The Idealistic Slave

from Forty Fables

There was once an insensitive king who kept a thousand slaves, and had no idea that this was politically incorrect. And though he never paid them and he never fed them properly, and he forced them sleep in ditches, and he made them get up at dawn – the king was convinced that slaves were slaves because they liked being slaves and that he was a thoroughly nice bloke.

“Ooh, I’m such a nice bloke,” he would say to himself – rising from his bed in the afternoon, and throwing handfuls of popcorn from his window.

And, although he was rather obviously not such a nice bloke, his slaves said nothing – except “Thanks for the popcorn,” – and ploughed his fields and reaped his harvest, and even manufactured the very confections with which they would be so inadequately and paradoxically rewarded, without a word of complaint.

“I’m extremely proud of you all,” the king would say, showering the ditches with lollipops.

“Congratulations,” he would add, handing chocolates to high achievers.

“And keep up the good work,” he would quip – before running back to his house, bolting the door, and tucking into a chicken tikka masala, two naan breads and an onion bhaji.

For many years then, this unhappy state of affairs persisted until one morning when the king was approached by one of his slaves – an idealistic slave.

“If you’re such a nice bloke – ” said the idealistic slave, “why don’t you set us free?”

“Free?” gasped the king. “You don’t want to be free – you like being slaves. It gives you an identity and purpose in life.”

“No it doesn’t,” said the idealistic slave. “We want to be free.”

So the king – who was amazed by this – gathered his slaves together and made an announcement.

“Tonight – ” he announced – “I shall be holding a great feast with beer, sausages and dancing – and you are all invited. Alternatively, you may join this idealistic slave in a great exodus, and walk barefoot across wild country for many days in the vain hope of finding a better life elsewhere . . . Which would you prefer?”

“This exodus sounds hasty and ill-considered,” the other slaves replied. “So we have no hesitation in accepting your generous invite.”

“Very good!” said the king. “See you at the feast.”

But that evening, to the slaves dismay, there was no feast. The king had, apparently, turned in early – and no one was permitted to rouse him.

“You fools,” said the idealistic slave. “He tricked you into staying here – and you fell for it!”

“You can’t blame us,” the other slaves complained. “We had never heard of an exodus – and are unfamiliar with the concept of freedom.”

So the following morning the idealistic slave approached the king again.

“If you’re such a nice bloke – ” said the idealistic slave – “you wouldn’t have lied to everybody yesterday, and you’ll offer your slaves their freedom again.”

“Fair enough,” said the king; and he gathered the slaves together for a second time.

“Sorry about the feast,” he announced, “but I couldn’t get enough beer at such short notice, and thought it better to postpone the entire event until tonight, when it will take place, with extra sausages and the apologies of the management. Alternatively, you are still free to join this idealistic slave in his exodus – although I don’t know what catering arrangements he has made.”

The slaves considered the matter. “This exodus . . . ” they asked, “what time do we get back from it?”

“You don’t,” the idealistic slave explained. “You don’t get back from an exodus.”

“Oh, well, we can’t come then,” said the other slaves. “We live here.”

The idealistic slave was furious, and unsurprised when, that evening, the slaves gathered for the feast and discovered that it had been called off because the band had hangovers.

“You idiots,” he said. “The king tricked you into staying here and you fell for it, again!”

“Well you can’t blame us,” the other slaves protested. “We had no way of knowing that the king would lie to us – apart from the fact that he did last time – and anyway, the onus is on you to make your polices more attractive!”

So the following morning the idealistic slave approached the king for the third and final time.

“If you’re such a nice bloke – ” he said – “you’ll offer your slave their freedom again. Only this time, you’ll let me address them.”

So the king gathered the slaves together, and allowed the idealistic slave to speak.

“Don’t listen to this plutocrat!” cried the idealistic slave. “There’s never going to be a feast as long as we stay here! But if you come with me on my exodus there’ll be a feast every night, no work, and we’ll sleep in beds like he does!”

To the king’s surprise the slaves decided to give the exodus a try, and they all left immediately.

All day they walked barefoot across wild country in the vain hope of finding a better life elsewhere. But that evening, at sunset, the slaves confronted their new leader.

“We thought you said there was going to be a feast tonight,” they complained. “And where are the beds?”

“All in good time,” said the idealistic slave, idealistically, “but first we must get to the promised land.”

The slaves were very annoyed – for the third night running they had been tricked, and this time there weren’t even any ditches or lollipops.

“Well it’s better than being slaves!” said the idealistic slave.

“No it isn’t,” the other slaves protested. “We liked being slaves, it gave us an identity and purpose in life!”

And with that they bashed his head in, and turned on their heels. They were back at the king’s by daybreak.

“I told you!” said the king. “I knew that exodus wouldn’t be any good. And you’ve missed the party as well.”

The slaves were very disappointed – and for the rest of their days they blamed the idealistic slave for depriving them of the only moment of pleasure that their lives might ever have held.

Moral: People are fucking stupid.

© Adam Acidophilus 1992. (Yes, ’92. Think about it … )