Some of us might recall the tales we heard or stories we read as kids. In India, these generally originated from grandmothers, neighborhood aunts, Aesop’s Fables, Jatak Khatha or later, Amar Chitra Katha stories. A common theme that featured in all these originations was the Moral of The Story. I can still visualize our Hindi or English teacher concluding a chapter of some uplifting tale with the somnambulistic intonation, “And the moral of the story is …”. We would be suddenly shaken from our stupor and try to shrink behind the desktop so as to avoid the teacher’s roving eyes that sought out the wretch who would be asked to complete the teacher’s punch line and deliver The Moral. The intent always, was to mold us into becoming moral, upright citizens.
Today, so many years later with headlines around the world proclaiming the status we currently find ourselves in, I wonder if any of those moralistic tales ever had the intended effect. Honesty, compassion, respect for others, justice etc., all seem to be in short supply, particularly among those who are expected to lead by example.
More recently, sitting out on the deck one lovely summer evening a few of us were enjoying the setting sun’s reflection in the amber liquid before us, intent on solving the world’s problems. Countries, politicians, communities, sports people, corporate heads and religious leaders were all being critically analyzed in turn and judgments passed. The issue of Canada letting in immigrants and refugees then came up. It is a hot topic and one that generates a great deal of passionate discourse. First generation immigrants all, some of those present were dismissive of the true intent of the refugees. “When we arrived …” was the oft-repeated opening line by each person, who then went on to state how they had landed in Canada with the (proverbial) Five dollars (or some such amount) in their pocket; there was no Government assistance and they had to fend for themselves. “Today, these people are being given housing, freebies at our expense and what do they contribute? They all want to introduce their own way of life here.” Isn’t it true of all communities and is this not the very thing that makes Canada the wonderful mosaic it is today, I wondered.
Much later as I was preparing for bed, the fable of the Arab and the Camel came to mind. According to this classic tale a camel and his Arab master were crossing the desert when night fell and the temperature dropped suddenly. The Arab decided to stop for the night and pitching a tent retired inside, leaving the camel tied outside to the tent peg. As the Arab lay down on the mat to sleep, so the story goes, he heard the camel beg “Master, may I just get my head inside the tent to keep warm as it is very cold outside?” The night was indeed cold, so the master kindly allowed the camel to get just his nose in the tent to stay warm. A short time later, the camel called out in a pitiful voice, “Master, may I put just my forelegs inside the tent?” Again, the master agreed. Just as the Arab dozed off the camel called out “My hump and hind legs are freezing and unless they stay warm, I will not be able to resume our journey in the morning.” The Arab sleepily grunted and taking this as his consent, the camel inched himself fully into the tent. But once the camel came forward it was obvious that the tent was too small for them both and the camel said, “I think that there is not room for both of us here. It will be best for you to stand outside, as you are smaller; there will then be room enough for me.” And with that, the man was forced outside of his tent.
Waves of immigrants have arrived and displaced the original indigenous communities here in North America. This story of occupation and colonization has been repeated globally through the centuries. Who decides what is right and do the rights of settlers trump those of the ones who came before them? Once we have stuck our foot in through the door, or our nose in the tent, what comes next? Just wondering.
John Lennon was optimistic, when he sang:
“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I am not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one …”