The Owner has told me not to drink from the pond. She says there are lots of things floating in it that I should not swallow, and not all of them are ducks.
The Owner is occasionally wise about many things. I have, for example, still not worked out where the cheese grows yet she seems to be able to obtain it readily. On the subject of the pond, though, I feel she is a little fascist. Bravely, remembering that I stand for comrades all over the park who wish to claim the water as Our Own, I look her in the eye and I drink.
Later, as it comes unaccountably back out again, she says, have you been talking to Jeremy the Beagle again?
I might have been, I say.
She says I bet he said it’s public water didn’t he? Water that nobody should have to pay for? Water that greedy Fat Cats have tried to keep for themselves?
He might have done, I say, remembering how we all cheered.
Did Jeremy the Beagle say you were to take back Ownership of the water? She asks piercingly.
I admit that he did suggest we should all drink as much of it as possible. It is our water, I say. Nobody can take it from us. There was also some mention of Cats who were on the chubby side after eating too much of the pie, I say, remembering how we all growled particularly at the idea of Cats that had both the water and the pie.
This, says the Owner, is a classic example of Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons. Hardin said if you make something public property everyone takes more than their share, and as a result the common resource is lost.
I say Jeremy says we are no more common that the cats and this is just another example of class oppression.
Look, she says. If nobody manages the water fairly what is to stop Lucifer from drinking it all ? If nobody puts the water into pipes under the ground what is to stop the ducks from doing unspeakable things in it? If nobody cleans the water that the ducks have done unspeakable things in, what is to stop you from throwing up all over the kitchen?
I agree that clean water piped directly to the kitchen does seem, in the context of the present situation, to offer some advantages to the Moral Dog.
Okay, she says. Does Jeremy the Beagle say the Fat Cats have managed the water badly?
I say I realise that she is still mopping and therefore supersensitive but I say there was some mention of them managing it quite well, but the proletariat do not want their water to be managed by Fat Cats. Cats are unpleasant enough when they are thin.
I see, says the Owner. So it’s not free water that Jeremy wants, but water that isn’t managed by Cats who have eaten too much pie?
He wants it managed by the proletariat, I say. The Fat Cats are the Oppressors of the Masses. They have taken our pie and given us nothing but clean water, a regulated supply and a guarantee that it will always be on tap.
So, says the Owner, who seems to be pursuing this point for reasons I cannot elicit, if the water was manage by thin dogs who had no pie would you be happier?
I realise I am trapped. I do not want to sound cattist, nor do I want to sentence dogs to no pie at all. I suppose thin cats or thin dogs, I say, as long as they did a good job. You would need the very best cats for such a job. Or dogs.
And would you insist that they remained thin as a condition of their employment, she asks, or would you allow them a reasonable amount of pie for performing this excellent service?
They could have some pie, I say, as long as it’s a fair rate of pie for the job.
And who decides what’s a fair rate of pie for the job? Asks the Owner.
Jeremy the Beagle has a view on this, I say. Cats should not have the opportunity to be fat, although dogs might be given some leeway since it is sometimes a matter of a slow metabolism.
And is Jeremy himself a thin dog? She asks with uncanny perception.
Jeremy is a little scrawny, I say. He does not like pie and so lives frugally on biscuits and pond water.
So, says the owner. Let’s be very clear. Jeremy the Beagle, who lives on biscuits and pond water, says it’s your water and he wants to take it back for the proletariat. But when he does he will still need thin cats, or possibly fat dogs, to clean it and regulate it and pump it to the taps, and he will be happy to allow them pie for doing this. Jeremy’s real concern is not that the water should be free but that cats should not be fat, and that dogs should only be fat if they have a slow metabolism.
That’s about it, I say, although I got the metabolism part from a Labrador outside the bakery.
Good, she says, I am glad we understand that. And who will pay for the pie that Jeremy supplies to the thin cats or metabolically challenged dogs in return for this very important public service? One that demands the very best thin cats and blamelessly fat dogs and the hardest work that money can buy?
We will pay, I say. Perhaps we will pay some kind of utility bill.
Right, says the Owner. So we will vote not for taking back the water but for paying thin cats and dogs who are obese through no fault of their own a fair rate for the job through some sort of utility bill. And if the cats start to look a little podgy we could insist that they share more of their pie with the proletariat. Through taxing the excess pie, perhaps.
That’s an excellent idea, I say. I am sure Jeremy will be thrilled to know that there is a much simpler and more sensible way than his to ensure that the cats will not be nearly as fat and the metabolically challenged dogs will have pie. I expect he will wish he had thought of the Owner’s idea. The proletariat did not need to seize control of the pond. We can supply clean piped water to the proletariat without simultaneously oppressing them. I wonder how many other of the utilities could be solved by the Owner and I chatting whilst I experience reverse eating in the kitchen.
Just think, I tell the Owner, how much more I could have achieved if I had not had to drink the pond.
You should explain that to Jeremy the next time you see him, she says.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.