|Image: Wood Mouse by Mike Pennington|
Were they happy? Who knew? There were seasons. There was birth and there was death, but no time to contemplate and no philosophers in the field.
Then came the hyenas across the river, hidden by long grasses, salivating at the sight of tender fresh meat. And these were not your common or jungle variety. These were a new breed who could plan, who saw ways of making the larder last longer.
In the river were beavers busy building dams. They looked too dank and tough to eat but the hyenas saw that they could be useful and entered into a contract called The Trans-River Deal which promised greater status for the beavers and wealth for hyenas.
Ah, a new way of seeing the world thought the beavers and they called it “The Economy”. Congratulating themselves on their ability to analyse and re-frame reality, they found ways of influencing the field mice, and to make capital from their labour.
And so it came to pass that the beavers entered into the field with their blueprints. Luxurious nests with running water, separate bedrooms and indoor toilets in exchange for all the nuts and seeds they could gather which would be processed into cakes and preserved. A vision of progress, bright futures with eight hour work shifts and time for leisure.
At first everyone was happy. Mice were comfortable, beavers were smug, and now there was time for parties and feasts. Sadly this didn't last forever because the hyenas across the river, which the mice had never seen and did not know about, were waiting to call in the debt.
“What debt?”, asked the beavers. They and the mice had provided the labour and the ideas – and the hyenas had contributed nothing.
The hyenas reminded them of the deal they signed and were therefore obliged to provide the agreed-upon returns. If they did not comply there would be snakes in the rivers, rats in the field, storms and plagues, and the beavers would get the blame.
“For what ends?”, asked the beavers. All their profits would be destroyed and no-one would gain in the long run.
The hyenas laughed and ridiculed the beavers for not understanding how power works. “Create a conflict among the mice, pit neighbour against neighbour with a manufactured crisis – be creative with the truth, divide and rule”, advised the hyenas, who were clearly above such sentiments as fairness. “As soon as we have everything we want we shall move on to the next field down river.”
“What about the suffering, the misery and death you will cause”, asked the beavers.
Again the hyenas laughed. “We deal only in power. Life is fragile and finite whereas power is eternal and everlasting. You have no choice and now you must go back to the mice and demand they do your bidding.”
Shaken and troubled the beavers wondered whether they should invent a crisis or tell the truth about the hyenas and the coming threat of snakes, rats, and plagues. Should they defend their field or cave in? Should they train the mice in the art of war or the natural laws of justice?
They didn't know what to do so they told the mice the truth and after many hours of deliberation they all decided to have a party and enjoy life while they had it.
Eventually, after battles won and lost, they all died and their stories died with them. Their luxurious nests, their running water and indoor toilets, their BC ferries, their schools, their hospitals, their hockey teams, museums and libraries all crumbled into dust – and all that remained was silence, because power never had the insight to see, that it too, could not live without life.