THE OLD BROKEN HOUSE: a fable about us

There is an old broken house in the woods. Originally it served a purpose and served it well, but it’s long overdue for not just repairs but . . . and nobody wants to think it . . . tearing down and rebuilding from scratch.

The people in charge, the bosses, urge us to “all work together” to shore up the crumbling walls and patch the roof for our golden future, a golden future where we can all seek shelter in the house together. But we don’t live in the house, the bosses and all their friends and family do. And we are not “all working together” because we live outside the house in the cold and they live inside.

It is us who are working together.

We are in the cold, working hard to keep the walls and roof of the house water tight and warm. We are hungry because the bosses inside the house need to keep all the food to eat and wood for the fire, and they say they are sorry about this crushing austerity but it’s for our golden future.

We ask them, shivering in the cold and the rain, if they perhaps could save less for our future and give us some food and wood now so we don’t die. And they say they understand, and they would, they really would . . . but they have so many mouths to feed and besides, as well as feeding themselves and keeping themselves warm they are stockpiling food and wood for our golden future! And anyway how can they, the bosses, co-ordinate our work if they are hungry and cold? They need to be healthy to make good decisions on our behalf, surely we must see that?

It’s okay, they say, because in our golden future, which is just around the corner, we shall all live together inside the house when it becomes stable enough for us to stop working, leave our tools, cease our endless shoring up of the fabric of the house . . . because the work is done. Then and only then can we come inside by the fire. So we keep working hard, saving the crumbling walls and the leaky roof, rebuilding the corners when they crumble, putting our blankets and clothes on the holes in the roof. For our golden future.

But then one day when too many of us have died and grown sick and old we realise the golden future is not ours . . . it’s theirs. We will never sit with them by the fire and warm our toes and eat stew. And on that day when we wake up from our slumber and realise what we’ve done, we wait . . .

We stand together holding hands in the rain watching the house gradually drop slowly and painfully under it’s own corrupted weight and fold in on them. We close our eyes and let the screams and cries for help blend with the pattering rain . . . until all is quiet and the dust settles . . .

And then, we heave a heavy sigh of relief and we walk together in silence to find a place to build a new house for all people to live in, in peace and warmth and comfort.

A house we build together. If we share.

Phil South
Some rights reserved 2015


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