The fishermen

Once upon a time, there was a meeting between two tribes. Cause one was very prosperous but the other was suffering.

Both tribes had been living in the center of an island, large enough to sustain them for many many decades. Two big reefs, one at the west and one and the east -with warm shallow waters- provided them with plenty of fish. In the north, there were high mountains that sheltered the island from the storms. The mighty mountains were the birthplace of many streams and waterfalls, that poured down in a central lake. In the south, a big forest, with many fruits, nuts, and the medicinal plants the elders would use if someone fell sick. One tribe lived on the west side of the lake, the other on the east.

For centuries meetings, ceremonies and festivities were held near a big cave at the north shore of the lake. Close to the mighty waterfall. Everybody from the west tribe was there, all men, all women, all children, and all the elders. From the east tribe (the one with the problems) only the young leaders were present.

When everyone sat down and it had become quiet, one of the young leaders from the east got up and started to speak. He blamed the west tribe -who were spearfishing at the west of the island- to catch to many fish. That had to be the reason the fishermen of his tribe, spearfishing at the east, were not able to catch enough fish. Therefore his tribe was hungry, the children were crying, the men were spending all day fishing, from dusk till dawn, and therefore they had no time to look after the animals and the crops and therefore they were in a poor state.

When he stopped speaking, he sat down. And it was quiet for quite a long time. Uncomfortably long. They were looking at each other but no one dared to speak. A child stood up and took a breath to start speaking. But just before it could say anything, one of the grownups pulled it back into the circle and told the child to be silent.

One of the leaders of the western tribe stood up. Hey took the time to have a good look at young leaders of the other east tribe. He could see they weren’t as well-fed as the members of his tribe. That their black hair was dull en brittle and their eyes were filled with frustration and anger. For a moment he blamed himself for not taking notice. For not reaching out. Then he felt the pressure of coming up with a solution. Clever as he was asked for a few minutes, so he could speak with the other leaders of his tribe.

So they did. The two tribes parted and, formed separate circles. At the circle of the western tribe, many solutions we proposed. A lengthy discussion started amongst the leaders. What was the best solution? The child that wanted to speak earlier stood up again and wanted to say something but was silenced once again. After some time the leaders believed to have an answer all leaders of the successful tribe were happy with. ‘Let us give them some of our fish’.

A young mother who had been listening quietly stood up. ‘Is it true we only take from the sea what we need?’ she asked. Everybody nodded. ‘So when we give them some of our fish,’ she said ‘we will have to catch more. The men will spend more time fishing. So they will have less time to take care of the crops and animals. Eventually, we will have the same problems as the tribe on the east.’ Everybody nodded again. She continued ’why don’t we trade fishing grounds? We will fish on their reef, they will fish on ours.’

So both tribes joined the big circle again. When everybody sat down and was silent, a leader of the western tribe stood up. He offered the other tribe to swap fishing grounds. The young leaders of the eastern tribe were very happy with this offer. And so they did.

After a week the young leaders of the troubled eastern tribe wanted another meeting. They were furious. A new meeting was held at the big cave near the lake. And again the whole western tribe was there, all men, all women, all children, and all elders. This time the young leaders brought their bows and spears. Even before everybody sat down on of the young leaders jumped up and raged: “We have been fishing on your reef, he shouted, but the catch is even worse than before!” “And people tell me that you have cough even more fish than before on our reef.

Then the child jumped into the circle and, before anybody could put it back in her place, it started… ’My grandfather taught me how to fish,’ it said. ‘He had been taught by his grandfather, a great fisherman’.

A few grown-ups jumped up wanting to grab the child and put it in its place. But before they could one of the elders stopped them. ‘Let the child speak’ she said. ‘This child only 11 but it can catch enough fish for her family and still have plenty of time to play’.

So the child continued: ‘One day I was on the mountain. Almost at the top. From there I could see our villages, the lake, and both reefs. The one on the east and the one on the west. On one side I saw a fisherman with his spear. He was standing in the water motionless, waiting patiently, almost like a statue. In a blink of an eye, the fishermen threw his spear in the water and caught a big fish. At the other reef, I saw a fisherman too. With his speer held high. He ran through the water back and forth and he suddenly stopped. Ran again and threw this spear. He did not catch any fish that day. The child paused for a few seconds and looks around the big circle. Then it asked: “what is more important? Where you fish or how you fish?’

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