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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Parable of the Gnomes

Off in a faraway land named Gnomeville there lies a flourishing society of gnomes.  The gnomes of Gnomeville come in two different colors, Reds and Blues.  But unlike humans, whose racial differences are fairly slight, the two types of gnomes are as different as night and day.  This, of course, has caused a lengthy history of discrimination.

The first and most immediately apparent difference is the size; the Reds tend to be much larger than the Blues.  And unlike with humans, the sizes don’t vary terribly much within each race.  Ninety percent of Reds are between four foot three and four foot six, while ninety percent of Blues are between three foot five and three foot eight.

The size difference alone caused centuries of oppression for the Blues of Gnomeville.  For most of the nation’s history, the Blues were considered too weak to be boar hunters, Gnomeville’s most honorable profession.  Nor did any of the Reds believe that the Blues stood any chance of excelling at Gnomeville’s national sport, tackleball.  And of course, the position of runescriber could only be given to a Red, for only the Reds were tall enough to reach the sacred signposts.  Meanwhile, the undesirable position of sewer scrubber was obviously a job for a Blue, as only they could fit in the pipe system.

But there were other discriminations that weren’t so justified by the size discrepancy.  For instance, it was once widely accepted in Gnomeville that Reds possessed superior moral faculties.  This claim was evidenced by the fact that all of the most notable and respected positions (such as supreme boar hunter, tackleball champion, and chief runescriber) were held by Reds while all of the least respected positions (like sewer scrubber) were held by Blues.  And this in turn led to more discrimination, such as removing Blues from consideration for intellectual positions such as Mathemagician or Philosophister.

But over time, these attitudes began to shift.  The change was sporadic, coming in fits and bursts.  The most significant of these bursts was known as the Second Wave of the Azurist Movement.  The Azurists had recently succeeded in granting the Blues the ability to run and vote in Gnomeville’s biannual elections.  But the second wave Azurists set much higher goals.  They worked to get Blues positions as runescribers (aided by a novel invention called a footstool) and encouraged them to enter cademic areas where Blues were notoriously underrepresented, such as mathemagic and philosophistry.

Yet even these aggressive Azurists could see the sense in keeping Blues out of the most strenuous tackleball positions like bullseye and whumptaker.  Still, they were keen to point out that the Blues’ smaller size made them excellent candidates for the position of scurrier.  They also noted that the invention of the boarbane rifle allowed Blues to hunt boars nearly as well as Reds.

And eventually, the discrimination began to level out a bit.  Not entirely, but some.  Nearly thirty-percent of runescribers, every professional scurrier, fourty-percent of mathemagicians, and twenty percent of boarhunters were Blues.  This was, of course, seen as progress.  But the Azurists insisted that their work was not done.  Things still weren’t quite equal.  And, of course, there was still the pesky problem of philosophistry.  While affirmative action policies had filled nearly twenty-percent of philosophster positions with Blues, it was a thorn in the Azurist movement’s side that no Blue had ever achieved any of Gnomeville’s three notable academic awards in the field of philosophistry.  This was, of course, blamed on the deep-seated discrimination of the award committees.

But just then, a Spanish cognifunctional researcher named Gnomigo stumbled upon a very intriguing fact.  He identified the precepital humerocortex as the part of the gnome brain most active during philosophistry.  But more importantly, he discovered that the precepital humerocortex tended to be about forty percent smaller in Blues than in Reds.  In fact, of the two thousand subjects Gnomigo studied, not one of the Blues had a precepital humerocortex even two thirds the size of the smallest precepital humerocortex of the Reds.

So now Gnomigo faces a very difficult decision.  Should he publish his results, and risk resurrecting all the old hatred?  Or should he hide his results, and let all of Gnomeville continue to decry the “bigotry” of the academic awards committees?

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