“It’s no use,” Gertruida says as she switches off the radio. “They’ll never stop this thing by taking out a few activists here and there. Oh, it’s good for morale and all that, but in the end, it’s pretty much symbolic.”
“Oh, come on, Gertruida…you’re in one of your black moods again. Russia and France are bombing those terrorists, and the police all over Europe are doing a magnificent job in unravelling the network of activists. How can you say it’s ‘symbolic‘?”
“All I’m saying, Servaas, is: too little, too late. Let me tell you one of !Kung’s stories…”
Once upon a time, many, many winters ago, the quiet life of the people living in a remote village was disrupted by a hyena. It was a huge beast, with fierce fangs and huge jaws.This hyena had developed a taste for the villager’s children, which naturally upset the parents tremendously. They held many meetings and spoke of the beast in hushed tones, calling it a coward and a thief – but still they didn’t do anything. Eventually, after yet another attack, they called on all the men in the village to hunt this animal down.
This they did, and after many bloody skirmishes, the men returned triumphantly, proclaiming their victory and boasting about their bravery. The villagers relaxed, painted many pictures of the battle on many rocks, and made up new songs for their warriors.
But, in the hills, something happened they didn’t know about. The Hyena had had a pup: a small and furry little animal that cried at night after the loss of it’s father. Some people from a neighbouring village heard the pitiful sobs, looked for and found the cute baby animal.
“What is this poor baby doing all alone? See how hungry it is! It is our duty to feed it and help it grow.”
And this is what they did. The shaman in the village took care of the pup, feeding it and making it strong again.
One day, the little hyena spoke to the shaman, telling him how bad men had hunted his father and killed him for no reason. The shaman felt exceedingly sad upon hearing this and promised the young animal that no such thing would ever happen to him.
“Look, I have cared for you,” the shaman said, “and now you’re big enough to go back into the wilds. But you’ll be hunted, like your father was. This cannot be. Here, drink this potion, it’ll protect you. No hunter will be strong enough to kill you now.”
And the young hyena took what the shaman offered, drank the potion and felt how it made him stronger. Then it left to seek out his own in the wilderness.
Some time later, some hunters found his tracks and followed it. When they saw the fully-grown hyena, they ran back to the village.
“Ayee! Ayee!” They shouted for the people to hear. “There is a hyena in the veld again. We must kill it at once!”
And so the men took their bows and arrows, their spears and knives, to go and find the hyena. This they did, and a fierce battle ensued. Eventually one of the marksmen managed to kill it with a well-aimed arrow.
“Let us cut off his head,” they said amongst themselves. “The women would be most impressed.” And this, too, was done.
While the villagers celebrated their brave warriors, a strange thing happened out there in the veld. On the corpse of the hyena, a new head grew. The shaman’s magic was working.
And the hyena continued to feed on the villager’s children, no matter how many times they hunted it down…
“Kung told this story about how some people never stopped doing bad things – he called them many-headed hyenas.” Gertruida nods at Boggel to order a round of drinks. “But it has a wider meaning than that. Evil – once it is nurtured and fed – will keep up it’s destructive ways once it has progressed beyond a certain point.”
“But the Muslims…”
“No, Servaas, this has nothing to do with religion. The evil isn’t confined to a certain way of believing, a certain culture or a specific race. The evil was fed by politicians to attain political goals. But now the hyena is out there and he doesn’t need the shaman’s protection any longer. We can cut off its head many times…only to prove it’ll grow back every time.”
“So what can we do, Gertruida? Surely there must be some way…”
“It’s the most difficult problem, Servaas. The shaman created it…it must now stop feeding it. And I’m not sure that’ll happen.”
“You mean the politicians?”
“Ja, that, and the media, the religious leaders, the financiers, the suppliers, the fanatics and the fundamentalists. And I can’t see that happening. The pup has grown up. Now its got too many heads…”