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WHEN the king of the jungle submits himself to a jackal, the kingdom falls prey to deception and opportunism. This is the case with those countries where the leaders are characterized by weakness due to their inability to either take decisions, or exercise their role. They thus leave matters to opportunists who foster weakness of the state and spread corruption in it.
In this regard, the book “Kalila and Dimna” written by the Indian philosopher Bidpai is a guide to good governance. He wrote these pieces of advice to guide King Dabeshlim in state administration and governance. These guidelines provide wisdom and lessons through tales in which the main characters are animals in a jungle that is well organized. Despite the belief that the law of the jungle is chaos, the philosopher Bidpai believes that the lawless region had its law to regulate all its affairs, which made Dabeshlim rule the Indian kingdom during a very difficult stage, overcome obstacles, and impose security and stability.
In the chapter in which Bidpai talks about the relationship between the ruler and the ruled, he wrote, “They claimed that a lion was in a forest, and with him was a jackal that scavenged the leftovers of the lion’s meal. One day, the lion became sick and severely weak, and was no longer able to hunt. The jackal asked him, “What is wrong with you, the king of the jungle? Has your condition changed?”
The lion responded. “These scabies have made me tired and weak, and it has no medicine except the heart and ears of a donkey”. The jackal then said, “That’s easy to find. I know a place where I can find a donkey and bring it to you”.
The jackal went to the donkey, greeted him and said, “Why do I feel you are weak?”
The donkey said, “Because of my friend’s mismanagement, my stomach is still hungry and my back is heavy”.
The jackal said, “How do you stand living under such a condition?”
He replied, “I have no way of escaping from it, for anywhere I go, humans want to hunt me down, starve me and overwhelm me with work”.
The jackal said, “I will guide you to a place that is isolated from people and that no one passes by. It is a fertile pasture in which there is a herd of donkeys grazing safely and securely”.
The donkey said, “What is keeping us from going there? Let us go to it”.
So the jackal took him towards the lion. On the way, the jackal went ahead of him, entered the forest where the lion was, and told him where the donkey was. The lion came out and wanted to jump on him, but he could not do so because of his weakness. The donkey thus managed to escape from him and run away.
When the jackal saw the lion in this state, he said, “O king of the jungle, were you unable to hunt it?”
The lion told him, “If you bring him to me again, he will never escape me”.
The jackal went to the donkey again, and said to him, “What happened to you? One of the donkeys saw you as a stranger and came out to meet you and greeted you. If you hadn’t escaped, he would have taken you to his friends”.
When the donkey, who did not see the lion, heard this, he believed the jackal, and went with him to the lion. Again, the jackal went ahead of him to go to the lion and informed him of the donkey’s location. He said, “Get ready for him, for I have deceived him for you. Do not let weakness overtake you in this frenzy. If he escapes, he will never come back with me. Opportunities seldom knock twice”.
The lion prepared himself, and went out to the place where the donkey was, made a leap and ate it. He then said, “The doctors mentioned that it can only be eaten after washing and purification, so keep it until I come back, so that I can eat its heart and ears. I leave the rest of the meat for you”.
As soon as the lion went to bathe, the jackal washed the donkey and ate its heart and ears, in the hope that the lion would get disappointed with it and not eat anything from it. However, when the lion returned to his den, he looked at his prey and found it without a heart and ears.
He said to the jackal, “Where are the donkey’s ears and heart?”
The jackal said, “Did you not know that if he had a heart with which he could reason and two ears with which he could hear, he would not have returned to you after he escaped the first time?”
When the ruler weakens for any reason, renounces the rule, and leaves the affairs of the state to those who are not qualified to administer, the government and the people become victims of deceivers, corruption prevails, thefts abound, and the law of the jungle prevails.
The opportunistic deceiver eats the heart of the people, and the liar takes over the mind of the state. Then the path of decline begins, the voice of reason disappears, the wisdom of the wise gets eclipsed by the noise of greed, and running away from all this becomes everyone’s concern.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times