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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A fable: Sheep in wolves' clothing

A fable: Sheep in wolves' clothing

Once upon a time, about 25 or 30 years ago - which is long enough for some people

to learn a lot and long enough for others to forget a lot - there was a Small Country

which was being menaced by a large band of ferocious Wolves. The Small Country asked

its neighbors to help protect itself from the Wolves. For a while, the neighbors

did help, a bit, and the wolves were kept at bay.

But one day, the Small Country's neighbors refused to give it any more help.

"Not I," said the Student. "My deferment's running out and I might

get shot at - I mean, it's an immoral war anyway, isn't it?"

And the Student went off to law school.

"Not I," said the Academic. "Don't you realize that these aren't really

Wolves? They're just well-meaning Agrarian reformers seeking social justice. I'm

quite confident that they mean you no harm."

And the Academic went off to apply for tenure.

"Not I," said the Reporter. "Everyone else is covering it as a lost

cause, and my editors don't want any contrary opinions."

And the Reporter went off to work for a TV station so he could become a Journalist.

"Not I," said the Politician. "You've been at it too long, and the

war's not popular any more. Got to listen to the will of the people. Sorry."

And, after voting to cut off all assistance to the small country, the Politician

went off to get re-elected.

Now without the help of these neighbors the Small Country was soon overrun by Wolves.

Many of its people - almost two million of them - died.

The suffering of the Small Country was immense and continued for years and years,

and its four neighbors did nothing at all during that time, but could only turn away

in embarrassed silence.

And then one day, after the small country had finally rid itself of the Wolves and

had begun to recover from their ravages, it captured the very last Wolf who had been

hiding out in the jungle.

This last Wolf was old and weak and had lost one leg in a trap. The Small County

put the Wolf in a cage and kept him there while it decided how to punish the Wolf.

"Hold it," said the Student, who had become a lawyer, "What about

Due Process? You people clearly need help with your Due Process, and I will come

over and teach you all it. The shooting has stopped, hasn't it?"

"Hold it," said the Academic, who had not gotten tenure and was therefore

now employed as a Human Rights Expert, "You haven't done a Needs Assessment,

a Feasibility Study or even a Preliminary Survey. You can't do anything at all to

the wolf until those things are completed and we hold a conference to discuss them.

And what about the gender equity aspects of the situation?"

"Hold it," said the Reporter, who by now had become an Editor. "I

need footage of tanks in the street or people running across the tarmac at the airport,

not some mangy old Wolf pacing round a cage. Get me some action footage or we spike

your story and lead with the shelling in Kosovo."

"Hold it," said the Politician, who had lost his most recent election and

therefore become a Statesman, "What about Human Rights? I'll be putting in for

a UN grant so I can come out and lecture you on Human Rights. I'll be staying at

Le Royal and will need Fridays off for long weekends at Angkor Wat."

But the Small Country (which had learned the hard way from what had happened to it

in the last 25 or 30 years) just smiled politely at all of them, and said that thanks

anyway, but it would handle the last remaining Wolf in its own traditional way, and

got up and went away.

The four neighbors stared at each other. They were puzzled and quite affronted. (Remember

I told you at the beginning of this story that 25 or 30 years is long enough for

some people to learn a lot, and long enough for other people to forget a lot.)

Finally, the Politician broke the silence.

"The nerve of some people," he sniffed. "I mean, whose country do

they think this is anyway?"

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