Once upon a time, in a deep jungle there was a community of bears. They lived happily for a while, until the jungle began to get hotter and hotter. The global warming was having its effect.
A group of bears got together and decided to migrate to a cooler forest further north. So they decided on a date, packed their belongings and moved to the new forest. The forest was far from any human community, so there was no chance of any child wandering into their house and eating their porridge or sleeping in their bed.
A few years later, when the cubs had grown and become teenagers, they started doing their own things. They started moving around in the forest and playing with other animals. They made friends with lion cubs, and tigers and hyenas, and even with snakes and bees. They did things that worried their parents considerably.
Initially, the papa bears and mama bears kept quiet and accepted things, because they were worried that their teenage cubs may not listen to them and may reject them altogether. However, after a while, in some of the parties and gatherings, papa bears and mama bears started sharing some of their concerns with each other.
Also by this time, the population of the bear community had grown substantially, because other bears from other jungles had migrated to this cooler forest and started to settle down with the original immigrants.
One day, some bears decided to form a society which they called "Bear Society" (BS for short). They started to organize social gatherings and get togethers. Sometimes their cubs would attend, other times they would just go off and do their own things.
The members of BS decided that to attract the interest of the cubs, they should organize special events just for them, and sincerely went about doing so. This was very good and many cubs attended. They met a lot of other bear cubs and made lots of friends. After a while the cubs decide to form their own club which they called "Cub Club" (or CC for short).
Brian who was a young cub, became an active member of the CC and helped a lot to get the cubs together and do things that they all enjoyed. But he noticed that after a while, BS members who were very impressed with the success of the CC, decided to use it to educate the cubs about the bear way of life and bear beliefs.
Gradually there was a shift in the activities of the CC and many of the cubs, including Brian lost interest. The CC declined drastically, and the cubs separated into their own small groups. BS members got very concerned that because of the decline of the CC, they may never be able to gather the cubs together, and the bear community as they knew it would die.
In the meantime, the cubs who had now become young adult bears, went about with lions and tigers and other friends they had made in the forest.
One day papa bear and mama bear were invited to a dinner party at a friend's house, and they asked Brian to join them. Brian who was away from the bear community for some time, agreed. After dinner everyone began discussing the CC and the cub problems. The discussions continued for nearly an hour, and everybody was commenting on what were the problems of the cubs, what were the solutions, and why these solutions have failed in the past. Brian very patiently listened to all the discussions until they finally ended. He realized that although he was the youngest bear in that party, not one bear asked him about what Brian thought were the problems, or if he had any solutions.
On the way back home, Brian was thinking to himself that this was exactly the problem of the BS. Although everyone discussed the problems of the BS and CC intensely and sincerely, not one bear thought of asking the cubs to define their problems or come up with solutions. Brian was thinking that if they are not willing to ask or listen, then how in the forest are they going to solve these problems?
This thought had consumed Brian until he decided it was time to take action. He called some of his old CC friends and got a small group together. They decided that they would attend the next Bear Seminar organized by BS and voice their opinions.
At the BS seminar all the now elder bears were pleasantly surprised at this resurgence of Cub interest, and were excited that this was going to be a good seminar.
After some formalities, somebody suggested that since so many cubs were present, they should discuss the cub issues. In their excitement, all the bears unanimously agreed. After some initial discussions, one of the bears suggested that they should ask the cubs what they think. Brian thought to himself `at last they are asking, but now the question is are they also listening? and perhaps most importantly, are they willing to trust us to leave our problems to us to solve with our own solutions?'
Brian got up and started to tell the bear assembly about some of his experiences. He said:
`As I understand many of you are concerned that the cubs are not living the way you used to in the old jungles. You are also concerned why we are drifting away from our community and making friends with our enemies the lions, the tigers and the cobras. You are concerned that we have become selfish and only think of ourselves, that we are apathetic and don't care any more. We understand your desire to rectify these situations.
`We also understand that your efforts in helping us are frustrated, and in spite of all the energy and good intention that you put into it, you are not getting anywhere. Even perhaps things are getting worse day by day.
`I remember the initial days of the CC and how successful it was. I remember how I met many of my friends who are here today, at those meetings. I remember all the fun that we had together. I also remember how things began to deteriorate, because you wanted us to live as you thought we should.
`Well, today I want to share some of my thoughts with you. You may or may not agree with them, but I am asking you to listen to them. I mean really listen to them.
`The forest that we live in today is not just another jungle like the ones you used to live in. The old ways may or may not be applicable here. You want us to be cautious about our old enemies, the lions and the tigers. You want us to go on picking berries, catching fish and destroying bee hives for their honey. But I want to tell you that if there is one thing we can learn from history, it is that history no longer repeats itself.
`What was right and normal when you were cubs is no longer the case. I want to tell you that I am not the only cub who thinks this way. There are many other cubs who share the same understandings with me. There are also lion cubs and tiger cubs and other animals who think similarly. Today we have learnt how to live with the lions and the tigers.
`One day I even walked up to a bee hive and started talking to one of the bees. He told me how frustrated they were because every time they made a hive, a bear came along and destroyed it for its honey. That they were spending most of their time building hives not making honey which is what they really enjoy doing. So I made an agreement with him that I would protect their hive, and they would give me half of the honey they produce during the time that they save by not building new hives. Now they are all happy and peaceful, and I get more honey than I ever did using the old ways.
`You see, the forest is no longer the same old jungle. Our real enemies are not the lions or the cobras or the bees. Our real enemy is the pollution created by man, the global warming and all those other things that are destroying our forest with all the animals in it. If we don't recognize these realities, we are doomed to be destroyed with the forest that we live in.
`The cubs of all animals today, have realised that the forest is different, and they have become friends. They realise that we are interdependent and the only way to live happily and prosperously is by cooperating with each other. Even if this cooperation means dramatic change from what we have historically been used to.
`The cubs also recognize that some of you mama bears and papa bears do not have the same perspective as we do. We are not asking you to change your ways or beliefs. All we ask is don't try to force feed us with solutions to the problems that you see. Many of these problems are not any issue for us. And many of the things that we see, you do not even understand.
`All we ask is please listen to what we say, try to understand them, even if you don't agree with them, and then let us come up with our solutions and let us implement them. You see, you have no choice, because sooner or later we will be running the community and we will implement our solutions anyway.
`What we are asking you is to let us have a free hand and a head start, because every day that passes with us patiently waiting for the right time, we lose one day of action, and the problems get one day worse. The forest will be diminished by one more day, and another species will become extinct for ever.
`Finally please understand that we are not blaming you for the problems. It is man who is causing this devastation. I plead with you to understand us and have faith in us that we will do a good job of solving our problems. Maybe in the process, we the cubs, will be so united and active that your problems will also disappear.
One way or another, to be continued in the years to come.
© Shahriar Shahriari
1994, Vancouver, Canada
FEZANA Journal - Spring 1994 - Pg. 29
Reprinted in: Parsiana - Jul-Aug 1994 - Pg. 78 - under the title "The changing Forest"
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