Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Empire of Wiu-Wiu

(Zack, Nat and Max are sitting at their regular table discussing goodness-knows-what. Just then Nat gestures to Zack to stay still.)

Zack: Wha - what's going on?

(Nat frowns and even more insistently motions to him to keep still, while his eyes are trained on Zack's face. Suddenly, Nat deals Zack a heavy slap. Zack falls out of his chair, exclaiming in anger, shock and hurt.)

Zack (scrambling to his feet): Are you crazy or what? What was that for?

Nat (apologetically): Sorry, Zack - but there was a mosquito feeding on your neck. Unfortunately, you moved at the last moment and I missed. At least I don't think it got the chance to suck any of your blood - are you itching?

Zack (irritably): Did you have to use so much force? Are you sure it was only the mosquito you wanted to kill? Why stop there - why not carry the whole table and use it to break my head?

Max (grinning): What's your problem? Do you expect him to stroke the mosquito and gently beg it to come into the warm embrace of his killer palm?

Zack (jokingly): Take your time o! If you keep on talking like that, I might 'discover' that there are mosquitoes which have settled on your arms, head, neck, legs and body - mosquitoes which need to be killed with - very - heavy - slaps and blows.

Max (in mock surprise): You - you mean would actually do that for me? You would be willing to place your life at risk by undertaking the suicidally dangerous task of slaying the deadly killer mosquito? I'm truly touched. Indeed, I say unto you, greater love hath no man than this, that he be willing to stain his hand with a mixture of mosquito and human blood for his friend.

Nat: I'm a bit surprised that this mosquito didn't announce its arrival in its usual manner before settling on you, Zack. Did you not hear anything?

Zack: No... it may have just been too noisy. But that just shows you how stupid mosquitoes are, anyway. Flying around with that whine before biting is just like a thief sending you an appointment letter before burgling your house.

Max (shrugging): Who knows? Perhaps the whine serves as a decoy. Maybe mosquitoes operate in pairs... one mosquito says "OK, Iiiwuwiwu, I'll distract him by buzzing around his ears, and while he's waving me away from his face, you bite his feet." The mosquito may not be as stupid as we think.

Zack: Come on, Max - don't complicate a simple scenario. There is no point to the whine - the mosquito is simply too stupid to realise that its noise not only reduces its chances of getting a meal, but drives human beings so crazy that they declare all out war and try and stamp it out.

Nat: Really? I thought that the reason that we were trying to exterminate the mosquito was because it spread malaria - at least in this part of the world.

Max: We're trying to exterminate the mosquito? Nobody told me about that. I thought that with all the open gutters and floods around, the state government had launched a special 'Mosquito-Breeding' program. I don't quite know why, though - perhaps the government is tired of begging parents to bring their children for vaccinations and has decided to use the mosquitoes as a means of 'naturally' injecting the vaccines, instead. (Grinning evilly) In fact, that reminds me - Zack, I think your Ministry of Health would be directly responsible for this... would you care to shed some more light on this?

Zack (sighing): Those people in the ministry aren't serious - they're more interested in chopping money from issuing contracts. The sad thing is that if this government were serious, the mosquito would have been eradicated a long time ago! It's a simple enough matter - all the government needs to do is to have a regular programme of spraying stagnant water in public areas with insecticide, and to educate the populace on personal measures they can take to prevent infection and mosquito breeding - like ensuring there's no stagnant water nearby, and using mosquito nets.

Nat: You put it down to government incompetence. I put it down to citizen poverty. You can talk all you want about educating the citizenry, but try telling that to someone who has to choose between eating for the day and buying a mosquito net. Try telling that to someone who has to work so many hours a day that they are too tired to think of clearing their environs when they return in the evening.

Zack: I can't believe that someone would be so short-sighted to put a meal ahead of their health. For heavens sake, a mosquito net is not that expensive! And I don't buy that 'too-tired-to-clear-their-environment' argument either. What are Saturday and Sunday for?

Nat: (patiently): Zack, you're overlooking the fact that the more precarious a person's existence is, the more short-term his vision is. The possibility that a poor person might catch malaria in the future means less to him than the certainty that he is hungry right now - even though the consequences of catching that malaria are more serious. In short, anything that isn't geared towards immediate survival - be it clearing environments or buying mosquito nets - simply does not show up on his radar.

Max: And that's the problem, Zack - your ministry simply does not do a good enough job of terrifying citizens into taking malaria more seriously than getting their daily meal. I mean, I remember when I dropped in to see you at the ministry a few weeks ago, and I saw this poster with the slogan "Please Protect Yourself Against Malaria - Buy A Mosquito Net". Man, that was so dry I could feel my life being sucked out of me. What your ministry should be using are messages like this:

"Malaria will first cause your blood to heat up like fire. Then it will tear your joints apart one by one. You will begin to leak blood from your nose, mouth, eyes and ears. Your skin will burst forth in a thousand sores full of pus. You will convulse like someone who has been given several electric shocks... and finally, you will end up dying in extreme agony in a pool of your waste and vomit.

"And then, having completely destroyed you, malaria will start on your friends... your family... your loved ones... and just because you were too lazy to get a mosquito net."

Nat: Is it ethical to bend the truth like this, even if it is so that people take malaria prevention seriously? Don't you think people might take the ministry to court if they don't come down with these symptoms?

Max: Nonsense. This isn't America where people sue at the drop of a hat. And it's not like the ministry have signed some sort of contract with the populace to ensure that they get experience these symptoms. Heck, the whole point is to discourage them from catching the illness and experiencing the symptoms!

Zack: Max, we're a serious organisation! We can't go round making all sorts of wild and ridiculous claims - if people realise that we're trying to scare them by distorting the truth, then we lose our credibility as an impartial and reliable source of information.

Max (in mock surprise): The Ministry of Health is an impartial and reliable source of information? Obviously nobody has told me about that... I thought it was just a vehicle for the aggrandisement of the minister and the state governor. In fact, I seem to recall you mentioning this yourself in one of your tirades.

Zack (defeated): All right, all right. But if we are to aspire to be credible, we can't do what you're suggesting.

Nat (musing): Of course, it would be much easier to resolve this matter if mosquitoes were an intelligent species.

Max: Are you out of your mind? Look at what happens now when mosquitoes are as dumb as they are - we're still having a hard time exterminating them. Imagine what would happen if they became intelligent - they would be our lords and masters! Instead of the many nations that we have now, we'd have the Empire of Wiu-Wiu, ruled over by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Iiiiuwiiiwiiiuiwuiiiu III!

Nat: Not necessarily. Think about it - the reasons mosquitoes bite us now is because they are too stupid to realise that it ends up annoying us and it brings further destruction upon their heads. Also, their stupidity means that they can't communicate with us, and we can't tell them how annoying their whine is or how deadly their bite is. If they were intelligent, we could communicate with them and come to some sort of arrangement.

Zack: What arrangement? That we offer sacrificial humans who will willingly submit themselves for a round of biting in return for peace and quiet for all mankind?

Max: No - wait, Zack. I think Nat may have a point. If they are intelligent and we have something that they want, then there is the wonderful prospect of trade. An enterprising person can arrange for people to sell human blood to the mosquitoes in return for various services that they can provide.

Zack: What can a mosquito do that we might be interested in?

Max: Think numbers, my friend - numbers! A trillion mosquitoes could form the backbone of a very efficient and secure transportation network. For example, instead of transporting fuel through those pipes that are always being punctured by vandals and thieves, we could arrange to have mosquitoes suck up the fuel and fly it to its destination. Of course, I'm assuming that since the mosquitoes are intelligent, they will have developed a way of lining their stomachs so that the fuel doesn't poison them as well as increasing their carrying capacity.

Nat: More worryingly - how do you propose to get the human blood?

Max: What are you talking about? Don't you see those people who are always hanging around hospitals so that they can sell blood to people who have been involved in accidents? I'm sure there are more people like that who will be happy to trade their blood for money.

Zack (shaking his head): This is a very unsavoury slippery slope. One day, you'll hear of people selling their blood for money... the next day, you'll hear of people who are forced at machete-point to sell their blood for money... and it won't be long before people are killed for their blood to be sold for money.

Max (rolling his eyes): Na wa for paranoia!

Nat: It'll be much safer if we can invent some alternative fluid which we can sell to the mosquitoes instead. After all, mosquitoes can live off plant nectar, so they don't really have to drink our blood.

Max: I protest! As an advocate for mosquito rights, I challenge your attempt to curtail the mosquito's God-given right to feast on whatever meal it likes, especially where nobody is being harmed. How would you feel if the mosquitoes dictated to you what to eat or not?

Zack: You're not fooling anyone here. Advocate for mosquito rights? More like advocate for Max's pocket. And tomorrow you'll start complaining when we accuse you of being prepared to kill your fellow man just to make money.

(Just then Nat gestures for Zack to be still.

Zack cautiously mimes the act of a mosquito flapping its wings, points to himself and raises his eyebrows questioningly.

Nat nods his head and again motions him to be still.

Max gestures to Nat to take it very easy.

Nat lowers his hand slowly... slowly... until he is within striking distance.

Then just as his hand begins to move, he hears a high-pitched whine so loud that even Max can hear it. This makes him swerve and cause his hand to go off target and connect with more force than intended...)


Max (wryly to himself): The agents from the Empire of Wiu-Wiu strike again...


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