The Town in the Forest, A Parable
First published: 20th February 2018
Once upon a time, there were some Cities in a Plain. People from the cities crossed the big river and began to explore the Forest. They found that there were many good things in the Forest, and they could build good farms and grow crops, and they could send all these good things back to the Cities in the Plain. But there were also cold times in the Forest, so the Cities in the Plain heated rocks and sent them to the explorers and farmers to keep them warm.
Soon, the explorers and farmers in the Forest built a Town and they lived hapily, sending good things to the Cities in the Plain, and keeping themselves warm with the hot rocks from the Cities. But the rulers of the Cities in the Plain became greedy and said, "You must pay us more for the hot rocks, and you must pay higher taxes on the good things you sent to the Cities. If you don't we will stop sending the hot rocks and you will die from cold."
The people of the Town in the Forest didn't like this, but they could do nothing. Until one Bright Spark said, "Hey, you fools, we live in a Forest, we can build fireplaces and burn wood for warmth!". The Cities of the Plain tried to silence the Bright Spark, but he cleverly avoided them and taught the people of the Town in the Forest to build fireplaces. So the people of the Town in the Forest built their own fireplaces, burnt wood and overthrew the tyranny of the Cities in the Plain.
After the revolution, the people of the Town in the Forest gathered together to decide how to rule themselves, and they wrote down a list of Good Rules. Then they said, "Is there anything we have forgotten?", and someone said, "Well, the Cities of the Plain tried to silence the Bright Spark, so that we would not learn his Good Idea, we should make sure that Good Ideas are not Silenced", so they wrote that down, and it became the First Change to the Good Rules. Someone else said, "We have learnt that Fireplaces are necessary to prevent tyranny, so Everyone should have the right to have their own Fireplace." So they wrote that down, and it was the Second Change to the Good Rules.
So they lived hapily. Much time passed, the people of the Town in the Forest became parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents, and their great-grandchildren became parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. The Town grew to become the City in the Forest and many things changed. The Cities of the Plain had sent out explorers and farmers in many directions, across many rivers, and those explorers had built Towns that, in time, rose up against the greed of the rulers of the Cities in the Plain. Each of the other Towns found their own way to overthrow tyranny, and each drew up their own Good Rules. Some did well, and some found they had replaced one tyrant with another. Even so, many Cities grew up across the wide land, but only the City of the Forest had a rule about the Right to own a Fireplace.
Many things changed. Bright Sparks from many Towns and Cities invented new things, many of them could be used for keeping warm. The discovered they could mine coal, or refine oil, or split the atom. They found they could use electricity to move heat. They invented ways to make the heat safely in large quantities in one place, and then move it to every home in pipes or wires.
In the City in the Forest, some people threw oil directly onto their fireplace, and said, "Look how quickly it heats my home" (some even suggested they should be allowed to split atoms in their fireplace, but everyone could see that was crazy). Many home in the Cities were now in tall apartment blocks, so, when a person in the City in the Forest threw too much oil on their fireplace, the whole building would burn down, killing many people. When people in the Citiy in the Forest said, "Should we require fireguards around the fireplace and have a limit on how much fuel can be stored in a home?", other people shouted, "You are attacking the Second Change, and we will fall under Tyranny!" and "You can drag my Charred Corpse from my Fireplace", and they formed the City Fireplace Association to protect the Second Change.
When people said, "Have you noticed how the City Fireplace Association gets so much of its money from the Oil Pump and Flamethrower Manufacturers?", the City Fireplace Association said, "Stop changing the subject, these figures prove how Warm our Fireplaces keep us."
People visiting the City in the Forest from other Towns and Cities across the wide land looked at the Fireplaces and Flamethrowers and said, "Do you really need that to prevent Tyranny? Look, we have escaped Tyranny without having Fireplaces and Flamethrowers." But some people in the Citiy in the Forest and the City Fireplace Association said, "You are not free, because you do not have the right to a Fireplace and Flamethrower." And the people from the other Towns and Cities watched as more people in the City in the Forest died in fires, and they shook their heads and were very sad.