An elephant fable.
Once upon a time, the lawgivers of a hot, barren kingdom decided to do something about a problem they had with the illegal elephants living there. The lawgivers believed the elephants disrupted the kingdom’s peace. And their queen, fearing the unhappiness of her subjects agreed.
First of all, the elephants were too large and too gray and so they stood out. And then there was the problem that they also didn’t fit in with the other animals living in the kingdom.
Next, the elephants were unable to communicate even though they were trained and did much of the unpleasant work in the kingdom’s dry, desert sun. In fact, the elephants worked so hard that they often displaced the work that some of the kingdom’s subjects were capable of doing.
But the real problem was that unlike the other animals of the kingdom, the pachyderms lacked proper credentials. Even though elephants had lived there long before there ever was a kingdom, they lacked the right kind of papers to now properly live there. The lawgivers believed they had to do something.
However, some of the queen’s subjects happened to like the elephants because they were useful. The elephants were cheap. They worked hard. Many were affable and even entertaining. And it was because of this that the lawgivers worried. They didn’t want the queen’s subjects to think the lawgivers were picking on the elephants.
And so it came to pass that when the lawgivers wrote the law that animals couldn’t be present in the kingdom without proper papers, they were careful not to mention elephants.
And with that, the law against undocumented animals was approved. And the queen gave its effect by royal proclamation, taking pains to tell her subjects, one and all, how much she herself liked elephants and how even if she couldn’t begin to describe an illegal one, everyone should own a legal one.
But fearing she still might be called mean, the queen proclaimed that elephants that were illegal still shouldn’t be mistreated because it wouldn’t be nice to mistreat an animal. And so at her command, the kingdom’s law enforcers were also ordered to attend a special school to learn when to stop, detain or arrest any animals reasonably suspected of being illegally present in the kingdom.
If the law enforcers did this, no one would say they were focusing only on elephants, even though everyone knew the only trespassing animals to be caught and removed were elephants. And the lawgivers nodded, smiled and winked their approval of the queen and her law enforcers.
So at the last, the lawgivers stopped worrying and were happy. And the queen was happy, too, because her subjects were also happy and she knew her reign would now extend forever. And everyone lived happily ever after, especially after all the elephants were gone from the barren kingdom.
Photo: “Elephant taking a bath,” by Thomas at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.