Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bishop Daniel’s Fables IX

(Chinese historical anecdote)

When the Celestial Empire
Was ‘opened up’ and started to acquire
Some customs and ideas from the West,
Some Chinese subjects started to protest
Against the flaws in their judicial system,
Seek out deficiencies, abuses, and to list ‘em,
And they prepared a formal memorandum.
We give excerpts from it, at random,
For shortness’ sake, because we never meant
To reproduce this lengthy document:
“The judges are corrupt and justice very slow,
(If ‘justice’ be the word for what is taking place)
All clerks and officers, both high and low,
Are taking bribes; it’s a disgrace!
Our courts have earned such a bad name,
That all avoid them. What a shame!”
Not all of this report was negative in form:
Its writers did propose some positive reform
Along undoubtedly West-European lines:
To introduce stiff penalties and fines
To stop corruption and to make, in short,
A decent place out of a justice-court,
Make justice swift and judges – honest men.
The paper duly signed, it was submitted then
To His Celestial Majesty’s consideration,
And after some deliberation
Came out the Emperor’s decree:
“Unwillingly, we must agree –
There are abuses in our courts,
Injustices of many sorts.
Suppose, we set out to correct
Those ills. What would be the effect?
Our subjects heartily abhor
The courts. But if there be no more
Fear of injustice, all our nation
Would be involved in endless litigation;
But as it is, no decent man
Will sue his neighbor, if he can.
Therefore, let all our customs stand.
Don’t change the courts. Keep off your hand!”


‘Police brutality’ you say?
But what for do they get their pay?
They should behave in such a way,
That one would heartily detest
Even the thought of an arrest.
Or should they sing this sweet refrain:
“Dear customers, please come again!”?

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