Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Sleuth's Parable

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

May 03, 2009

Originally posted on Half an Hour, May 3, 2009.

'Sleuth' is an anonymous writer in the local newspaper. He wrote the following parable:

Finally, your favourite gumshoe has a wee parable for you. It goes like this:

A chap recently asked one of his friends' little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wants to be prime minister one day. Her parents, dyed-in-the-wool Liberals, were listening to this, so their friend asked her, "If you were prime minister what would be the first thing you'd do?" She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents beamed with pride.

"Wow . . . what a worthy goal," their friend said, "but you don't have to wait until you're prime minister. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my driveway; I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you downtown where the homeless guys hang out and you can give them the $50 to use for food or to put towards a new house."

The girl thought for a bit, then asked, "Why don't the homeless guys come over and do the work, and you can just pay them the $50?" The friend said: "Welcome to the Conservative Party."

And her parents haven't spoken a word to him since. . .

And I responded:

The little girl then went to look at the poor people her Conservative friend should do the work of mowing the lawn and sweeping the driveway. She saw malnourished children, people in wheelchairs and on crutches, and impoverished elderly. "But my conservative friend said you should do the work yourselves," she cried. "Surely he realizes you can't work, through no fault of your own!"

"Yes," they said. He does. "But he knows that if he just tells us to work instead of actually helping us out, he gets to keep his fifty dollars, because he knows we can't earn it. So what he does is to write little stories in the newspaper to fool little girls like you by telling lies about poor people like us. That's why he has a nice lawn to mow and a large driveway to sweep, while we have nothing."

"Ah," said the little girl. "Now I understand the Conservative Party."

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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