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A Parable

Once upon a time in a country where most people lived on subsistence farms, there was a village where everyone lived on a subsistence farm. Let’s call this village “Present”.

One day, one of the villagers said that a traveler had told him that if they took some of the trinkets that the mothers made to The Capital, they could exchange them for better seeds. At first, the villagers were sceptical but eventually, the Chief said that he gave his approval. and so this villager – let’s call him “George” – was given permission to take a handful of trinkets to The Capital and exchange them.

Sure enough, the seeds he came back with were better, so every year he went to The Capital and every year he came back with interesting things.

Then, one day, he came back and said that a “machine” was coming. This “machine” could be used by the whole village and it would mean that the women needed to spend less time in the fields so that they’d have more time to make the trinkets which sold so well in The Capital.

People were impressed, but The Chief said this was challenging “the order of things”, and one must never do that. George suggested that they put it to a vote – a radical concept – but only after the “machine” gave a demonstration of what it could do.

Once people saw what the “machine” could do, they liked it. They had time to make more trinkets. Their yields were better than ever, and they had so much food they started to trade their excess food with other villages for more trinkets which they sold in The Capital.

This worked well for several years until, one day, The Chief walked into the village.

“I have some terrible news,” said The Chief. The villagers gathered around. “To have this machine we have gone into DEBT!” The villagers were confused they didn’t understand debt. “This means,” continued The Chief, “that many of your trinkets go toward paying off a thing called interest, and that it will take a long time before we pay off this machine. I demand a new vote.”

“Some of what you say is true,” spoke up George, “but haven’t things been better since we got this machine? Don’t we have more food? Are we not creating more things to sell in The Capital? Don’t people have more time? Are we not spending more time helping our children to learn skills that other villages don’t have?”

“We are in debt!” yelled The Chief. “It is bad magic. We must sell this machine and get out of debt. And you all must work longer hours. There will be no more trips to The Capital.”

“No-one even knew we were in debt until you told them,” argued George. “And we’ve been able to pay it off without a problem. Future generations will be better off because we produce more, because of what we’re doing now. A small debt doesn’t matter.”

“I demand a fresh election,” said The Chief. “I went to The Capital and there was a man named Rupert Murdoch who said that you should all get rid of this machine and put me in charge.”

“All right, let’s vote,” said George.

So the people voted. But because they were ignorant villagers, they all said why should we listen a man who is not from here – this “Rupert Murdoch” – tell us how bad things are. We are better off than we have ever been. We seem to be able to manage this debt. We wouldn’t have even known if it wasn’t for The Chief. And he’s just bitter because he lost the election.

Thank God that here in Australia we’re not ignorant, and understand that it’s good that Rupert Murdoch should be able to tell us who to vote for.


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