A Ship Of Fools

“Land in sight!” yelled the man from atop the mast. As you would expect, after many months at sea his voice was full of excitement and joyous expectation.

“It’s only a matter of hours and we are at home, lads. Home! Sweet Callonisi!” said king Archon, brave warrior and hero of the Megalonesian war. He couldn’t hide his excitement which was mostly owed to the imminent reunion with his wife, Queen Elpida. They had been 11 years away from home, 10 years at war and another year at sea. Their voyage on the vast Oceanos was as dangerous as the war itself. They battled with storms, with hunger, heat and thirst and yet they endured and overcame all challenges because of their unbreakable spirit, chiefly the spirit of their great leader Archon.

Archon’s ships sailed into the port that was exactly at the place where they expected it to be. When they put their feet onto the land, king Archon ordered the harbour master: “Send a messenger to the queen and tell her highness that the king has arrived and that she shall prepare a banqued worthy of a returning king and a conquering hero. For every year of our absence let there be a barrel of extra wine. Let everyone be dressed in their finest garb. Call all the music players and jugglers and proclaim to every person, beggar and prince alike, that today is a day to rejoice in the return of the king and his valiant men at our magnificent palace. Spare no expenses! Go!”

The harbour master didn’t move. He asked: “Who are you?”.
“Who I am?” replied the king angrily. “I am YOUR KING, THE RULER OF CALLONISI!”.

For a painfully long second the harbour master kept silent. Right at the moment the king was about the explode, the harbour master said “Forgive me, your highness, but this is not the island of Callonisi. This is the island of Faringos.”

“You are lying!” shot the king back. “Turn around and look! Right at the center there is the majestic mount Callimonas. At the left there are the massive Kefalos rocks. At the right there is the lovely, fruitful plane of Tingaki. Right between the plane and the mountains there is the village of Arantos right beside lake Malinos. I can tell you what is on the other side of the mountains. I know every hill, every creek, every lake and every village on the island. I’ve played, hunted and travelled across all of the island since I was a boy when my father, the great king Selinas, ruled. Now, go!”

By now the harbour was full of people, as it is always the case when ships arrive. Curiosity and the need to exchange news, ideas, gossip and merchandise were irresistable urges.
Equally great was the urge to keep order and so a detachment of hoplites had also arrived.
After a short exchange of words with the harbour master the detachment’s commander declared “This is the island of Faringos and our ruler is king Meronax.”

At this point it became clear to king Archon that he would have to fight if he wanted to topple the liar and usurper Meronax.
As for himself, king Archon was ready and willing to fight but he knew that there were many cowards and traitors among the upper ranks. Many of them he knew already but his spymaster was wispering the names of some he didn’t know in his ears.
Some of the cowards and traitors had been payed with gold by Meronax and were ready to stab him in the back at the first opportunity.
The King knew that he could count on most of his soldiers but he couldn’t win a fight without his upper ranks
“I know you are lying” said the King to the commander of the detachment. He ordered his men to board the ships again.

The king summoned the council of the stratigoi, the generals, to his ship.
After the king’s polemarch (supreme military leader) had opened the council, it became quickly clear that the cowards and the traitors agreed with Meronax. They argued that they had made a navigation error and that this was not their homeland but a different island. The cowards did so because they were too afraid to fight. The traitors did so because the didn’t want the rightfull king to take the throne since they were paid handsomely by Meronax.

However, there was also a faction of men who simply suffered from self-delusion.
“Had we only a different navigator! Had we only Neoagros! He knew the right course” exclaimed one of them.
“No, Kleombrotos should be navigator! He had brought us successfully to Megalonesia” interjected another one.
“We should have listened to Aristides and turn west instead of turning east after the isthmus of the cannibals.” said one of the traitors cunningly. (That route would surely bring them to the wrong place).
“We should have turned north at the island of Xerimos!” contended one of the cowards.
Of course, all of the cowards, all of the traitors and some of the self-delusional ones thought but dared not say “We need a different king”

When the council fell silent for a brief moment, a weak and fearful voice could be heared. It was the shipboy’s voice.
“MMMmy kkkking” he stammered but then he fell silent, too afraid to speak. After all, he was the lowliest in rank and the very fact that he had dared to speak without being asked to do so was an impertinence of the first order. Nevertheless, his loyalty to the king and to the simple soldiers as well as the sheer nonsense that was uttered by these men of the loftiest rank had impelled him to speak.
Now, however, fear overcame him and he was unable to utter a single word.
“Speak!” thundered the king.
“MMmy kking” the boy continued. “All ttthe ccourse corrections that are proposed are moot if wwwe don’t know our true location. If we don’t know our true location we cannot say how we deviated from the correct course or even if we deviated at all. Ifff Meronax lies then we need nnno course correction. WWWe have arrrived at our destination.”
“Perfect logic.” said the king while a big smile came over all of his face. Then he continued with a mild voice “My boy, you are destined for greatness. Henceforth you will be a member of my personal staff.”
The king turned his look towards the generals and an expression of deep disgust was visible in his face.

It was true. He couldn’t win with this bunch of traitors, cowards, backstabbers and fools.
With an abrupt gesture King Archon indicated that the council had ended.

“We will return to the last location that we know to be on the right path. From there we wiil travel again to our homeland. Polemarch, prepare the ships for the journey.”

Archon’s heart was heavy. Of course, he knew that they would end up here again, here at the same place.
His only hope was, that he could replace as many of the useless, treasonous generals as possible while his faithful soldiers would not become too dispirited. After all, they knew what he knew. They would follow him and fight ferociously, not because he was their king but because they had the same goals that he had. These simple men, however, were not stupid. They wouldn’t repeat the same useless thing forever.

This little story reflects the current state of America’s Republican party.
Unlike Plato’s ship of fools, the fools here are the “experts”, the generals.
I leave it to the reader to figure out who is who and what is what. After all, what’s the point of robbing you of all the fun?

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