Crying wolf!

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Recall that old story about ‘a shepherd boy and the wolf’. It went like this: “Once upon a time, there was a shepherd boy. He used to graze a flock of sheep outside his village. One day a ‘piece of mischief’ entered his head. He cried out loudly, ‘Wolf! Wolf!’ Hearing him crying, the villagers rushed out of their houses with sticks and axes to beat and drive away the wolf. When they reached the boy, he began to laugh. They understood that actually there was no wolf and the boy had tricked them. They went away disappointed and angry. The next week, the ‘naughty boy’ repeated his mischief, crying “Wolf!” again. The villagers came again with sticks and axes to help him. They were very much annoyed when they learnt that again the boy had raised a false alarm to fool them. A few days later, the ‘foolish boy’ again cried out loudly, “Wolf! Wolf!” But this time, nobody came to his help. This time a wolf had really come. The wolf killed a number of boy’s sheep and badly wounded him as well.”

The lesson or “moral” that was given at the end of the story reads: “Once a liar, always a liar.” However, there are also other ways of looking at this story. In the first instance, when the shepherd boy thought of playing a trick on the villagers, the story-teller describes it as a “piece of mischief”. The second time, he decides to trick villagers, story-teller uses word “naughty” for the shepherd boy. But on the third instance, when the boy is actually confronted with the real danger and is desperately crying for help, the qualifier used for him is “foolish”. So what is really noticeable is the shepherd boy’s transition from being ‘mischievous’ to ‘naughty’ to being outright ‘foolish’.

The shepherd boy, as is obvious from the story itself, while planning the trick for the first time, felt he was very clever; and sure he was for he could easily trick the villagers to believe his cries and rush out of their homes to his help. On the second occasion, he would not have repeated the trick unless he felt confident that he was still clever enough to fool the villagers again. And indeed he did succeed in it. But they say ‘you can fool somebody some time, somebody all the time but never ever could you fool everybody all the time’. Tricked twice, the villagers had already read through shepherd boy’s deception and were in no mood to believe him any longer. This is why for the story-teller, the shepherd boy had already graduated into being a ‘fool’, for now nobody was going to take him seriously. This is exactly why, when the ‘real’ wolf actually came, nobody believed him and hence no one heeded his cries for help.

Story aside, this is exactly what happens when something after losing its novelty and uniqueness, and appeal and potency, becomes a drag. It can be anything, and everything -- from a scrumptious dish to a splendid dress to a potent political tactic. Because this is how human psychology is programmed to think and feel and behave, everything that drags on for too long becomes a drag. And it doesn’t take long for the people to change their opinions about those who fail to understand, or who refuse to accept this trait of human behaviour. Like the shepherd boy, they steadily slide down from being clever to being outright foolish. Otherwise also, there is not much difference between the two – both being the mental constructs, a perception held about a person by others. No one can effectively survive in public domain if the popular perception about him or her is like the one the shepherd boy ended up with. The cost shepherd boy paid through his sheep and personal injuries was still manageable, but those attracting tag of foolishness cannot expect to be as lucky in the public domain!

Sorry for the clichéd story, but this could possibly explain why people in Kashmir are no longer interested in and moved by the so-called locus classicus of the political leadership about varied issues including their renewed vigour to safeguard the state’s special status and interests of its people. Now people have graduated to a level where they could easily look through the tricks of politicians – irrespective of what it is, and unmindful of who is the trickster. People have seen through the lies and deceit of political leaders of all hues and ideological groupings. They have seen how their support or passive aloofness and even visible disinterest have been marketed as their ‘approval’ by the politicians on either side of the major ideological divides here. People have been exploited for long without anything tangible yielding for them. Now they have no reason to believe false alarms or the passionate appeals, hollow slogans or promising dreams, unless the same are accompanied with proper explanations and roadmaps of how each step by the public in support or against anything is going to lead to the next milestone on the road to their freedom from varied types of ‘unfreedoms’.

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