Donkeys and kingdoms

In a recent post Austin Bay comments on an article from The Washington Times. The Times article quotes Saudi King Abdullah:

Saudi King Abdullah promised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a series of reforms that could give the desert kingdom an elected government within 10 to 15 years, says a senior U.S. official who was present when the two met in June.
“He professed to transform his country and talked about having a representative government within a decade or a decade and a half,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
The 82-year-old king made the pledge during a June 20 visit by Miss Rice to the capital, Riyadh, when he was still crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Bay expresses cautious optimism:

My headline pokes fun, but this is an intriguing report. The Saudis’ Magic Kingdom is under great stress– it will either devolve into anarchy, (temporarily) revolve into an Al Qaeda terror state, or evolve into “something more modern than it is.” At the minimum King Abdullah has given Secretary Rice a verbal step toward democratic change.

This report gives me an opportunity to re-tell one of my very favorite stories, a story with which I suspect King Abdullah is familiar and Austin Bay, perhaps, is not.

The Caliph, the Grand Vizier, and the Donkey

The Grand Vizier was walking in the garden with a friend and bragging, as Grand Viziers sometimes do. “I am the cleverest man in the world. My cleverness knows no bounds! I am so very clever that I could teach that miserable donkey over there to talk.” The Caliph, too, was walking in the garden, and overheard the Vizier’s bragging, as Caliphs sometimes do. Enraged by this arrogance he determined to teach the Vizier a lesson. Stepping out of the bushes the Caliph announced to the surprised Vizier, “If you are so clever, I command you under penalty of death to teach that donkey to talk. I am not an unjust man so you have a year to accomplish my command.” The Caliph then stormed off.

The Grand Vizier and his friend continued their walk in the garden, the Vizier’s friend somewhat astounded that that the Vizier was taking the Caliph’s command so much in stride and didn’t seem to be bothered at all by what had just happened. “O Grand Vizier, aren’t you concerned that you are now under penalty of death?” To which the Vizier replied, “My friend, a year is a long time. The donkey may die, the Caliph may die, or I may die. Or I may teach the donkey to talk.”

1 comment… add one

Leave a Comment