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My Parable’s New Ending (At Least In Egypt ;-)


By ChesapeakeCitizen - Posted on 12 February 2011

Three Hundred Gold Coins and a Fistful of Figs

By Diane Wittner

Once upon a time in ancient Egypt, there lived a Pharaoh who had great wealth and power. He had many palaces, and was worshipped as a divinity up and down the Nile River delta. The Pharaoh had thousands upon thousands of slaves. He was known throughout the land to be a cruel and cunning ruler.

To those who somehow escaped enslavement, the Pharaoh offered land along the fertile Nile valley, fine homes, slaves of their own, and beautiful wives. Very quickly the Pharaoh had a loyal - or indifferent and therefore harmless - following of courtiers. After some years, the comfortable and unquestioning children of these courtiers were counted, too, as reliable supporters of the Pharaoh.

But there remained one group in Egypt the Pharaoh could not control: the scholars from Cairo. These impoverished students and teachers remained stubbornly independent in their views. They often questioned the Pharaoh's greedy decrees and inhumane laws.

The Pharaoh grew worried that they would one day successfully challenge his claims to divine and permanent rule. So, with the help of his most clever advisors, the Pharaoh devised a foolproof plan…

On a cool and sunny afternoon, the Pharaoh invited all the city's scholars to his grand Cairo palace. They were intrigued by this unusual invitation, and so they went together to the palace.

Once inside, the scholars were instructed to go to an enormous, shaded courtyard and wait. This they did. They were then greeted by a high ranking courtier who told them that whatever dropped from the sky into the courtyard would be theirs to keep.

The learned men waited; they were both suspicious and curious. After thirty long minutes, gold coins began to drop from above. The Pharaoh and his advisors were on the second floor balcony, hidden behind big earthen pillars, tossing the coins from burlap sacks.

At first, the scholars just turned their heads back and forth, up and down, staring wide-eyed at the dazzling golden discs landing noisily on the patterned tiles at their feet. Then one particularly ragged teacher bent down and put one coin into his pocket. He had begun to imagine decent meals and good health for his starving family, books for his knowledge-hungry students, and a pair of sandals for his torn feet. Soon after, the other scholars joined him in picking up the coins.

Within minutes, all nine hundred thirty nine scholars were shoving each other and scrambling for a total of three hundred gold coins.

When all the coins had been pocketed, the Pharaoh entered the courtyard with a broad smile on his face. A long line of servants followed him. They circulated among the men, holding out silver dishes piled high with figs.

The Pharaoh then announced that everyone was invited to return the following month for more gold and fruit.

One month later, they all returned. Again they were showered with three hundred gold coins and handed fistfuls of figs.

And so began a tradition and a pattern that continues to this day.

Thus the Pharaoh ensures that the smartest people in Egypt are too busy (in competing amongst themselves) and distracted (in caring for immediate needs of the helpless and the young) to challenge his permanent, total and violent authority over all the land.

©2005, Diane Wittner, All rights reserved

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