Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

King Ludd

Jerry Stratton, September 16, 1998

Once upon a time, in one of the valleys West of Eden, a great kingdom was at war. It had been at war for longer than anyone cared to remember, long enough, in fact, that no one alive, except for a grandmother or two, could remember anything except war. Every morning the king’s advisors prepared charts of the previous day’s battles and agendas for the new day, and plans for the weeks and months ahead. These charts and plans and maps covered the king’s walls, and when the battles grew more numerous or more deadly, there was not always time to remove the old maps and charts before pinning new maps and charts up, so that the walls were covered in maps and charts and plans many inches thick.

Here, if you can imagine, is a list of the enemy cities and towns burned by the king’s armies, and there a list of the king’s cities and towns burned by the enemy, and hidden away there in the corner the list of the king’s towns accidentally burned by friendly fire. Over in the east window, blotting the sunrise, see a graph showing the thousands killed in battle vs. the thousands born. This was very important, for if the birthrate fell below the deathrate, the king’s economists called the kingdom’s manufacturers and engineered a shortage of royally approved birth control.

Every day hundreds of secondary advisors and economists and generals and royalty addressed the king with advice, and his primary advisors tabulated the advice and correlated it with the other advice and papered the walls and windows with all the more charts and plans and maps. The chart tabulating the rise of taxes to pay for all the paper and advisors and economists and generals was generally hidden behind the map of tax assessors’ precincts (who also needed to be paid from the taxes).

It was all very complicated and if once in a while someone questioned the need for it, no one had any idea what to replace it with. Every advisor and every piece of paper was necessary for the war effort, and so the maps grew more bloody and the charts more complicated and the advisors on the royal payroll more numerous.

One day a cry arose from one of the more prestigious universities in the kingdom.

“Eureka,” said the professor, “I’ve found it!”

“Found what?” asked his partner.

“It’s only a little thing,” said the professor, “but I think it should be able to save a lot of paper.”

“What will?” asked his partner.

“And it should save some money as well, although there will be a lot of out-of-work advisors and generals. Still, it should be worth it in the long run, though I do feel sorry for them.”

“What are you talking about?” asked his partner.

“Peace,” he said.

“What does it do?” asked his partner.

“Look!” said the professor. “Look at this country here. You know about all the paper and money that goes into the ‘war effort’. Well, I add a little Peace, like this,” he said, “and see! No more need for maps and charts and plans and generals and advisors. Everything about running the country becomes much easier and less expensive. Except paying for all the out-of-work advisors and generals, of course. Not sure what to do about that. But they’ll survive.”

Well! News of this Peace spread quickly throughout the kingdom. Many competing companies formed immediately to spread the Peace. The cost of Peace was initially very expensive, but the cost of not having Peace was more expensive, and as more and more people bought into Peace the Peacemakers were able to bring the initial price down. Everybody wanted it, and whenever a new company started up making a better form of Peace there was a mad dash to buy their stock, and those who managed to do so first became fabulously wealthy. Indeed, even some of the king’s old advisors and generals decided to use their expertise and they designed their own brand of Peace and brought theirs into the market as well. And since they had the prestige of years behind them, they did as well or better as anyone else.

The king figured that what was good enough for his country was good enough for him, so he decided to have Peace in the castle. He told his advisors (the ones who were left), his General (he now only had one), and his officials and secretaries that it was time for Peace and that they should purchase Peace, because of both its time saving and money saving qualities. All Peacemakers tried to sell their Peace to all the various offices within the Castle. The Castle was a very large and prestigious market for Peace. From the original Professor to the upstarts to the ex-generals, most Peacemakers found their way into at least one corner of the Castle.

And it was good. Peace saved much time and money in the kingdom. Taxes fell considerably as Peace was adopted. As Peace spread over the kingdom, the king often slept late, and when he did awake he found that he was able to tend much more carefully to the needs of the kingdom, since there were far fewer interruptions by advisors and his general.

Peace was so successful, and there were soon so many brands of Peace that some soon proved incompatible with others. War even broke out over different brands of Peace, which of course rendered the Peace inoperable. But Peace was so popular that these problems were initially overlooked. Everyone knew that Peace was very adaptable, and all the problems would get worked out in the end. Peace experts told them so.

And true enough, as Peace matured, two major lines of Peacemakers dominated the Peace market. Many Peacemakers, for whom Peace had been but a hobby, dropped out of the business of Peace. Others found that they couldn’t compete in the national market for Peace and shut their doors. The professor who started it all took to writing about Peace instead of making Peace and was soon forgotten about. Within a few years the only two brands of Peace left were Inner Peace™ and Universal Peace™.

Inner Peace™ was marketed by two of the original Peacemakers. They had discovered that it is much easier for a person to be at peace with themselves, than it is to enforce Peace on others. Inner Peace™, they claimed, was more robust and longer-lasting than other forms of Peace and in the end fostered greater Peace between individuals as well. Inner Peace™ was strongly marketed among liberals, intellectuals, and artists. These people preferred Inner Peace™ because they could work on their own. When they purchased Inner Peace™ from a Peace Therapist, they might have to pay more at the start, but their Peace was very durable and saved money in the long term. They rarely required regular visits from their therapist to keep the Peace and those that did got by with one or two visits every year. Therapists had to charge more initially because their product required less follow-up work.

Universal Peace™ was marketed mostly by the old generals and advisors, who now called themselves diplomats. “Of course everyone loves Peace,” they said. “Peace can do anything. We can live in Peace, work in Peace, and sleep in Peace. But Peace is much too complicated for amateurs. Sometimes they don’t want Peace. So it is our job to ensure that they get Peace regardless.” Universal Peace™ was preferred by businessmen and politicians who were unsure of their own place in a world filled with Peace. Businessmen found it worrisome that workers left in Peace found time to circumvent normal business channels. Politicians discovered that citizens left in Peace had more time to be concerned about what the politicians were doing. Universal Peace™ alleviated these concerns by allowing business leaders and political leaders some control over what workers and citizens could actually do when left in Peace. Universal Peace™ was very inexpensive to buy into, but it required constant monitoring by diplomats if Peace were to be maintained.

There were occasionally problems when a person who was supposed to be using Universal Peace™ was discovered using Inner Peace™ instead. This tended to bother the diplomats far more than it bothered the therapists. Some people found that they could work better with Inner Peace™. Therapists noticed that enforcing Universal Peace™ very often disturbed an individual’s Inner Peace™. And, whenever Universal Peace™ was declared, more diplomats were required to keep the Peace. Of course, when it came time to make more Peace, the diplomats outnumbered therapists and recommended Universal Peace™ as the best option.

The king didn’t get where he was by knowing anything about Peace. He had his job to do, and Peace was a useful tool in that job, but he didn’t really know how Peace worked. So he decided to rely on the experts. The king called a meeting of all the diplomats and therapists in the castle. One hundred and twenty seven Peace Officers came to the meeting: forty therapists and ninety-five diplomats. Before the meeting started everyone had a great time talking about Peace accords, how to make Peace, and what they thought were the best things to do in Peace. Finally, when everyone had arrived, the king called the meeting to order.

“I’ve called you here today,” he said, “because of some disturbing reports I’ve been hearing about Peace. My diplomats tell me that we are sometimes using Inner Peace where Universal Peace has been mandated. My therapist tells me that we are sometimes mandating Universal Peace where Inner Peace would be more appropriate.”

There was a long argument about which was most appropriate and under which circumstances. The therapists appeared to be outnumbered, when one of them suggested an independent analysis of the situation. Since everyone was certain that their own viewpoints would prevail in an impartial survey, the motion was carried one hundred and twenty-six to one. (One of the diplomats didn’t want a therapeutically-established motion to succeed unanimously, so he voted against the therapist’s proposal. The animosity was that strong.)

The meeting adjourned. When they met again a month later, the independent analyst rose to read her findings:

“There are copies available in the front,” said the analyst. “We tried to get copies made for each of you, but a breakdown in the Peace talks resulted in the additional copies being hijacked.”

All of the Peace Officers laughed.

“Examination of the most profitable offices and individuals in the royal castle,” said the analyst, “suggests a definitive management benchmark for the purchase and deployment of Peace: return-on-investment, or “roi”. Detailed roial analysis reveals that an official with Inner Peace produces 26,441 more crowns annually than an official of comparable skill engaged in Universal Peace. This revenue differential enables an Inner Peace-based office to achieve payback on a new Peace treaty in 4.59 months. In stark contrast, a Universal Peace-based office requires 12.58 months to recoup its investment--eight months longer.”

There were hushed mutterings among the audience, but the analyst continued.

“Currently, of castle workers engaged in non-Peace related work, those who simply wish to work in Peace, rather than work for Peace, 49.8 percent use Inner Peace and 37.6 percent use Universal Peace. Of the top ten percent of revenue earners in the castle, however, 63 percent use Inner Peace, 20 percent use Universal Peace, and 17 percent continue to work without any Peace whatsoever.”

“The worker with Inner Peace, on average, generates 7.14 times roialty over three years. Workers in a Universal Peace office achieve 2.02 times roialty in the same period.”

“What happens when an office replaces Inner Peace with Universal Peace? We sampled more than a dozen offices within the castle that converted from Inner to Universal Peace and found five critical consequences. Overall productivity falls by 27 percent and stays at that level with little or no appreciable improvement for nine months. Office profitability plunges. Administration and treaty interpretation issues suck up 20 to 30 percent more time than expected. Workers become depressed, output plunges, profits vanish. Of the offices we studied that underwent this conversion process, three were disbanded, three simply blamed castle management and lived with the lower productivity, and the remaining five quietly converted back to Inner Peace.”

“In conclusion,” said the analyst, “Inner Peace allows offices to work in Peace on a smaller budget, in less time, and with fewer Peacemakers as support personnel. Clearly, for profit-oriented offices, deployment of Inner Peace constitutes a fiduciary responsibility.”

The therapists applauded. The diplomats were in an uproar.

“There are other factors involved,” they said. “You didn’t look at the right things.”

The therapists called for an investigation into these other factors. The diplomats demurred.

“Time is of the essence,” they said, “and we already know what the answer would be. Advances in Universal Peace render the old studies obsolete anyway.”

“Then we should have a new study,” said the therapists.

“Peace is too important to delay any further,” said the diplomats.

“We already have Peace,” said the therapists. “Why should we rush to take Peace away?”

The king listened to the clamor among his experts. There were far too many voices and no one voice agreed with another on Peace. He decided that to keep the Peace he would simply call for a vote.

“Should we investigate other factors?” he asked.

When the vote was tallied, it stood eighty-seven to forty-eight against further investigation.

“Is standardization necessary?” he asked.

The final vote stood to seventy-one to sixty-four in favor of a standard Peace.

“And what form of Peace should the standard be based on?”

Ninety-one to forty-four in favor of standardizing on Universal Peace™.

Everyone thought their Peace was the best, and since the diplomats of Universal Peace outnumbered the therapists of Inner Peace, Universal Peace won. No one thought to ask why the diplomats outnumbered the therapists. So Universal Peace™ reigned. Workers in the castle were informed that Inner Peace™ would not be tolerated. Most Peace therapists found that they could do quite as well or better as Peace diplomats: there was so much more work to go around!

As time went on the king awoke earlier and earlier. There were always more Peace Charts and Peace Maps, the window was covered with cost analyses for the Peace Conversion Task Force, and over in the corner was the list of approved and disapproved Peacemakers. It was all very difficult and time-consuming to maintain the Peace, for Peace was known to be quite fragile. Indeed, they very often needed to send out diplomats to acquire a new Peace to fix the problems of a broken Peace. And if he couldn’t always sleep in Peace because of the bombs during temporary (so he was assured) lapses of Peace; if he couldn’t always work in Peace because of the multitude of advisors and generals and soldiers (Peace Officers, he was assured) marching in and out of his office and outside his window beyond the cost analyses, well, at least it was Peace, and that’s what was important.

But occasionally, at night, as the bombs were falling and he tried to get some sleep before the crack-of-dawn birth control briefing the next day, he found himself trying to remember just why Peace was so important. It didn’t let him sleep at night, it didn’t save any of his subjects’ lives, it consumed more and more of the kingdom’s financial resources, and it certainly wasn’t making Life any easier.

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