasks.
He stood atop a hill and bellowed to the people with whom he shared the land: “You cannot do without me. I offer my large brain and my little frame to you for many more years,” he said.
“No, please go!” came the reply from the 46 million people of his land.
Then emerged a man from a valley with a gully on his head, who badly wanted to live in the house on the hill where the little man lived.
The man from the valley with the gully on his head gathered his troops and they stormed the big house on the hill.
The little man fled to a hamlet, where he was to sulk for evermore.
That should have been the happy ending.
Except that the man with the valley had his own bizarre ideas.
Young children were getting more hanky-panky than him and he did not like this at all. “Send them to hill-side camps,” he shouted to his troops.
School kids were playing truant and getting less education than himself, and he could not countenance the thought of being outclassed in illiteracy.
Send then to bush camps, he commanded.
Common criminals were getting the same rights as him. It was clearly wrong for people accused of crimes other than fraud and corruption to be presumed innocent before a trial.
Scrap all those rights, the valley man said.
Policemen were wearing light shoes that enabled them to run after robbers.
This is wrong, he said. They must get heavy boots that the criminals should hear thudding from afar.
And so on and so on.
The people of the land, who had been excited that the ousting of the little man would bring better days, despaired.
But in their despair they found time for joy and happiness. They found hope in each other. Hope that their future did not reside in the hands of these deficient individuals. A better tomorrow lay in their own hands.
So they danced in the streets, cavorted in their yards and splashed about in the seas, rivers and lakes. They shared their meat and drink with the less fortunate.
And wished each other Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
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