THE ULTIMATE DETERRENT


(AN ALLEGORY WITH OBVIOUS CONCLUSIONS)


Long time ago, Igam and Ogam journeyed from the Far Place, beyond the Frontiers of Humanity and across the Great Wilderness. Over the Barren Mountains they discovered a beautiful, fertile valley, rich with lush pastures and watered by ice-cold streams tumbling from the hills above.


They decided to settle there.


First Igam, and then, Ogam, measured out, in precise detail, the exact amount of acreage necessary to sustain him. Igam took the land to the East. Ogam took the land to the West. They shared the seeds they had brought with them.


Igam and Ogam were happy and, every morning, hailed one another across the valley as they dug or hoed or planted the rich earth. Sometimes, in the warmth of a drowsy afternoon, they would sit in the shade of the huge tree that straddled the borderline between their lands. There, they would converse long and earnestly. First Igam, and then, Ogam, would propound his ideals, his hopes for the future, his philosophy; and these dreams were woven into a pattern of poetry and song so that a culture grew between them. They spoke of their plans. How, one day, they would return to the Far Place and bring back their Females. They spoke, too, of the strong sons and lovely daughters they would sire. They had visions of the Great Race their loins would propagate, and were happy.


Through the cool, green days of Spring.
Through the long, hot Summer days.
Through Autumn, and the days of Harvest.
And in the gelid starkness of Winterís brief daylight.

So, they toiled in harmony and were happy. Each loved the other. Each trusted the other. The years passed and their lands prospered. Soon, they would be ready to return to the Far Place to seek their mates.


Then came the time of the Great Drought. Through the long, hot, rainless days, the streams dried to a mere trickle and the crops wilted. Igam and Ogam worked as never before, scratching the arid soil in a valiant effort to save the harvest. But, every movement, every step, stirred the dry dust from the parched earth; and they became sullen until, each in his own heart, cursed, silently, this time of Adversity.
It was Autumn, the time of Harvest. The yield was sparse and both Igam and Ogam were despondent. Each jealously counted the number of sheaves on the otherís land. Each coveted the otherís crop.


Igam observed that the sheaves spaced over Ogamís land were more abundant than those on his land. A few extra sheaves, he thought, will help me survive the Winter. His decision was swift. His action swifter.


He crossed to the West of the borderline and quickly hoisted one of the sheaves to his shoulder. He started back with his prize but Ogam, hoeing down the potato rows, chanced to see Igamís perfidy. Angrily, he hastened to intercept Igam and, in his anger, without thought, he scooped up a pebble as he ran and threw it at Igam. The pebble struck Igam on the head. Igam, startled by the sudden pain, dropped the sheaf and quickly gained the sanctuary of his own land.


He turned to face Ogam.


Ogam spoke no word but, glaring hatred, stooped to retrieve the pebble then return to the potato patch.
Igam, thoughtfully, looked about him. He found a pebble. Now I am as strong as Ogam. But not stronger. So, he remained in his own land and continued with the harvesting.


Although it was very difficult to work with only one hand, neither Ogam nor Igam even considered discarding their newly discovered strength. Each watched the other, warily; each clutched his pebble in readiness.


The days passed in suspicion and hostility. And no word spoken between them.


On a cool, green day of Spring, Igam, awkwardly struggling to dig with one hand, chanced to turn up out of the rich soil, a stone. A stone twice as large as the pebble he had carried so long in readiness.


Now, he thought, I am stronger than Ogam.


He threw down the pebble and took the stone instead. With a feeling of elation, he walked confidently to the edge of his land and taunted Ogam then, boastfully, displayed the larger stone. Aggressively, he stepped over the borderline of their lands.


Ogam, frantic and frightened, scrabbled at the ground and, with great relief, unearthed a stone as large as the one which menaced him in the hand of Igam.


Now, he thought, I am as strong as Igam, and he advanced to meet the invader.
Igam retreated to his own land. He continued to taunt Ogam but, for fear of retaliation, forbore to throw the stone.

Each walked his own land. Each watched the other, warily.


Through the cool, green days of Spring.
Through the long, hot summer days.
Through Autumn, and the days of Harvest.


And they both struggled to maintain a way of life but pitifully weighted down by the large stone each carried in readiness.
Then, in the gelid starkness of the Winterís brief light, one day, Ogam saw it.


A large boulder.


Here, he thought, is the ultimate weapon. Now Igam can never be stronger than I.


He lifted the great weight of the boulder and staggered to the edge of his land but, having reached there, his strength ebbed and, he realized, he could proceed not one step more. He stood, the boulder held in readiness in his arms. He waited.


Igam, working the far side of the valley, saw Ogam and saw, too, the might of the boulder held in readiness.


Now, he was afraid. Now it was he who frantically scoured his land for an equal strength.


Eventually, he found a boulder of size and weight to match the strength of Ogam.


Now, he thought, I am as strong as Ogam. And he took the boulder up into his arms and staggered with it to the edge of his land. But his strength ebbed and he could go no further.
Igam looked at Ogam.
Ogam looked at Igam.
They spoke no word but watched each other with suspicion. Warily. The boulders were held in readiness.

Through the gelid starkness of the Winter.
Through the cool green of the Spring.
Through the long, hot Summer.
They waited and they watched, boulders held in readiness.

The weeds grew wild and flourished in profusion. The ground, neglected, was choked with tangled growth.

They waited and they watched. Until the Autumn days where there was no Harvest to be garnered. In bitterness, exhausted by the drear and costly vigil, angry with frustration, debilitated by a long hunger, they watched, but neither would yield to the other.
During the gelid starkness of winter, as Igam and Ogam faced each other in the desperate, interminable impasse, a traveler crossed the Barren Mountain and entered the valley.


He was Ugam, an itinerant Merchant from the Far Place, who had come to trade.


Shattering disappointment almost prostrated him when he viewed the desolation of the valley. He saw abandoned implements, rusted and rotting; the destructive vegetation, clutching, with strangling tendrils, at the rich earth. Poverty was there. Disintegration. Disillusionment. The whole harsh tragedy was revealed to him.


He saw Igam and Ogam, rigid with hatred and hostility, each oblivious to the neglect and decay they so adamantly defended.


He walked the borderline between their lands and deviated neither to the East nor to the West. And, at last, he stood by them and spoke long and earnestly of their folly.


First Ogam, and then, Igam, became aware of the devastated land and the abandoned implements. They realized their Poverty and each, in his own heart, knew defeat. Yet, neither would yield and each remained firm in his resolve to defend his Right.


Ugam, gently, impressed them with the futility of this wasted effort and made a pact. That he would defend each from the other and would walk the borderline between the East and the West. Impartial, he would observe their differences, arbitrate and advise. He persuaded them to resume the cultivation of their lands to bring, again, to the valley the prosperity which they had enjoyed before.


For this small service, he would require from each but one third of the Harvest in tithe and tribute.


Peace, prosperity, happiness and hope returned to the fertile valley. Igam and Ogam worked long and hard, secure in the knowledge that Ugam walked between them to hold the balance of Power inviolate.


Through the cool, green days of Spring.
Through the long, hot summer days.
Until the Autumn and the time of Harvest when, first Igam, and then, Ogam, bore one third of his crops to Ugam who sat, comfortable and complacent, beneath the huge tree that straddles the borderline between their lands.


 

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