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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Little Nebuchadnezzar (I)

Once upon a time, there lived an emperor named “Little Nebuchadnezzar.” He ruled a tiny kingdom over which he spread his two great political principles…


Public Office is a Cradle of Luxury, Not a Boat of Service


He sat on his swivel chair pondering the privileges of the powerful, a theme he almost endlessly discusses with other kings of neighboring empires. Indeed, these days he has found no time to chat with his subjects as he used to do. For he learned that animals of the same fur must flock together. Lions must run after deer or be in their company only during preying time. Then he remembered the pains he had gone through the last campaign season. How miserably thin his purse had been! Now, it’s growing fatter day by day: it’s payback time…


[Too bad, many were foolish enough to grab those dangling campaign sorties. Ah, how hard it is to see the hook in a bait! How hard it is to learn that the luscious apple is deadly to the bite!]


His thoughts turned to the kings of old. Did they not ride on golden chariots? he asked himself. He then concluded that since he is King, he should ride in a luxury car. A government vehicle must never be cheap! For after all, “government service” ought to be a special trip in and around the maze of power.


[But you know a good car can be bought half that price, and the savings could have added a few streetlights in barangay Kudkudrep or started the long overdue flood control project at sitio Malmalmes whose farming residents have seen hectares of their lands fall prey to the Great River that broadens more and more after each storm.]


And yes, he has to have a mansion – or a multiplicity of mansions – as imposing as his honorable position. Bah, a leviathan cannot live in a hut! Too, a traveler needs some rest houses in several places. So it was that his once miserable hovel rose to such a height that all his subjects would often turn their eyes to it with awe and, glancing at the blue heavens, curse the Fates for their injustice. Even the sheets of dust that rose from the rugged road fronting his palace seemed ashamed to get near those whitewashed walls.


He also remembered the unwritten custom that the rich and powerful must have worthwhile hobbies. So he decided to frequent the golf clubs and dump his mouth-watering bets in the casinos, cockpits or where have you. Hey, he needed some fun! A public office must never be as lonely as a cemetery.


And of course, he could not forget that Solomon had his 700 wives and 300 concubines, and the great emirs of old had their own harems. Certainly, those great rulers had keenly perceived that one privilege of power is the enjoyment of carnality. So it was that he took unto himself two other mistresses. After all, he further reasoned, the “extended family” setup has long been deeply entrenched in the Filipino home.


Thus, he savored at his fingertips the soft touch of Power’s blessings. He slouched, folded his immaculate hands on his bloated tummy, and in half sleep, counted a hundred pigs. Ah, what comfort!


[… wished the howling winds would blow down that Cradle just like in that nursery rhyme -- that the big, bad boar in the Cradle will come crashing down to pieces so that even the King’s men can never put this despicable creature together again.]


A Public Office is not Only a Cradle of Luxury, but a Throne of Glory


Suddenly, he opened his eyes and felt awed at the height of his status and at the extent of his authority.


It occurred to him that his bearing must match the dignity of his office. He sat upright, and squared his shoulders. His eyes must be sharp, his lips tight and his chin set parallel to the ground made holy by his feet. From the sparkle in his eyes, the ordinary citizen must see the need to bend the knee before his majestic presence.


And yes, his voice! – it must be lordly enough to shame the ignorant before a number of people, by way of setting an example to others who might wish to challenge his authority. He must always bear in mind that kings have always worn their crowns and wielded their scepters with grace and might.


But there is more. A number of these ancient monarchs, too, have often held the key to the treasury chests. So then, he must have his subjects know that he is the master of their economic destiny and the captain of the tiny empire’s treasure ship. So he made it a habit to delay the release of checks.


“At least, I’m humane enough,” he snorted. “Why, others strike quite a fortune from a three-month deposit of their subjects’ salaries, an evil design which I, in conscience, cannot do! Never mind the little hungry mouths most of these subjects have to feed – it’s their fault for having so many children or having a child at all whose needs they could not assure to provide. Never mind the debts they have to pay – they should have never dared borrow from anyone, in the first place!”


[To these breed of vultures applies these Shakesperean lines: “But man, proud man,/Drest in a little brief authority,/Most ignorant of what he ’s most assured,/His glassy essence, like an angry ape,/Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven/As make the angels weep.!”]


After some time, a soft knock disturbed the silence in his office. The visitor appeared haggard. By the looks of her, one judges she’s one of those underpaid public school teachers. She just arrived from far away Buwaya to have her report signed, the report which moody Little Nebuchadnezzar refused to sign some days ago for no clear reason. Now, this bony teacher has come back hoping to reach the King in good mood.


But by this time, Little Nebuchadnezzar was already out on an “official trip.”


Epilogue


So it was that Little Nebuchadnezzar’s time in office meant an eternal torment for his people. But his subjects could not do anything. For what could their little power do? Crashing against a massive wall would only give them crushed shoulder bones. They will have to wait until Plato’s “philosopher


ilosopher-king” could rule the kingdom or head a high office. Or they will have to pray for a miracle, much like that great Babylonian ruler who was, for a time, turned into a beast who ate grass and drank the mo


rning dew. Then, and only then,can they live happily ever after.


Till then, they must always manage to laugh – only to keep themselves from crying.


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