The Lions and the Tigers (A Political Parties Fable)
Long ago in olden times, the human beings were oppressed by a tribe of lions. The people fought back bravely; they made spears and learned how to keep the lions at bay and to protect their village and children. Then the lions got together to reconsider their plans. “I have an idea”, said one crafty lion. “Let us divide ourselves into two bands, calling one the ‘lions’ and the other the ‘tigers’. Each group will then approach the humans saying, ‘Those evil tigers/lions are a terrible threat to you. We propose to protect you from them. Naturally you would need to pay for our protection; but whereas without our protection the other cats would eat 10 of your children each year, we would only ask that you feed us one or two a year in payment.'” This plan met with great approval among the lions, and they decided to pursue it.
And so each of the newly formed bands of ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ alternately approached groups of villagers, offering protection against the other band of cats. The villagers surprised the cats by agreeing rather readily; being basically lazy, the humans much preferred relegating their protection to someone else.
And so the ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ each struck a bargain with roughly half the villagers, and this arrangement continued for some time. Periodically, representatives from each group would visit their sponsoring villagers, reminding them of how evil the other cats were, and how necessary it was for the protection to continue.
As the villagers began to feel completely dependent on this protection, the cats raised the ante. “Our work is so difficult,” they said, “and the lions/tigers we protect you from are more dangerous than ever! We must therefore ask for more compensation. We now request you sacrifice 5 children a year to us.” And the villagers complied with scarcely a complaint. And this continued until eventually the ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ each demanded 10 children a year — twice in total what the cats had originally taken.
At any time the villagers could have ended this tragedy, if only they had once again taken their up spears and confronted the animals directly. But by now they had become completely dependent on their external ‘protection’, and had even forgotten how to make or use spears. Much worse, they also forgot how to act together. The ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ had poisoned their minds completely, turning one group of villagers (the ‘lions protect us from tigers’, or LPT party) against the other (the ‘tigers protect us from lions’ party, or TPL). The entire political attention of the people revolved around disputes between these two parties. Each party printed a newspaper to keep its members well informed of all the evils perpetrated by the opposing party. Eventually nobody paid any attention at all to the lions and the tigers, or the many children they ate each year. The only thing people cared about was expressing hatred and contempt of the members of the opposing party.
Eventually the village ceased to exist, though precisely what happened is not clear. Some say they were conquered by a neighboring tribe; others say they died in a famine or some environmental catastrophe. All we know for certain is that this once strong and happy people vanished from the face of the earth.
Now every fable must have a moral, and the moral here is this: never place your protection in the hands of lions.