The Animal Kingdom: a parable of sorts

The Animal Kingdom: a parable of sorts

Feb 16
The Animal Kingdom:  a parable of sorts

Once upon a time there was a kingdom of animals.  The kingdom was comprised of a diverse group of creatures, but it was ruled by lions.  The lions were fierce and proud and strong.  They worked hard at protecting the animals of their kingdom and making sure that no other kingdom attempted to harm any of the animals.

However, the lions were lions.  They were always in charge because they were the biggest, strongest, and fiercest.  They weren’t always kind or fair, because they didn’t have to be.  They didn’t necessarily see that some of the animals in their kingdom weren’t thriving under their rule.  From the lions’ perspective, everything in the kingdom was great.

Over time, the frustration of the other animals became more than they could bear.  Each group of animals had complaints about how the lions had run things, how the lions had treated the different animal groups

The gazelles approached the lions and pointed out how selfish and violent the lions were being.  The lions were dependent on the gazelles for food, so the lions listened.  The gazelles insisted that the lions be less like lions and more like gazelles.  The lions attempted to reason with the gazelles and reach an agreement, but the gazelles had years of pent-up frustration with the lions and would not agree to anything the lions proposed.  The lions then countered that since they were bigger and stronger, they could take what they wanted from the gazelles.  The gazelles replied that while that was true, the gazelles were faster and would never stop running from the lions.  While the lions would win, they would be tired and unhappy all the time.

So the lions gave in to the demands of the gazelles.

Not long after, a group of elephants approached the lions.  The elephants pointed out how the lions always kept the best work for themselves and gave the elephants all the hardest tasks.  The lions argued that the elephants were so strong that they could accomplish more work than the lions could themselves.  It would take many more lions to accomplish the same work that it took only a few elephants to finish.  The lions attempted to reach an agreement with the elephants, but like the gazelles, the elephants had years of pent-up frustration with the lions and would not agree to anything.

The lions needed the elephants and so they agreed to their demands.

Emboldened by the success of the gazelles and the elephants, other animals groups came forward with grievances against the lions.  Over and over and over again, the lions were told that nobody in their kingdom was happy.  All of the animals were frustrated with the lions.  Every day the lions were criticized simply for being lions.  Everyone remembered what lions used to do, how the lions used to be.  Not a single animal group was satisfied with their situation, despite most lions having done everything they knew to do to help make it better.

Over time, the lions no longer ruled the kingdom.  They had to share rule with the other animals because nobody trusted the lions to not just look out for themselves.  Many still talked as if the lions were in charge, but the lions knew they weren’t.

There were some lions, however, that rebelled entirely.  These lions dug in and refused to be moved.  They would never let anyone tell them that being a lion was wrong.  If anything, these lions went out of their way to be even more lion-like, frustrating the other animals even further.

There were more demands.  The lions hadn’t given enough, hadn’t paid enough for the crimes of their forefathers.  When the lions tried to speak up in defense of themselves, they were shouted down by every other animal.  The lions couldn’t do any of the things that made them lions without facing criticism from another animal.  There were still lions acting according to the old ways and this frightened the other animals.  The only way lions could find peace was to act as un-lion-like as they could.

Then one day a rival kingdom attacked.

A force of lions from the attacking kingdom rampaged through the peaceful kingdom.  The gazelles, elephants, and other animals all told the attacking lions that what they were doing wasn’t nice and was extremely unfair.  The attacking lions didn’t listen because they didn’t care.  The animals of this other kingdom meant nothing to them.

In desperation, the peaceful animals went looking for their own lions, remembering how fierce they once were.  But no matter where they looked, they never found the proud, fierce creatures they remembered.  What they found were beasts that had an outward appearance of lions, but none of the pride, none of the ferocity, and none of the strength.  These pathetic creatures were no match for the invading lions.

“What happened to you?” the animals demanded of them.

“You made it clear a long time ago that lions are not welcome here,” replied one of the creatures with a tiny mane.  It looked vaguely like a lion, but nothing close to what the animals remembered.  “We had to either leave or stop being lions.”

“Well start being lions again!” exclaimed the animals.  “We’re under attack by lions and they won’t listen to us!”

“You mean they’re doing to you what you did to us?” quipped the former lion.

“It’s not the same!  You did it to us first!” shouted the animals indignantly.

The ex-lion looked at them for a long moment.  The animals started to get excited, thinking that perhaps the leader would return.  Then the lion sighed and rolled over, back facing the animals.

The lion muttered, “We did everything you demanded of us and yet somehow you see this as our fault.  The truth is you don’t want anyone to lead you – you just want someone to blame.”

The lion yawned, “Lucky for me, you’ll have someone new to blame soon.”

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