Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Prince and his toothache

Having read the last edition of the Transition Free Press, it reminded me of the importance of story telling in the context of Transitioning, and how we discuss change.

With this in mind, and my recent safer streets campaigns in Tooting the following story came to mind.

As with many fairy tales, it starts in a familiar fashion:

Once upon a time in a magical kingdom lived a prince who reigned over all he saw. He was blessed with a kingdom of abundant food, the people lived in peace, and life was full of happiness for his subjects.

However, the prince had one weakness, he had a very sweet tooth. Living in this land of plenty and such a wonderful choice of food always on offer, including pastries, cakes, tarts and sweet drinks.

Before long the prince's sweet tooth was causing him problems. Fortunately he had access to wonderful dentists, and along he went for a visit.

The dentist welcomed the prince into his practise, and went about inspecting the prince's teeth.

"Oh dear," exclaimed the dentist, "this really doesn't look too good!"

The dentist went on to treat the prince's teeth as best he could. However, knowing that the real cause of the problems was the sweet tooth that the prince has, he recommended that the prince reduce the amount of sweet foods and drinks he was consuming.

The Prince having had his teeth seen to and 'fixed' for the time-being, soon forgot about his toothache and the advice given to him by the dentist.

Before long the toothache returned, and another visit to the dentist followed. This cycle repeated, until the prince grew tired of listening to the dentist. The toothache had become permanent, and the prince could no longer remember what life was like beforehand.

The toothache made for a grumpy prince who could no longer see the beauty in and around him. However, the prince did have a council of wise men who all had teeth. So, as the advice of the dentist wasn't to the prince's liking, he asked his wise men what would they recommend. The wise men knew that the real solution was that proposed by the dentist, they also knew that the prince didn't want to hear that solution.

Years passed with different ideas being tried. The wise men, after all, had a lot of teeth between them, surely they would know an answer. There was trouble now brewing in the kingdom. As people looked up to the prince, they too had chosen to ignore the advice of the dentist, and many more people were suffering with toothache.

One day a traveller was visiting from a similar kingdom, and saw the terrible suffering that these people were living with. The traveller was puzzled, as in almost every respect this kingdom was identical to the one he had come from. The difference was that his prince had listened to the dentist. The traveller had heard the tales of how all the different ideas had been tried (except that recommended by the dentist), and he came up with an idea.

He sought an audience with the Prince, claiming to be able to solve the toothache once and for all. To do so, the Prince would need to trust him, and do something that had never been done before.

The Prince after years of having suffered, and having seen his people suffered, acquiesced to the traveller's demands. The traveller asked the Prince to give the Dentist's solution a chance, to try it for a short period of time. After all, every other 'solution' had already been tried, so what did the Prince have to lose?

The trial was a fantastic success, and the Prince and his subjects were able to rejoice and enjoy the fruits of their kingdom once more and they lived happily ever after.

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The Prince represents us, our communities, his toothache the problems that motor traffic dominance presents us, the Dentist our highways engineers with evidence based solutions, and the wise men our politicians listening to the demands of the Prince whilst often ignoring the advice of the Dentist.

Hope you enjoyed the story. If anyone fancies doing a little picture to go along with it do drop me a line.

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