by Maniza Naqvi
In the country of Southern Diebeidiya a multi-fold problem had arisen. The people had been found out to be cheating, lying, ungrateful wretches. Not playing by the rules. Scheming and conniving to thwart our best intentions, breaking our trust at every turn. We had tried to make them pull themselves up by their socks, but what else was to be expected in a place where socks are not worn? So we procured appropriate technology, brought in technicians and experts and even sociologists to tell us the most historically, culturally, respectful way to introduce and produce socks. They told us to add in to our good intentions, beneficial lessons on self development that could be taught while the people produced the socks. So we procured and placed radios and public address systems to broadcast useful lessons and where this wasn’t possible we trained trainers to train people who could read out lessons to the workers while they made socks. This raised many more questions and so we procured more experts. We taught the people how to weave the socks and of course we provided the handlooms and the yarns. All we asked in return was that they made the socks and then brought them to us so that we could in return provide them with daily wages. Was this too much to ask? The people at first complained that weaving socks took them away from their tasks of earning a living, cooking, cleaning, milling, harvesting and herding. Took them away from weaving all the other things, they wove. But we knew that these people were poor and it was so because they did not know how not to be poor. And we would teach them. They needed to learn how to pull themselves up by their socks so we persevered in teaching them. We were exhilarated and thought they had learned when suddenly piles of socks began to arrive at the encampment where the experts lived alongside us. We gladly took in all the socks at first in exchange for the cash we had promised. Everything was going well, so well that we organized a film crew to arrive and make what would be a wonderfully moving documentary of our good works showing many examples of people pulling themselves up by their socks. It was going to be about people counting on us to make their dreams come true. It was to be full of hope and promises.
But the rulers of Southern Diebeidiya were not fond of films or documentaries. They barred the film crew from entering Southern Diebeidiya. We found this regrettable but understandable, as the rulers are our friends and allow us to encamp here and partake of resources that they find useless for themselves. Then there was the perennial problem with the cash that we were dispensing. The rulers insisted that they themselves would hand it out instead of us. But when we asked for receipts and record keeping, the rulers seemed insulted by this insinuation cast on their ancient civilization and legendary sense of pride, honor and honesty. We apologized. When it seemed that our encampment might be in question we apologized profusely. We agreed to make up for our insolence by paying a higher rent on our growing and thriving encampment, what with all the experts we now entertained. But then when the piles of socks too began to grow and grow we thought something didn’t seem right, how could the people make so many handmade socks in such a short time? We decided to conduct a few studies on this very question. Valuable studies, the consultants were the best we were told and so of course they cost us. And so we investigated. Sure enough, we uncovered that the people had banded together and procured several Chinese knitting machines with which they met our stipulation for socks. This as you can imagine, we considered, per our procedures, as deceit: a breach of public trust and more egregiously, our tax payer money. In despair, and in need of continuing to help and aid, we turned our attention to another group of people of whom we asked only that these people dig up ditches and make holes and then fill them back up. For this we followed the same formula, wages per individual for individual work completed. Here too the people proved to be deceitful. We learned that the quota of holes to be dug up per village that we had authorized was again being exceeded beyond our forecasts and expectations. We investigated. And we learned that the people had ganged up and organized themselves to hire an owner of an earth moving machine to dig up the holes—while they went off to do their usual work in the market or in their fields. Fortunately, we found a loophole by which we stopped the payments: the holes had been dug but not filled. We were torn, some of us were regretful but emphasized that a principle was a principle, a lesson must be learned, such deceit, defeated our purpose. Others felt, and reminded us that we must hold the line for the greater purpose and therefore hold our noses if we must, concessions had to be made. Socks and holes, they felt were our best defense, it kept the poor fed and occupied, kept them from harming us. But everyone agreed, these were, indeed, deceitful people in need of constant monitoring.
Other Writings by Maniza Naqvi (here)