Stone Soup
By Ayatollah Sowe

Once upon a time, it's said that a Bard once wandered to and fro throughout the Land disguised as a begger, searching for signs of Mercy and Compassion by asking for often much needed help. All to often people told him they were too busy, just then, with their own lives to help Others in more or less dire straights. Many tried to ignor Him, pretending He didn't exist. It may be that they had heard the same sort of story from others, many times before. For there were many stories and rumors of excess, debauchery, and High Living among the Welfare Caste that turned many a warm heart COLD.

The Rich and Well-to-do folk of the village had begun to wall themselves off from the hoi-palloi creating secure enclaves for themselves, and were becoming quick to yell for their spiffily attired private guards and their watch dogs upon the Unwanted. They believed that Wealth should be able to buy security and insulation from the growing rumblings of the peaseants, who they were beginning identify as "Citizens" to disguise other more brisque and socially unacceptable terms. No one thought about protecting themselves from their own guards, who often came from the very social classes they looked down their noses at.

"Get a Job !" the "Taxpayers" said, yet Jobs and Training were always to be found Elsewhere. They had gone so far as to take the benches from their porches for those who had grievences against them - a once customary right. For customs were thought of as being quaint and outdated things - what was left over after the Profits had been squeezed out fads and popular culture by the Merchants over a year, a month, or even a week -- Yet the Law let them hold on to the Folk Music that they blantantly stole from more primitive Cultures for 75 years, and it all but ruined their own native Folk Cultures as well. They increased the "protection" of songs and cultural and historical works enough to destroy popular culture outside of the hands of the money grubber's. "History" meant the unfashionable as in "The Trash Heap of History", and Obsolete meant Yesterday's styles, or still working machines that the Manufactories wouldn't make parts or accessories for anymore. In some cases a hot selling item was considered just so much junk after a new and almost identical product was created to replace it, but not so identical as to be able to use the same parts !. In fact, many merchants found it more profitable to use slave or serf labor in less developed demenses outside of the Country, where common decency and human rights didn't exist. Of course, these scuts weren't doing slave labor, they were being "Re-educated". Unions ? No Probemo ! Your Workers dont't have any b>stinking Rights !!

In a Land that often prided itself on it's generousity, usually the King's Charity was the first resort. "Go to the King",they said, "He will provide your needs." Alas, the reign of Bress, an affable Miser, and his cronies Unmade the fabled Safety Net . They only wanted to spend the "People's Money on war toys, new dungeons, and more City Guards, figuring that Justice should be Just only with those who were able to afford Her, and Education was wasted on the Poor.. Justice had become much like the oldest profession, for When Money Talked, the Rich Walked".

"Go to the Temples", they said, yet what help could they be - They too depended on charity to be able to help anyone - so, they were often bereft themselves. In this and other cities of the Richest Land in the World, the Church Mouse starved, and backward collared theives stole from the Poor House to feed their condos, air conditioned doghouses, fancy cars, wardrobes, and political agendas. Often the City Guards rousted and harassed those who slept in their cars or even in the streets, having nothing else better to do with their time like catch criminals - they would trash what what meager possessions the Poor had eked out in the Process. Yet the Fear of Crime was on the rise...

Rumors flew that the Beggar-Bard was a Druidh, some said he was Lord Mabon, or Manannan, or even JC His very Self, come back to Mourn over his Wayward Flocks. He was certainly a Satirist and a Shownman ! He set a Cauldron over a fire (having most of the required permits, licenses, enviornmental impact reports and Mother May I's filed and paid for) and He began to wash some of the stones and place them in the cauldron's boiling water. Then He used a large spoon to stir the "broth", and religiously checked His Stone oup to see if it was Ready. Soon, some of the more compassionate villagers began to come by to add bits of vegetable and maybe some beans and chicken to the Stone Soup - enough to feed more than just himself - even having some left over for the next day.

Naturally the Neighbors and the Homeowners were incensed -- for this Begger Bard had gone far beyond what his permits allowed, he was actully feeding people against the law! He was harassed by Citizen's Committees, Neighborhood Activists, and the Mayor, his Village Council, and the Local Town Crier with much venomous outpourings and bad language. But, compromises were offered and accepted, and so the Tradition continues...


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