Saturday, January 20, 2018

Inside Ali Baba’s cave

 Although cartoons and children’s stories are produced for the very young, many of them in the past contained profound lessons for the adults in society. Gulliver’s Travels for instance was, in many ways, a satire on English society and its royal family in particular. In the same vein Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland provided some useful guidance for individuals and the wider society. In one particular sequence the wily Cheshire Cat  alludes to the importance of having a clear vision of where one wants to go or what one wants to achieve. After falling into the rabbit-hole, Alice arrives at a fork in the road and needs some help in choosing the right path. She spots the Cat on the branch of a nearby tree and asks, “would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”. The ever-smiling feline replies, “that depends a good deal on where you want to go.” A bewildered Alice declares, “I don’t much care where”. The Cat tells her bluntly “then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” In short, if you’re not sure where you’re going, you might as well end up anywhere.

 In terms of cartoons, the one that comes readily to mind given the current state of affairs is the classic Bugs Bunny episode, “Ali Baba Bunny’’. In this particular tale Bugs Bunny and his sidekick Daffy Duck stumble upon the mythical cave of the infamous Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. When Daffy sees the piles of gold he goes berserk and in typical “never-see-come-see’’ style he starts screaming, “I’m rich, I’m rich”. He begins stealing the gold and then he spots a rusty lamp in a corner of the cave. He rubs the lamp and a genie appears. Thinking the genie intends to take away his ill-gotten treasure, Daffy  tries to push him back into the lamp shouting, “mine, mine, it’s all mine”. The genie then issues a dire warning “you have desecrated the spirit of the lamp, prepare to face the consequences”. 

Daffy Duck scoffs at the threat and utters the memorable phrase, “consequences, long as I am rich”. 

As far as he was concerned once he had money the consequences of his nefarious activities could be ignored. Needless to say the genie zapped him out of the cave and he had to run for his life leaving all the gold behind.

However, had Daffy Duck chosen a country like T&T instead of Ali Baba’s cave, he may have discovered that his insatiable greed and callous disregard for the consequences would be considered normal. Who knows, he may even end up in Parliament. 

He would soon realise that his newly acquired wealth could open doors at the highest levels of the society and there is no “genie’’ to insist on moral and ethical conduct. And if he was ever caught in a compromising or illegal activity he could hire the most expensive lawyers available or he could simply claim, “it wasn’t me”. He would be thrilled by the way in which “smoke and mirrors’’ are used to distract attention and he would conclude that when it comes to corruption even Ali Baba could learn a thing or two from us. 

Perhaps his greatest source of comfort would be the undue deference given to those with money and power regardless of how their riches were acquired. No one is likely to investigate how a scrunting duck could obtain so much money in such a short space of time especially if he donates some of the loot to “party financing’’. Instead Daffy can sit back and relax as the “dogs of war’’ are unleashed on foot-soldiers in the drug trade while the white-collar criminals who mastermind the operations remain unscathed. He would revel in the fact that while over 500 suspicious financial transactions have been reported, nobody has been convicted for money-laundering.

However, there would be one major stumbling block to Daffy’s schemes and that is the increasing public disgust at the widespread skulduggery that is eating away at “the soul of the nation’’. He would note that citizens are gradually seeing the terrible consequences facing a society that ignores social justice while allowing the corrupt to walk free. They are tired of the nepotism and the sleaze and like the genie in the lamp they will eventually zap away the miscreants. 

In the meantime, the Daffy Duck syndrome continues and the money in the Treasury is treated like the gold inside Ali Baba’s cave. If you listen carefully you may even hear the voices of the politicians and their cronies shouting with glee...“mine, mine, it’s all mine”.