COMMENT

The bad king

Flip Buys tells the story of a troubled land far far away, a long long time ago

And it came to pass that a bad king ruled who disregarded the laws of the country and was a law unto himself. He had houses and palaces built for himself, and corrals for his cattle and watering holes for his animals. He filled his treasure rooms with valuables which were not due to him and precious stones he had not laboured for. He took unto himself wives and concubines and begat children by them, and built houses for them and bestowed the best vineyards upon them.

He also appointed scoundrels as overseers over the land, all those who were loyal to him. The king's wrath waxed hot against those who were honest and competent in the land, because he could not bribe them. Thereupon he cast out the overseer of his treasury and appointed a court jester in his stead. He also placed his sycophants in the highest offices of the land, and they took unto themselves the best parts of the harvests and the first-born of the herds.

And it came to pass that his officers, governors, counsellors and the rulers told one another: “Let us also build for ourselves treasuries wherein we shall gather gold and silver, gems, incense and myrrh as plentiful as the sand on the shore.” And they took for themselves the best parts of the yields of the harvests with taxes and bribes, even from the poor, the widows and the orphans. And the King saw this, and declared it good. He did not reproach them and did not hearken unto the judges of the land, and his followers sometimes even tried to bribe some of the judges.

And troubled times beset the country, yea darkness descended upon it, the rain came not and the wells ran dry. Robbers waylaid travellers on the roads, and their dens were all around. Even in their very houses the blood of the innocent was spilt; so that no one was safe. The country’s citizens no longer found rest for the soles of their feet, nor were the sojourners in their country safe; their dwellings were pillaged and their shelters burnt down.

Publicans

Toll roads were built throughout the land, and the tax collectors working for the publicans placed a heavy burden on the people, and their lamentations ascended to Heaven. But the king and his officers heeded not their wailing, but hardened their hearts against the downtrodden people and increased their taxes and made them labour harder. Yet many who made obeisance to the King did not work, but lived off those who earned their bread in the sweat of their brows. And these people went in to the King and demanded: “Give us more houses and more bread, because we and our children are hungry, and where can we get more?” Thereupon they took even more from those who toiled in the land and gave it unto those who did not work.

The officials, the governors, the King's counsellors and rulers served not the people, but lorded it over them. Conceit was in their hearts and they served themselves instead of those over whom they had been appointed. The people were sorely afflicted with the hardships their taskmasters laid upon them, and they grumbled amongst themselves, saying: “Who will relieve us of our burdens?” And some scoundrels in red robes appeared and pretended that they wanted to help the people, and they raised a great noise in the streets and before the gates of the King's palace and shouted unto him to pay back the money. But they desired the money only for themselves, and their hearts were full of deceit. Then they followed the example of the King, raised a great cry over the land and demanded everything free of charge, and even went up to their schools and places of learning and began to attack and plunder them.

Pillage and plunder

And it came to pass that the citizens of the country went in to the King and his councillors and said to them, “Verily, our people and our land are greatly distressed. Robbers attack us even by day and our children are no longer safe.  Even your own officials are plundering our land and govern us harshly, so that we have to bar ourselves behind our doors. You have houses and palaces built for yourselves, coops for your chickens and corrals for your cattle, yet we are burdened with taxes and now we even have to pay toll.” But the King and his officials replied: “It is not we who govern badly, it is your forefathers who brought this calamity upon the country. Therefore we shall bring it down on your own heads until the third and fourth generation.” And the King and his officials did not heed them and did not listen to their words, but attempted to silence those who wrote the reports.

Thereupon many of the dignitaries, the traders and those in high office said unto one another: “Let us leave the land of our fathers and return to the flesh-pots of Egypt, for it will be better for us there than to remain in this country. We have become hewers of wood and drawers of water, and the slaves of the king and his gang of followers.” And they left and took their wives and children with them. And the land suffered even more from this, because many of them were the prominent people, the traders, the scholars and the taxpayers who departed.

The brave

But among the people, brave men and women rose up and said: “Let our souls not be dismayed; let us be of good courage and put our hands to the plough, otherwise we and our children will all perish.” And these words found favour among the people, and they helped and assisted one another. They planted orchards and vineyards; they rebuilt towns and cities, repaired roads and looked after the poor, the widows and orphans. They also spoke on behalf of the voiceless and stood up for those whose rights had been violated. They took care to pay their labourers their wages and ensured that the day-labourers suffered no injustice. They began to protect the vulnerable, so that the robbers and the troops and the plunderers could no longer do as they pleased. And they made sure that the violent and the deceitful were thrown into prison.

And all these things lifted up the hearts of the country’s people and gave them courage again, so that the land began to prosper. And in the course of time the king was dethroned by the hands of his own officials and men in high office, and the country could once again have respite from oppression.