Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was the Town of Nilo. Now as far as towns go Nilo was a rather small town, but the residents of Nilo were prosperous and happy. They took pride in their town’s central trade – pig rearing – and did it well. So well, in fact, that they were ranked among the top pig-rearing towns in the country.
Pig rearing may seem stupid and irrelevant now (and believe me, some of Nilo’s residents thought that too) but back then, pig rearing was the sought-after job. Pig rearers were paid the highest – of course, less than the factory farm executives they served – and the world had just entered what was then called the Livestock Revolution. The pig rearers of the town of Nilo were told that they were extra special, and they knew it too with their innovative, hands-on, pig-rearing skills.
As we all know, nothing that is prosperous is perfect, and the practice of pig-rearing had its bad sides too. For starters, pig-rearers (especially the wildly sought-after pig-rearers of Nilo) often ended up working at factory farms. It was known in the town of Nilo, even back then, that the factory-farming system was greedy and unethical, but the pig-rearers of Nilo worked there anyway. What other choice did they have? They needed to make money, yet the word “factory” became taboo in the town nevertheless.
But times were changing. The town was changing, and the residents of Nilo were waking up to the evils of the factory farms that they aspired to join. Moreover, the world was moving ahead, and Nilo’s innovative pig-rearing practices were not as flashy and unique anymore. Nilo needed something different, something unique to make it stand out, to make its residents feel special again. Why not capitalize on the relevance of complex changing political times and increasing anti-factory-farming sentiment?
“Pig-rearing for everyone.” That was the town’s new motto. For a rich cash-strapped town that was erected from the vast fortunes of the now-outlawed tobacco plantation industry, this was bold, ambitious, and revolutionary. Nilo was to place pig-rearing, long rooted in injustices and in the reach of only the elite few, into the reach of everyone, for everyone. Never mind that the town of Nilo had a deeply privileged culture that rested on hardworking residents from rich pig-rearing prep schools. Never mind that Nilo was in one of the wealthiest parts of the world, a region as bland elite as it could get, alien to many including Nilo’s own residents. As everyone in this little changemaking town was growing to accept, disruption is bad. Change is slow.
The hardworking residents of Nilo were told that – on top of everything that they were already doing – they were going to do more, going to get better. It wasn’t just about the pig-rearing skills, it was about understanding the context and implications of pig-rearing. It was about being angry at the factory-farming system but tempering that anger because they were going to work at those factory farms anyway. It was about feeling morally conflicted, but in that conflict finding absolvement in the idea that they were not like other pig-rearers, they had considered the ethics of pig-rearing. They were better.
As with any diverse community, there were people who didn’t care about the ethics of pig-rearing at all and others who saw it as privileged, saviorism, or hypocritical. But we don’t care about them. The Town of Nilo was one happy community, and it had finally found a fresh new purpose.
And the residents of Nilo got to work. Hard at work. In fact, they were ranked as the most hardworking residents of any town in the world. Some might even say that they worked too much. But what place does your well-being have when you’re changing the world? The residents of Nilo knew that they were special, that they could be workers and leaders and changemakers, and that all they needed to do was to try harder and be happier and more productive.
One of the first things to go was democracy. Who needs community meetings, who needs long boring town halls, who cares about the Nilo government? The town’s unique honor system was a performative joke anyway that had once been relevant in the town’s heyday. They were all distractions, time taken away from productive pig-rearing.
Next was space for reading and self-reflection. The residents of Nilo knew that everything they valued and thought about had to be relevant to their identity as pig-rearers, and anything else was a waste of time. “If it’s not pig-rearing, I know everything that is wrong about it” was the implicit motto that all pig-rearers knew as the way to stifle out anything but productive, world-changing, pig-rearing.And last to go, was fun. Well, Nilo had a vibrant nightlife that involved joint pig-rearing until 3:00 AM in the public spaces of Nilo, but anything else was taboo. If you weren’t pig-rearing, you weren’t changing the world, you weren’t living up to your full potential, you weren’t being a valuable person. But what did it matter? Nilo was still ranked as the 23rd happiest town in the world! The residents of Nilo could simply do everything, it was marvelous how they had everything and yet yearned for more. If you weren’t doing absolutely everything, were you even a true resident of Nilo?