In a remote area of an undeveloped country, a river came rushing out from the mountains, dividing just afterwards. Still further on, the two streams joined up again. So there were two huge arcs of flowing water enclosing a long, wide island. The surrounding terrain was mostly desert, but the villages beside the river could live reasonably well. No general irrigation schemes had ever been developed.
Once a small landslide blocked one of the branches of the river just below the division; all the villagers living on that arc of the river cooperated to clear it, thus rescuing their water supply.
The village situated at the spot where the river divided realized that they could dam up one branch of the river by felling trees into it, thus starving the villages on that arc of water. They trained themselves in the use of weapons. When they were an efficient fighting force, they began to blackmail all the villages, threatening to cut off their water supplies, either by blocking one arc alone, or even diverting the whole river into a deep cavern reputed to be bottomless. A few of the villages refused to pay the tribute, and attempted to conquer the village that was demanding it. But they were defeated in battle by the trained armed men and had to capitulate. The armed village now became aristocrats, living on tribute enforced by their arms.
A new, enlightened government came into power, and the head village realized that at some time in the future their monopoly and aristocratic life would be threatened. Looking far ahead, they selected a very bright boy who had a strong sense of village patriotism; they changed his name and falsified the records to make it appear that he had been born in another village. Then they arranged for his higher education at the capital, with special attention to agriculture and planning. They directed him to work his way up in the ministry which would ultimately control the affairs of this area. He was successful, and became one of the young assistants to the Minister.
As they had hoped, he was asked to prepare a plan for this area. It was thought that his local knowledge would be useful. When he presented the plan to the Minister, one of the proposals was to end the monopoly and tribute, and build a dam and reservoir to bring a whole wide area under cultivation.
The Minister scanned the papers and remarked, “You yourself come from that village, do you not? It has been kept secret, of course, but we have some good intelligence agents.”
His assistant looked surprised, but admitted, “Yes, it is true. But all that has to go. It is holding up progress.”
The Minister nodded, and the plan was published.
When the news reached the village, the father and uncles were horrified, and came in a group to see their protégé. His father burst out, “What are you doing? We arranged for your education, everything, so that you could keep our traditional position safe. And now you are using your power against us. Have you no loyalty, no gratitude?”
“Father!” said the young official. “Why do you suppose that I am entrusted with this power? It is because I can see the interests of the whole country, and not just the interests of our little village. If I were still thinking in terms of the advantage of one village, I should never have this official position. Our people will be given a good pension, but the blackmailing profits will cease. This power has come to me because I have studied and can see clearly the whole area. I cannot now shut my eyes and be aware of only the tiny area of personal interest.”