Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Parable of the Land Magnate

The Parable of the Land Magnate

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a rich Land Magnate who ruled his fiefdom with a veneer of kindly benevolence and trustworthy competence. But underneath he wore brass knuckles to silence critics and extend his reach. He was highly regarded by rich insiders and the majority. Poor outsiders and minorities were suspicious and hateful. (Some of the land he managed had previously belonged to them.) He was approved by all governmental authorities. He especially had the confidence and support of other wealthy land holders from other favored countries, apparently knowledgeable and skilled in handling his own and other people’s properties. His company, BMAC, was an Acquisition Corporation par excellence, duly registered with and given oversight by all the proper regulative bodies.

Then it came to pass, after a short and smashing military victory over surrounding “enemies”, BMAC gained control of more land than ever before. But, lo and behold, it quickly became a problem. Our Magnate wanted to insure the conquered land would benefit himself and his friends. He didn’t care that the land previously belonged to the “enemies” of his people. He built well-appointed subdivisions with a copious water supply and gated communities high above the vanquished who were kept in their place. These new places were off limits to them. The self-respecting but marginalized people of the valley looked up with growing disgust at the high-end neighborhoods nestled on the fortified hills, joined by modern thoroughfares on land that once was theirs. Many years passed. It appeared the Magnate was an extraordinarily good manager. His reach was extended. Goods and services flowed especially to the favored ones who had learned of his uncanny and unequaled ability to make their assets grow. The vanquished had no “rights”. To the victors belonged the spoils. Might made right. Those who rule make the rules.

However, there was a major problem. (It was hidden from public view). He was a thief! He stole and mismanaged people’s property. He consistently committed fraudulent practices. He was deceitful. He betrayed people’s trust. He used the land to please his family, friends and supporters at all costs, giving them greater returns than was humanly possible or permissible. He lied about assets he managed. He printed false documents on asset usage, making it look to all the world that the people’s possessions were being used wisely and well.

Even though he knew that what he was doing was criminal, he kept the scheme going through many decades, adding more and more land to his empire, his reputation climbing to new heights of admiration and awe. He built defensive walls to protect his assets, hoping against all truth that his empire would be secure and last forever against all “enemies”. The illusion grew that he was beating all the odds. He is one of us. You can trust him. He takes care of his own. There were his detractors, a few people “in the know” who doubted that BMAC was “on the up and up”. No one listened to them. Things were going “well”. People were “happy”. Trust BMAC.

But, buried deep in his sub-conscious mind, the Magnate was fearful there would be a Day of Reckoning, a Day when his actions would be exposed and his company would disappear like vapor. He knew from the very beginning that his behavior was completely criminal, that he was misusing people and mismanaging their possessions. He dulled the pain he was feeling for abusing the confidence others place in him.

And come it did. Fear of a great depression crept over all the land. People of the country were feeling insecure, fearing they might lose everything. Many wanted their assets back. Suddenly the fiefdom he had built with their assets crumbled like a house of cards. The company office was shuttered and the social fabric was left torn and tattered. He could no longer hide his thievery. His deceit became apparent to those closest to him and to those farthest away. It now became clear to the whole world that the great Land Magnate, the head of BMAC was a crook.

I’m ashamed of my actions, he confessed. I am so sorry for the hurt I’ve caused many, many people. I wanted to end the scheme in short order, but the whole enterprise quickly spun out of control. I became captive to it. I wanted to keep administering the land as long as I could. It became impossible. I just couldn’t keep things from unspooling.

Meanwhile, there was great anger, grief and confusion among all the defrauded people. They quickly lined up, demanding restitution for their lost assets and the return of what had previously been theirs. There was no easy way to return the stolen assets to rich and poor, insiders and outsiders, the majority and minorities alike. There was no simple way to live side by side, separate yet united. There wasn’t enough insurance money to compensate those wronged. Some suggested a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with forgiveness as the way, vowing to handle people more respectfully and possessions more fairly. Others even said there could be no compensation for “stolen” lands. After the “crash” it took several generations to attain equanimity approaching normality. For many, many years it seemed impossible to untangle the knots that had formed. New fabric had to be woven, the knots cut away and discarded.

The day came when other Acquisition corporations were formed, knowing right from wrong, slowly restoring the trust that had been betrayed, promising transparency in reporting, issuing responsible returns from properties entrusted to them, thus fulfilling their promises.

It took many decades for people’s trust to be restored. The sense of betrayal was pervasive. Hatred of the Magnate was deep. The consequences of wrong-doing were long lasting. None of it healed easily. Those who wanted “justice” (revenge) hung around the margins of the new society for years and years, but were kept on the margins by strong and able leadership. Friends and “enemies” tore down the walls that separated them. People learned to appreciate their differences and value each person’s and group’s unique contribution to the well being of the larger community.

The whole society continued to wrestle with its bias toward selfish greed, self-serving lies, bitter vengefulness and persistent cover-up. New leaders were more humble, more vulnerable, more willing to admit their mistakes, more willing to say they were sorry and more willing and able to do better. Slowly, all the citizens learned that not all is fair in love and war, all are flawed, all persons are to be treated with respect and all possessions are to be valued and compensated fairly.

It was a costly lesson. But learn it they did. It was not easy and the road was rough. Issues of proper governance were contentious, but friends and “enemies” were brought into the process. Rich insiders and poor outsiders shared space equitably. And the people and the land lived happily and in peace for many generations.

1 comment:

karim said...

A valuable post and it much helpfull to all.Thanks a lot for your post.

Thanks,
Karim - Positive thinking