Why some problems refuse to die

The ancient Buddhist collection of fables, the Hitopdesha has this story. A mouse occupied a hole in a lion’s cave. Every night, when the lion slept, the mouse would come and nibble on his mane. This annoyed the lion to no end, but he could not catch the mouse.

So, he called a cat to live with him. During the day, the lion fed the cat from his hunt and at night, the cat protected the lion. The mouse did not dare come out of its hole. Finally, after a week, driven by hunger it ventured out at night. The cat spied it, caught it and ate it. The next morning, the cat reported to its master that the mouse would never trouble him again as it was destroyed.

Free from the worry of the mouse, the lion no longer needed the cat and became neglectful of its welfare till finally, the efficient cat died of starvation.

The moral of the story was to not do your job so well as to make yourself redundant. This phenomenon is seen again and again today. Until 2011, many US critics suspected Pakistan to be in the ‘Bin Laden hunting’ business. No Bin Laden, no business.

Think of how many absurd news stories refused to die because they were too good to be laid to rest. In 2001, residents of Delhi were treated to the mass hysteria of the monkey man. A nocturnal monkey-like creature was supposed to prowl alleys, violently scratching anybody he found. Dozens of ‘eye-witnesses’ produced a confused picture of a being who could change his height from 4 to 8 feet and leap from building to building like a parkour enthusiast. Newspapers solemnly conjectured whether Lord Hanuman had descended on Earth or whether Bigfoot was on a world tour.

220px-monkey_man

Police Sketches of Monkey Man based on conflicting reports

Eventually, the lunacy died out. But before that, three people had died jumping from buildings to escape the monkey man. A pregnant woman who heard her neighbor cry ‘the monkey man is here’ panicked and fell down a flight of stairs killing herself. In various cases of mistaken identity, a van driver and a Hindu mystic were lynched.

Some of my office colleagues actively trade stocks and have accounts with brokerage firms. The brokers constants pester them with free and often useless advice about buying or selling stocks. The point being not to help the client get rich, but to earn a commission on every transaction.

As a popular de-motivational poster puts it:

Consulting: If you’re not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

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