Before glaciers covered all the lands, there lived a tribe of rather primitive people, the Oogy-Mi-Booli. They occupied the forested region bordering the mountain steppes of what is now Lower Slobbovia. The village was on the only river in the area.
Sure, they could write and add and irrigate and such, but they were primitive in their thinking, in their predominantly short-term thinking. However, they thought themselves sophisticated because their economy was so complex. More on that later.
One evening, to everyone’s astonishment, a group of hunters had brought home with them a gargantu-nocerus, alive! Despite dispatching many of it’s kin, they had spared this one from the kill. Apparently, the gargantu-nocerus had spoken to one of them, the shaman. It wanted to make a deal. The animal was a young mother (after experiencing child-birth, gargantu-nocerususes lactate for life) who had just lost her only offspring to an even more gianter beast.
[Gargantu-nocerus milk was extremely nourishing; it was what sustained the hunters and allowed them to haul back such massive quantities of meat for the women and children of the tribe. Unfortunately, it didn’t keep. During a hunt, it was customary for the fastest runner to bring back as much milk as he could carry so that all the children in the village could have a taste before it went sour. Animals would chase him. Often-times, when the hunt was far, or the weather was hot, he would return with nothing but rancid butter.]
Upon arrival at their village (called Kshepaw-Oozju-Rendoo, where everybody lived in the same lodge-house,) the shaman called out all the villagers (which they found troubling, given the late hour – they had been tending to their pagan rituals) and instructed them on what needed to be done.
The animal in question, in a bargain for it’s life, was to be revered, made sacred, and placed in what was to remain, for all time, the most prominent spot in the village… on the roof of the communal house. It would be pampered, and cleaned, and fed, and attended to, and most of all, it would be protected from it’s other natural enemy, the enormo-saurusus (which stayed far afield of the human village on account of the smell.) The animal would be their de-facto emperor. In exchange, it would provide them with all the fresh gargantu-nocerus milk they could drink.
So the villagers got to work. A throne needed to be built, scaffolding had to be erected to reinforce the roof, and stairs needed to be constructed for the scores of volunteers attending to the behemoth which slept above their beds. Their prayers to the new emperor overhead would mostly be about structural failure, design flaws, and engineering specifications, or a desired lack, thereof, and sometimes, during the dry season, about getting more rain. Being mostly carnivorous – they ate some fish and insects, too – they didn’t need the rain for crops. They just enjoyed playing outside in it. The only thing better than rain showers, in the eyes of the people, was being ‘blessed from above’ by the animal’s showers of excrement. What an honour that would be, to be shat upon by the emperor! But first, they had to get the beast up there. Once they did, they could harvest the super-nutritious milk.
Needless to say, the task was a monumental one, but little by little, the throne was fashioned, the scaffolding and the stairs were built, and it didn’t all come crashing down onto the villagers’ heads. With this new supplement to their diet, gargantu-nocerus milk, the children grew up healthy, and strong, and with the belief that this lifestyle had to be protected, for the sake of the next generation. Stronger hunters make for bigger hunts. Bigger hunts make for more people to go on bigger and bigger hunts. Can you say ‘exponential growth curve’ or ‘doubling function’?
Every year, the gargantu-nocerodes’ genitals would be rubbed down and its musk would imbibe the rags. These rags would then be used to lure other gargantu-nocerodes during the hunt, making it less time-consuming, hence, more beasts could be felled.
One year, the emperor’s health began to fail, and another had to be captured in order to take its place. This tradition grew with time as did the need to expand the lodge-house. The hunts had never been so successful, and gargantu-nocerus meat could be smelled cooking for miles around, all day long. Boom-times !!
Well, with all the additions to the lodge-house, and with all the fires used to cook the Oogy-Mi-Booli’s meat, the forest in which they lived began looking more and more like the adjacent steppes, where the gargantu-nocerus roamed, treeless. The tribe’s economists (who were necessary now that the economy was booming) started developing insurance schemes, derivatives contracts, and other tools to mitigate the losses should anything really bad ever happen (of course, ‘really bad’ had only one result: doomsday. Nevertheless it re-assured the people that the smart ones, the bankers and businessmen, really did know what they were talking about.) It had gotten so bad, that the trek to get wood was now even longer than the trek to the hunting grounds. A generation later, there was no wood to be found anywhere, not even up-river, where the bankers lived.
The emperor’s excrement was gathered with nets (it was fibrous enough, given her vegetarian diet) and was used to stoke some of the fires (so much for manna showers – austerity became a noble goal,) but it was not enough. Eventually, people started to use wood from the lodge-house to cook their plentiful meat. When all the walls and the roof had been consumed they had reverted back to covering those surfaces with gargantu-nocerus skins. After the floorboards had been used, the scaffolding was next.
Life became like a game of ‘shortest straw’, nobody knowing when the shavings of wood they salvaged from the structural members of the scaffold would weaken it enough to initiate its collapse. The architects and the engineers (all the chief’s men) were called in by the shaman to reassure the people that “…at the present rate, the structure could withstand this whittling for decades to come, long enough, surely, to find a more permanent solution to this most pressing, but not by any means urgent situation. Everything’s fine; nothing to see here. No need to panic.” But ‘present rates’ tend not to stay ‘present’ for long; they grow.
One morning, while everyone else slept, the emperor’s head attendant peeled off some splinters of wood from the creaking structure to boil a pot of water for the emperor’s morning tea. Before anyone knew what had happened, they were all crushed by the weight of their utopic dream. All but the bankers, that is, but they all starved to death within a month.