Vanitatum Vanitas: a modern-day fable

The Vanity of Vanities
Once upon a time there was a big bad tsunami that killed lots of the resident mice, ravaged the Asian shores and made the lives of survivor mice miserable. Much help was needed from the other animals who luckily lived away from the disaster. Many of these animals, seeing the plight of their fellow mice, donated generously. However, even their combined kindness could not alleviate the troubles entirely. The animals came together to talk about what could be further done. All were clueless, until the smart and good-hearted Thai elephant came up with an idea:

“We gave all we could already, but there are many wealthy animals who don’t want to give anything. How about giving them an incentive to contribute to the good cause?
“And what would that be?” – asked the others.
“Well, we could use one of their most wide-spread weaknesses, vanity” – the elephant said with a Thai smile. “Let’s make some rubber or plastic bracelets from recycled garbage, and sell it to them, say… for a 1000Bt each, with all the proceedings going to the Tsunai Fund, to help our fellow mice.”

The animals were thinking about it for a while (they were not as smart as the elephant), until they understood the idea.
“We could also write some fancy text on the wristbands, like ‘We help tsunami victims – how about you?’ or something like that” – said the bear enthusiastically.
“Good idea” – nodded the elephant.
“I’m afraid that using our local garbage is not gonna make it attractive enough for the hi-so… I think” whispered the rabbit shyly. Can’t we import some garbage from a fancy country that has plenty?”
“Sure, rabbit, good thinking” , said the elephant with a kind smile. The rabbit turned away and her ears became red as she blushed.

The elephant swinged his long trunk back and forth for a while, a sure sign that he is thinking. “The UK” – he said finally. “That’s a land of much garbage, they surely will give us plenty. Also, our Thai hi-so think highly of everything British, so we can even charge twice as much for each wristband.
Okay, animals, let’s get to work!” – he said, and disappeared in the jungle.

Time passed, and everything happened exatly as the wise elephant foresaw. The wristbands, made from imported British garbage, were picked up like candy, for 2000 Bt each. The streets of Thailand, especially the jungle of Bangkok, were full of monkeys proudly prouncing, wearing “nam jai” on their sleeve – or in this case, on their wrist, for everyone to see how rich and generous they are. Many young golden monkeys wore the bands in school. The poorer grey monkeys could just watch in envy.

Something arouse inside these grey monkeys… it was referred to in that land as “khwam yaak”. The sly fox smelled khwam yaak from a distance, and immediately jumped to action. He took local garbage, made it into plastic and rubber bands that looked exactly like the original fancy british imports, and started to sell them on the streets and shopping malls for a fraction of the original price: 50, 40, or as low as 20 Bt each.

That was the time when the wristband-frenzy reached epidemic proportions. Hoards of grey monkeys rushed to imitate their golden brethren; flocks of black ravens were eager to show off their new possession in front of their white cousins, and the whole thing became a meaningless teenage fad, now fading away slowly.

The fox made a large profit – not one satang of that made it to the needy mice, of course – and the wise elephant had to learn one more lesson in his long life: vanity is a double-edged sword. Use it to fuel a good cause, doesn’t matter. Profit-seekers will find their way to exploit any vanity-based plan to their own, selfish end. Let us learn from the elephant’s mistake, and plan our good causes with honesty and integrity – values that cannot be stolen or twisted.

The end. 🙂

8 responses to “Vanitatum Vanitas: a modern-day fable