Friday, May 18, 2012

"Something is Rotten in the City of Chelm" ~ A History Lesson From Chelm Part III

This post is a continuation from my story:

The Dangers of the New Highway System - A History Lesson From Chelm Part I
As the Big Event Draws Closer The People of Chelm Begin Asking Questions" - A History Lesson From Chelm Part II

"Something is Rotten in the City of Chelm"
A History Lesson From Chelm Part III

By: Dovid Teitelbaum

Please note: All characters and events appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people or events is hashgacha pratus.

To ensure you have a better understanding of the next saga, it's important to give you a better understanding of the internal politics of Chelm and how a once unified city became torn apart. I would also like to fill you in on some other happenings around Chelm so that you might better understand the current predicaments. So let’s forget about the highway for a bit and go back in time.

From the beginning of time, the tradition in Chelm was to pose all of Chelm’s questions to the city’s great Sage. Yes, questions in Chelm were part and parcel of the lifestyle. In fact, questions were encouraged. It was believed that, despite Chelm’s foolish reputation, it was only because of the questions that Chelm survived for so long. But that was the past. Today in Chelm questions are looked down upon. Even worse, raising some questions can get you excommunicated. How things got this way is part of the story I'm telling, but I digress. Of course the Sage was too busy to answer every question and concern of the people. He was able to deal with all of the major decision; but what about the average Chelmite, to whom was he supposed to turn to? And so that is how the wise men came to be. The wise men were there to offer guidance to the people of Chelm, for with whom better to discuss your way of life than with a truly wise man?

Now, I'm sure you're wondering who were these wise men and how did they come to their roles? Well, there was a time, but that was a long time before, when the Great Sage himself selected wise men and the townspeople then voted them in. This was a great system because the Sage would only choose the greatest of men and the fact that the Chelmites chose them too meant they were all very honest and respected. But again, that was in the past.

When did things change? No one really knows, but somehow as time progressed the wise men started choosing themselves. I know that sounds foolish, but it was Chelm after all. Some wise men inherited the position from their fathers who were indeed wise and others just found some followers. It could very well be that these wise men were smart people and meant well but they lacked the validity, charisma and support their fathers once enjoyed.

Either way, the wise men of today were very different than the wise men of the past. Wise men appeared all over the place and they each attracted their own crowds. People found the wise men they liked and just followed them. Picking and choosing your own leader might sound like a bad system but in truth the people of Chelm didn't really have much other choice. There was no way for everyone to speak with the Great Sage and there was no way of knowing which wise men were in fact as wise as they claimed. In fact this system had many benefits, as people chose wise men they personally respected and there was a very strong connection between the two sides. But this system also had a dark side.

There were many intolerable people who could only see the view of their own wise men. Yes these people might have meant well but their exclusive convictions left them extremely close minded. In fact, they believed that anyone who chose a wise man other than the one that they chose deserved all kinds of attacks. Somehow it became permissible to slander and defame other wise men and their followers as long as they weren't of the same kind. They couldn't fathom that maybe what was a proper way of life for one Chelmite was not the same for all the rest. They believed that only THEIR wise men spoke for the Great Sage. But the Great Sage never really spoke anymore and no one was really sure what his views would be in this new modern world with all its challenges. The Great Sage was so quiet that some even believed there might not be a Great Sage after all. Some claimed these wise men never even met with the Great Sage. But that was viewed as a conspiracy theory and you will need to wait for the end of the story to know the truth.

In and of itself, this would be sad but the truth was even sadder. If it was just the people, things would never have gotten so bad in Chelm. However, the idea of choosing one's own leader angered even some of the wise men. These wise men were very unhappy with this new arrangement, and thats a nice way of putting it. These were the same wise men who discouraged any form of questioning. Things in Chelm weren't supposed to be this way, they said. There was supposed to be one voice and that was the voice of the Great Sage, and only THEY spoke for the Great Sage. They believed that the simple people of Chelm shouldn’t have the option of choosing their wise men. The wise men must choose themselves. Why they believed this way will soon be revealed, but how anyone followed them is a bit harder to comprehend. They made it sound like they only had the best intentions for the people of Chelm, which sounded very noble. Whether they did or didn't was still unknown at the time, but as the saying goes, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. So while these wise men preached unity, in truth most felt they just wanted full control and were willing to get messy when they didn't get it.

Knowing all this, I'm sure you figured out that these were the same wise men behind this huge event. You might wonder, how in this atmosphere did the wise men who planned this huge event think they would be able to make all the people show up? At a time when no two wise men thought the same on any given topic, how would you be able to convince them all to attend this huge rally. But herein “lies” the mistake: most people didn't know the true intentions of these wise men, and how could they? The details of the event were kept very secret. And besides, like I said, the people of Chelm were trained today not to ask questions. And yet despite all that, it still wasn't easy for the organizers behind the event to gather such a large crowd and so they turned to ugly tactics. They tried many venues and while each one failed miserably they continued on.

At first they told the people it was all about the huge problems of the highway, hoping that would be a good enough reason to come since everyone had a family member or knew someone who was hurt by it. But just highlighting an obvious problem wasn't compelling enough to convince people to attend, and that’s why they said they have a huge solution. But the people of Chelm didn't buy this either. If there is a solution, why can't they just tell it? Why the secrecy? Why wait for the big event? Besides, what was wrong with the old style of getting the word out by posting huge signs on the streets? And even more, why couldn't they use the highway itself to display the solutions they had? There were so many available signs on the highway that could be used to highlight the problems, how to avoid the problems, and how to drive safely. Wasn't the solution meant for the people who drove on the highway? What would be said at the event can be said anywhere. These were obvious questions and blew a hole in the idea of a huge solution. They tried to say that they came up with new methods to keep the drivers safe, but the people knew that everything was tried and they were exhausted from it all. And besides if they had a brilliant knew method then just tell us. Why wait for the event?

The fact that so much money was invested for the event raised even more questions and the fact that most of the wise men were unknown by the community made people very uncomfortable. There was going to be a large expo at the event where “solution products” would be sold. These products, the organizers said, would eradicate the dangers of the highway once and for all. But people wondered, if these products were available why were they not used for the past few years? Why wait for an event when the concerns should be dealt with immediately?  Why did it need to be showcased at an event altogether? Wouldn't it make more sense to sell them at the malls along the highway where people would want to buy them? Besides “solution products” were always available, but they never cost any money before. These were some of the questions being raised and discussed, especially along the highway itself. These were very disturbing, and so you can't blame them when some people of Chelm began to question whether this event was one huge scam. And Chelmites, as you can imagine, were very accustomed to scams. For who better to try a new scam on than the people of Chelm?

The organizers had no choice at this point but to change tactics and so a new slogan was invented and the event became all about awareness. Unless everyone is aware we can't fix the problem. But this wasn't a new problem in Chelm and everyone was aware of the dangers of the highway and so this made less sense, even to the people of Chelm. And so to try and make this work they needed to convince the people that they weren't truly aware, and that's why they began to talk nonstop of the terrible dangers. They dug up every highway causality and put in on display. And when that didn't make a big enough impression, they even dug up casualties of people that died for other reasons and tried to fool the people into believing these were highway casualties. But when these stories were exposed, slowly, the people were realizing what was going on. It was just days before the event and so a change was needed immediately. And that's where they took a drastic new approach.

I say drastic because in the history of Chelm it was never used before. No longer was it about the dangers or solutions anymore, Instead it was about unifying the people of Chelm. Now, as I explained before the people of Chelm were anything but unified today, but the people craved to return to the good old days when the people were unified. This also had a very positive tone. Who doesn't want unity? But more importantly, who could say they were against unity?

And so even though the people were still untold what this event was all about, this became the new motto of the organizers. “Everybody will be there and so must you!” And so, once again, the foolish people of Chelm bought into the event, and tickets were sold. Anyone who dared question it was labeled divisive, someone trying to pull the people apart. All opposition was silenced and anyone opposing the event was excommunicated from Chelm.

How ironic is it, that what was a call for Unity turned into an event that became a greater divider within Chelm than anyone could have ever imagined? The call for unity was in truth a time bomb waiting to explode. But that takes hindsight and, to be fair, the people of Chelm didn't have that.

And that is what I meant by “Something is rotten in the City of Chelm!”

Part IV “Sometimes Things Need to Get Worse Before They Get Better”, (where the Chelm Mafia take over and then how a young 10 year old child saves the day!)

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