6 May


cavemen photo: cavemen sptfc063.jpg

As many of you may be aware, Owongo was a distant ancestor of mine, living early in the Old Stone Age, though he didn’t call it that. He merely referred to the times he lives in as “our days”.

Democracy in Owongo’s early stone age was a given, though.

It had to be: there were too few people in Owongo’s settlement for there to be anything other than democracy. After all, any important decision regarding the well-being of the entire community was taken by the entire community in a meeting attended by both dozen of them. Even baby Owongii had a vote, Owongii being Owongo’s youngest son and just short of what would be his first birthday when birthdays came to be recognised, which they weren’t back then.

And Owongo was, for the time being, the chief.

There was no vote. No secret ballot. No long convoluted period of electioneering. No Flintstone-style buses carrying the candidates from cave to cave in order that they might tell their lies to one and all in the intimacy of their own homes.

In fact, there were no lies.

That might seem hard to believe in our enlightened modern age with protracted periods set aside for lying. But back in the days when Owongo was, for the time being, chief of his tribe it was expected that in all things he would be truthful. No telling extraordinary tales of a wild bear rampaging in the almond groves a day’s good march from the settlement because he wanted to sneak all the almonds for himself. No accusing the painted spearmen from the other side of the valley floor of incursions into their territory because he fancied battle and bloodshed. No. Nothing like that.

It was expected that the Chief (which, for the time being, was Owongo) would be truthful and he was, with the smirking exception that he occasionally exaggerated the dimensions of his own penis when the subject cropped up, amazingly honest.

And if he were ever to be found lying there was a fit punishment for him, one that involved stones and the nearby duck pond and certain death. It had to be so, for if a leader was to guide a small tribe wrongly then the whole tribe might be wiped out at the drop of what in the future would be called a hat. One ill-considered decision would be all it might take for the limping tiger from the mountain reaches to not be seen and notice not taken of his whereabouts and consequently his hunger-driven attack not be prevented. Those were serious days and the Chief (in the current instance Owongo) had to be careful how he trod and what he said.

The time had come for the selection of a new Chief (not I use the word “selection” rather than “election”. Owongo was quite happy being Chief and the tribe was perfectly content that he was a good Chief, but after the turning of a year, when the snows went away (if there were any – it didn’t snow many winters but the people knew when it should snow and consequently were perfectly aware of when those snows should melt and be gone) it was deemed necessary to appoint a Chief for the forthcoming period – until this time next year, though the word year wasn’t in common usage.

So a meeting was called, and because it was a particularly important event a feast was prepared, fermented liquors in fired jars were called for and mischievous herbs cast into the glowing embers at the edge of the fire in order to relax the minds of any who chanced to inhale their fumes.

There was, of course, music, a rhythmic sort, created by a wild variety of percussion instruments, that pounded until it was in the minds of everyone present. The liquor was passed round until everyone could see everyone else in duplicate, and speeches were called for.

Owongo, as the outgoing Chief made his speech, a coherent affair in which he praised himself, his woman and his offspring ( and the might of his penis) whilst the rest of the small tribe applauded. Then there was a silence because second on the unwritten agenda he had called for volunteers to replace him, and in order to reduce the silence before it became embarrassing he nominated himself for another term in office, but made no promises.

He merely said “Owongo Chief again…”

And there was rapturous applause of approval, he smiled, his woman nursed Owongii at her adequate breasts and then Owongo sat next to her. The election was over.

And note: I repeat: no promises were made. No lies were told. They had the system just about right.

Hurrah for them!

© Peter Rogerson 06.05.15


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