by Stuart Larner
(Eight minutes reading time.)
4 male voices, namely:
KING: Six months ago the Royal Doctor told me that I had only a year to live. So I, the King of this small modern Middle Eastern State, had to decide who would manage the Royal Finances when I was gone. I called my three sons: the banker son, the farmer son, and the philosopher son, and gave them each a test of ten thousand dollars. They should invest the money wisely, giving and receiving to the benefit of the ten thousand people in each of their own princedoms. Today I will judge how they have done over the past six months.
First of all, my banker son.
BANKER SON : Father, I converted the money into five thousand gold medallions. I announced in the media that these medallions would be given out freely at midnight on a first-come first-served basis, and all people should attend my palace to show their loyalty. But, as there was not enough for everyone, then those who wanted to succeed in the world would have to be first in the queue. I wanted to challenge the people to compete, to aspire, to achieve. On the TV they saw the goldsmith at his engraving bench in the Royal Mint and the sergeant of security with his smart cap supervising the transporting of the gold medallions into armoured trucks. Market stallholders spoke of how they looked forward to this great boost to commerce, and how the price of medallions on the market would double within hours.
Six months later, the medallions’ value has risen tenfold in the market place.
Look, father. My money is wealth.
KING :Ah yes, you have indeed raised the wealth of a few people, but on the eve of the distribution long queues formed around your palace, and the shortage of medallions caused rioting and deaths in the streets. You have caused much hardship and made many worse off than before.
Tell me, now, my farmer son, what did you do?
FARMER SON: With my ten thousand dollars I bought ten thousand laying hens. I made sure to give one to each person in my princedom, saying “Look after this. It is one of the king’s creatures, for with this you show your loyalty to the king. It shall reward you with eggs, health and happiness. All people have a chance to produce eggs for the economy, to give health to everyone in the princedom.”
Over the following six months people grew happy because they were well-fed and pleased at being entrusted with something important. Some said that the egg’s flavour was delicate and buttery, and its yolk was like the golden majesty of a king carried in the clear protection of God.
Look, father. My money is health and happiness.
KING : Yes, indeed, you have made a lot of people healthier and happier by providing good food and a purpose in life. But there was a report one day of a hen that had died. This was not unusual, but the owner made light of it when interviewed by saying “No bird lives forever.” However the newspapers, aware of their dying king, much dramatised this line. The hen owner was made to feel that he had shown disloyalty to the crown in allowing his hen to die. The man was victimised, and eventually took his own life. Far from bringing things to a close, this spread the fear that hens must be kept in perfect condition otherwise misfortune and death would result. News stories abounded of the unusual deaths of hens and the depressive reactions of their owners. Because of this your people are surely no better off.
But now, my philosopher son, you have done nothing but meditate for the whole six months. It makes me so sad that at the end of my life when my other sons have tried yet failed me, that you have not even made any effort.
PHILOSOPHER SON: Father, it is true that I have spent a lot of time thinking, but a week before your visit I sprang up and converted my ten thousand dollars into a hundred thousand base metal tokens. I began to personally distribute these amongst the people, ten to each person, saying “These are the king’s tokens. If you see someone in need then give them one of your tokens in recognition of their situation. Similarly, if you see someone who is helping others then give them a token to mark their good works. Always be ready to accept a token in return for acknowledging or helping others. Your aim is to have the same number of tokens at the end of a day as you started with, giving and receiving equally. If you end up with more tokens, then you have not complimented others enough. If you find you have less, then you have not physically done enough to help others. "
KING : My son, I am alarmed. This is a chaotically managed fancy.
BANKER SON: Indeed! You are incompetent ! My financial observers report that you can have a situation where someone makes one thousand percent profit in the morning, only to give it all away in the afternoon. It is surely bad planning and you would benefit from the advice of my accountants. They can set up a proper personal financial management scheme for your people.
PHILOSOPHER SON: No, brother. My money is not about financial investment portfolios.
FARMER SON: Your scheme is too basic. Although you have made some people happy and thus improved their health, it could be much improved upon. I know some health management consultants who can convert this into a low-cost global private health initiative.
PHILOSOPHER SON: No, brother. My money is not about private healthcare provision.
KING : My son, I am so dismayed at your resistance and I beg you to reconsider. I am almost on my knees to you now. At least think about how much better it would be if your message were promoted more efficiently . With the help of other nations we can now reach almost two billion people via the internet at a transmission rate of over forty gigabits per second. We have infinite zillobytes of free storage space, and a galaxy of satellites hosting forty four thousand radio and fifteen hundred High Definition TV channels which can broadcast to everywhere on the planet in a split-second. There are two hundred and forty five million listeners on the US Clear Channel alone. Just give me your message and I’ll have the whole thing transmitted instantly. My son, just tell me what you want and you shall have it.
PHILOSOPHER SON: No, father. My money is not about electronic packaging and multi-media technology. It has to be by personal contact.
But, there is one thing you can do for me. I have here ten tokens. I shall give each of you three tokens, keeping just one for myself. I want you to go out disguised into the streets and talk to people, and when you see someone who is in distress I want you to console them and give them a token to show that you acknowledge their situation. And if you see someone who is doing a good turn to another I want you to give them a token to mark their virtue.
You see, my money is love.
Philosopher son addresses audience: Hesitating with disbelief the king and his two sons slowly took the tokens and started to distribute them. The king gave a token to a cripple who was being helped by another across the road to drink from a fountain. People saw them giving tokens out of compassion and came up to them, saying that they thought it was a wonderful gesture, and asked if they would accept a token of acknowledgement in return. As the king received these tokens from his people he wept.
KING : I weep from sorrow and from joy. I weep from sorrow because I see I have been foolish all my life with my illusion of money. And I weep for joy now that one of my sons has shown me the value of giving and receiving, and what truly is real money.