The Elephant and the Monorail

There was once a town called Sillytown, where the inhabitants were always complaining and falling out over everything and could never agree upon anything.

The people of Sillytown complained to the government of Fullistan, which was the country they lived in, and said, “All of our crops are dying. We need you to do something about it.”

So the government deliberated, and set up a committee, and thought and thought and searched through all the records for precedents and deliberated again and eventually they came up with a solution. What the people of Sillytown needed was an elephant and they needed one very fast, so the government decided to send one toute de suite on a monorail. Now it may have been that the government thought an elephant would be a good solution because it would produce lots of dung to fertilise the crops, but they never did explain this to the people in Sillytown. And, when the people in Sillytown saw the monorail being errected, they were very puzzled, and when they looked into the distance and saw the elephant coming towards them they became very alarmed and sent an urgent message to the government saying, “We don’t want that strange creature you are sending! Take it back!”

So the government took it back and they also dismantled the monorail, and the people of Sillytown were very relieved to be left alone.

And so the government got their wish – to not have to take responsibility for Sillytown and spend money or think up solutions, and the people of sillytown got their wish – to be left alone by the government bureaucracy, but the main result is that no one did anything and Sillytown got used to nothing being done, and that was – that.

Now while this is a fable, there is a great deal of truth in it. For one thing, some people once really did put an elephant on a monorail, and the elephant broke out of the compartment and fell into the lake. This happened in Germany, a long time ago – in 1950, to be precise. http://io9.com/5903042/in-1950-an-elephant-fell-out-of-a-monorail-in-germany?comment=49013071#comments  But the other bit of truth in this fable is that it is a well known metaphor for dealing with troublesome people. For example, when American Cruise missiles were deployed on Greenham Common in England, it was an example of cynical ‘elephant on a monorail’ type thinking. America never really intended to maintain a Cruise missile base on Greenham Common, apparently. They just installed one there just long enough for the people to protest, and then, at the height of the protest, they dismantled the base and so, as with the elephant on the monorail, the American government got their wish – to not have to take responsibility for protecting Britain, and the people of Britain got their wish – to be left alone by American imperialists, but the main result is that no one did anything and Britain got used to nothing being done, and that was – that.

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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