Quarteters and misers

May 10, 2006

Aesop tells us of a miser who, being afraid he’d spend his money, melted all his gold coin into one hunk of gold and hid it in the forest. This way, he was sure, the treasure would remain his forever.

But is it possible for the one so deeply in love to stay away from the object of his desire? Every day he would go into the forest, dig out his lump of gold, and ogle and caress it. Needless to say, one day someone spotted him at his ecstasies, and the next morning he learned that his beloved was gone.

Lamentations at the tragic loss were beyond human descriptive powers. Hearing loud screams in the thick of the forest, a passer-by rushed in, imagining a savage beast attacking a small child, the mother striving in vain to defend it. But no – it was just an old man, wailing and crying near a little hole in the ground. “O dearest! O beloved! Gone! Gone forever!” “Whom did you lose?” asked the traveler, perplexed at the absence of signs of a bloody struggle. “Gold! My gold!” was the reply, half-stifled by disconsolate sobs of the old man, so unraveled by his grief that he rolled out to the utter stranger the story of his love, ecstasy and loss. “You know what you should do?” said the listener – “Just hide a stone there – since you were not spending the gold, you did not really have it, as it is only through spending it that gold becomes useful. A useless stone would serve your purposes just as well.”

Which sage advice is fully applicable to the Middle East Quartet. Bankrolling the Palestinians made the Quarteters confident that they got leverage – and when the Palestinians elected Hamas and it was time to use the leverage of withholding the aid, the Quartet found itself unable to do it. Love of the Palestinians – no matter what – being the major tenet of a European’s religion, Europeans found it just as hard to have their purse strings tied, as Aesop’s miser to have his loosened. When it came time to spend – the gold in one case, the leverage in the other – there was an unbearable psychological pain. To soothe it, the miser rendered his coinage useless – as did the Quartet to its “leverage,” by breaking down in tears at the very thought of making the Palestinian dears act responsibly, and finding a way to get around their own rules, so as to experience ecstasy of the highest order in the process of opening the floodgates of cash upon the Palestinians.

Aesop’s miser didn’t have any money even while holding a hunk of gold in his hands; for all the millions that they wield, the Quarteters have no leverage over the Palestinians. But psychology is a tricky thing, and self-deception is a good cure for its pain. A piece of rock made the miser happy again; and the Quarteters will no doubt find consolation too, even as their utter failure of willpower has been openly revealed to the entire world.

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