I want to share an—all but privacy details true—simple story about a woman, a dog and a duck. To my way of perceiving things, this insightful allegory reveals the deepest strategies behind the current war without end in the Middle East. I have shared this story once before, but I relate it once again because today it is even more revealing of the inner working of things than it was in 2005. Perhaps only through allegory can our western minds begin to comprehend the seeming absurdity of a stateless band of Muslim fighters with no satellites, no war planes, no hi tech drones, no battle ships resisting the gigantic, high tech, industrialized weaponry of the Western powers.
A Woman, a Dog and a Duck
A long time ago when April was very young, her mother died. After that she went to live with her Grandmother on a large ranch with green meadows, rolling hills and spreading oak trees in the foothills rising up from the Pacific Ocean shores of sunny southern California. April was sad about losing her mother but her Grandmother was a very kind woman who loved children and April’s heart was comforted by the beautiful landscape and all the farm animals she got to know.
While April only lived on the ranch for a few years she never forgot it. One day many, many years later when she was the age of her grandmother when my April lived on the ranch, April retired from her job at the hospital and she and her husband moved onto a small, very remote acreage in northern Washington. Just like on her grandmother’s ranch, there was no electricity and the nearest neighbour was a ten minute walk away. Below April’s new home there was a beautiful lake with miles of undisturbed sandy beaches to walk along. April felt that she was as close to heaven as one could come on this earth.
Remembering her love of animals, April stopped at the local feed store one spring day and picked out a puppy to bring home. April loved the puppy though it wasn’t particularly good looking nor of any special breed. She named the puppy Tony rather than give it a dog’s name like rover because Tony was special and deserved a name fitting of a close friend. By this time April had many grandchildren but none of them lived near her, so Tony became a very spoiled dog who could be very pleasing but was also very good at keeping his own council.
One fine, sunny, spring day on her daily walk along the beach with Tony she noticed a covey of six beautiful ducklings following their proud and attentive mother as she lead them up the lake. Tony noticed also. April was thinking about mother duck and mothering and she was just beginning to think of both her Grandmother and her own children. Tony was thinking about what a short distance out from shore these lovely, tasty ducklings were swimming.
Suddenly Tony plunged into the water and began swimming furiously toward the ducklings and their mother. Already he was salivating with the thought of such a fine meal as he was about to have. Alarmed, April called to Tony and demanded he come back to shore. But Tony could not, or would not hear April. He was swimming as fast as he could. Already he was half the distance from the shore to the flightless, terrified, slow-moving ducklings. Already he was savouring the fine, tender meal he was about to enjoy.
April noticed mother duck speaking to her ducklings and they seemed to become very calm. In a flash mother duck was out of the water and flying to meet Tony. Was she going to risk her own life to dive bomb him? April wondered. Then suddenly mother duck literally fell from the sky a few short meters in front of Tony. Lying on her side in the water, mother duck’s right wing spread listlessly out on the water and no matter how much she struggled she could only manage to flap her broken wing against the water. She struggled vigilantly and thrashed about madly for fear that Tony might catch her instead of her ducklings for his dinner.
All of this was very eagerly observed by Tony. In his mind’s eye he began to see that this was a very fortunate day indeed. He would have a whole duck for his dinner and perhaps a few ducklings after for an extra little snack. So Tony stoked the water even harder with his paws and his body lurched forward. Ah, mother duck was hardly more than a meter away. When—a miracle happened. Mother duck, despite her broken wing, suddenly revived just enough to fly off another three meters ahead. This time she seemed utterly exhausted by the effort and as she struggled to flap her broken wing against the water,
Tony sensed that, in deed, his tasty meal was at hand, and he swam toward the mother who was now further from her ducklings and further from shore.
Once again, just as the saliva flowed from Tony’s mouth and just as he was hardly more than a stroke from his now hard earned dinner, miraculously mother duck revived. This time she put on such a show. She flapped in the water and she called out in pain and she rolled on her side and seemed almost dead from the effort.
Tony redoubled his effort as he was becoming very hungry indeed. But once again, beyond any possible explanation, mother duck revived. And by now mother duck and Tony were a very long ways from the ducklings and a VERY long ways from shore.
On the shore April called in her most authoritative voice, the one she only used when Tony would be in very big trouble if he didn’t listened. April demanded that Tony return to the shore. But Tony couldn’t or wouldn’t listen. He was hungry and anxious for the reward of his extraordinary effort.
Mother duck led Tony north for a long distance, then she brought him south; always she seemed to manage the most miraculous recovery. And she led him north again. Tony was becoming very tired, but he put so much effort into this chase and he could just taste such fine duck meat and mother duck must have used up all her reserves, surely she could not rise again. But she did.
On the shore April could easily discern mother ducks intentions for Tony. Mother duck was not injured. Her mother and her mother’s mother from long ages ago had taught their daughters how to deal with hungry dogs that want to make a dinner of their babies.
April ran up the sandy bank to the place where she stored a small rubber dingy that she sometimes used to paddle around, luxuriantly soaking in the experience of being a little speck on a great body of water. She grabbed the dingy and hurriedly ran back to the water and began paddling out to where Tony was still being lead back and forth in the middle of the lake. Tony was getting slower and slower and mother duck was smiling and when Tony seemed discouraged she lingered even longer before taking off just barely out of reach.
April called to Tony but Tony wouldn’t or couldn’t hear. Finally April came to where she could see every small detail in Tony’s exhausted face and she called with a voice stern like Tony had never heard before and Tony looked away from mother duck straight into the demanding eyes of April. And he heard April’s voice and began to swim toward the dingy where April was waiting to grab him by the collar and pull him into the seat beside her and then she began to paddle her, poor utterly exhausted dog back to shore and to a very long rest.
Mother duck watched April and Tony disappear up the sandy bank above the lake. She flew back to her baby ducklings and called them to her and carefully explained the tactics her mother had taught her about how to use a dog’s appetite for duck dinner to ensure that it does not feast on ducklings.
When I first shared this allegory I left it to the reader to imagine how the story of a mother duck slowly drowning a poor, hungry, frightfully unaware dog actually shed light on what was happening in the Middle East. Western powers—especially the United States—were hungrily pursing the dream that they can bomb the people of the Persian Gulf into accepting the idea of American exceptionalism—the doctrine that the US has a natural right to rule the world, control its people and sequester all its resources. They were frightfully unaware of the important lesson they might have learned from the tactics of a mother duck when the eyes of a hungry dog lay on her babies.
Today, with the corporate press more blatantly than ever beating the war drums, and whipping up hysteria for yet another campaign of “Shock and Awe” I have to ask, can these guys not see that this never ending war is a strategic game designed to lead the west back and forth and back and forth across the desert; all the time dropping bombs and creating enemies and dropping bombs and sending in train loads of money that just disappears into the desert sand and training puppets only to have them go away and train others in how to resist the invading powers? Back and forth across the dessert they go– just like Tony out in the middle of the lake. Back and forth, slowly and surely turning the dream of world hegemony into a nightmare of utter bankruptcy.
You’d think someone-with years of training for strategic planning-would raise his/her hand at one of the planning sessions and say, “Ya, know, guys, all this bombing isn’t advancing our cause but it is bankrupting us. Surely we have some other options? But maybe– just maybe–the new détente efforts with Iran is the beginning of turning back –of surviving our own blind greed. Perhaps it is recognition that the whole shock and awe in Iraq that left a 160,000 dead civilians, allowed an ignorant President to disgrace an entire nation with his silly “America has prevailed!” cowboy nonsense and left the Americans with nothing more than a handful of sand to show for their expenses was, in fact, only the beginning of a wild duck chase across the dessert. AND Canada, under our new Prime Minister, has called back the bombs and restoring Canada’s reputation as a nation that looks for ways to peace first!
Yes, things are horrible right now with a great stew of bombs and death and fear and hate brewing in the Middle East, but we cannot give up on our hopes for peace, because if it doesn’t live within us where will that germ of hope come from that can crumble a seemingly unassailable, war hardened wall dividing German peoples, or reconciliation where it once seemed only a blood bath could end the entrenched apartheid of South Africa? Could this new deal with Iran, this new Canadian Prime Minister with peaceful priorities signal the possibility of turning away from war and bombs and a turning to diplomacy, a small glimmer of hope in what has become a very dark place?
What do you think? Do you see any hope of turning back from this absurd “clash of civilizations” that seems to make such a mockery of the very idea of “civilized” on all sides?