Mumbo Jumbo or Dumbo

The Compass - - OPINION -

Nal­cor watched the V in the wa­ter as the nose of a beaver sliced through the mir­rored still­ness of the pond’s sur­face. The lit­tle muskrat ad­mired the beaver. In truth he wished he could be more like him. Beavers worked tire­lessly and they ac­com­plished a lot. Not just a lot, but they ac­com­plished things that were good for oth­ers and not just for beavers.

This swampy pond where Nal­cor had been brought up would not ex­ist if the beavers had not worked so hard to build a dam across the lit­tle stream that was a trib­u­tary of the Big Cigar River, the one the peo­ple wanted to dam.

The beaver dam cre­ated a large pond in the lit­tle stream that was both home and food source to crea­tures other than beavers. Birds lived here and the pond served as a stop­ping point for many dif­fer­ent species as they mi­grated north in the spring and re­turned south again in the au­tumn. In fact, Nal­cor had just spot­ted a pair of greater yel­low legs strut­ting along the mar­gin of the pond just where the wake of tiny rip­ples that marked the beaver’s pass­ing lapped against the marsh grass. The long beaks of the tall birds were prob­ing the shal­lows for the tasty morsels they craved. They needed to bulk up for the long flight south.

With­out the beaver dam the stream would be mov­ing too fast for grass to grow; with­out grass and its de­cay­ing roots to eat there would be no rea­son for the yel­low legs to stop here on their jour­ney of mi­gra­tion. The calm of the beaver pond al­lowed all man­ner of other shoots, leaves and flow­ers to grow and Nal­cor loved the de­li­cious sal­ads they pro­vided him.

The beavers were good neigh­bours. Their work ben­e­fit­ted ev­ery­one, though Nal­cor some­times found him­self feel­ing ashamed for how lit­tle work he did com­pared to his in­dus­tri­ous ro­dent cousins, al­ways happy to share the ben­e­fits of their labour. The beavers de­stroyed noth­ing and their work cre­ated a wind­fall for so many.

How very dif­fer­ent were the dams beavers built from the huge one planned by the cor­po­ra­tion whose name Mizkat had given the lit­tle muskrat. That gi­gan­tic dam will be built, if Mizkat gets her way, on this very spot. The pond in which the beavers, the muskrats and the yel­low legs find food and shel­ter will dis­ap­pear from the Earth for ev­er­more.

The cor­po­ra­tion with whom Nal­cor shared his name and the peo­ple in power in the Tall Build­ing on the Hill in the Cap­i­tal City are quick to say that their dam, so much big­ger than any­thing a beaver could pos­si­bly imag­ine, would de­liver huge ben­e­fits to ev­ery­one in the Rich and Poor Prov­ince.

No doubt, thought Nal­cor. It will de­liver huge ben­e­fits, but at what cost. A pair of beavers work­ing to­gether de­liver many ben­e­fits to a lot of other crea­tures, but with no dam­age. What the beavers build is what the peo­ple call a win/win so­lu­tion.

What Mizkat’s peo­ple have in mind will de­stroy the place I live, thought Nal­cor. And the homes and source of food of so many oth­ers.

The ben­e­fits will no doubt be real, but not for us.

And those ben­e­fits can be found so eas­ily else­where for the short time that re­mains un­til the peo­ple of the Rich and Poor Prov­ince re­take con­trol of The Big Cigar Dam and solve their en­ergy needs far into the fu­ture or, as Mizkat and her friends would say, “go­ing for­ward.”

Why must we pay the cost of pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions to oth­ers needs when those so­lu­tions harm us, when the real pur­pose of the ex­er­cise is to soothe the bruised pride of The An­gry Man Who Talks Too Fast? Why can the peo­ple who have al­ready de­cided that damming the Big Cigar River is the only rea­son­able choice, not take a closer look at the way the beaver un­der­takes his projects. Ben­e­fits for all and no harm done.

No doubt a so­lu­tion that copies the spir­i­tu­ally ap­pro­pri­ate path fol­lowed by an in­dus­tri­ous ro­dent will continue to be dis­missed en­tirely. But take an­other look Cap­i­tal City peo­ple at the Mumbo Jumbo of we who live where the dam­age will be done. Make a choice. Is it worse to give in to the “Mumbo Jumbo” of peo­ple who live where your beloved project will ac­tu­ally hap­pen, or stick stub­bornly to your guns and prove your­self a “Dumbo.”

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing:

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