by Ian G Graham.
After 100 years the monster Polyphagous was aroused from an induced coma and with ravenous hunger and despair, he pleaded with his captors for freedom – to save the human race from its worst enemies, generosity and poverty.
Polyphagous argued that his freedom was important to humans. even if it was problematic. There are risks associated with freedom he argued, because it does not coexist with equality. “If humans want freedom,” he scoffed to the Grand Master of The United World Order (TUWO) who was listening to his plea, “they must let the lesser mortal dream for equality go, it can never be… never… and that being the case, why not set ME free to improve life for all living creatures and indeed the survival of the earth itself.”
The reason you’ve been held in captivity for 100 years is because you very nearly destroyed everything the earth had to offer with the much sought after freedom you believe you’re entitled to, returned the Grand Master as he sat outside Polyphagous’ especially designed jail cell in case its ravenous inmate awoke and tried eating his way out.
You’ll understand as you read on that this monster Polyphagous had an appetite that could never be satisfied…
The Grand Master continued, “While we have been experiencing very tough times in recent years because people are not consuming enough, including the rich who are being cautious, I’m not sure that I agree with the suggestion put forward by the chief finance warden that we give you a second chance in light our current difficulties. The question I put to you is: why should we put our trust in a greedy polyphagous individual with an unstoppable depraved appetite that has the potential to strip the world of its entire resources?”
To this Polyphagous of course, had a quick well-rehearsed reply, “Ah my dear Grand Master, you need greed, you need to get the rich consuming everything they can from every pocket of the earth and only I can inspire them. The poor will always be poor no matter what, but the rich if encouraged have the means to provide everything, if they can be greedy and self-indulgent. Eventually their wealth trickles down and everyone is satisfied, even your dependant lesser mortal types. When can I begin fixing things up? When can I get can out of here to make good?
There was a long pause as the Grand Master sat deep in thought for a minute or two before raising his head and staring down at an eagerly awaiting Polyphagous for his response. “Right, it’s against my better judgment but you are going to be given your freedom and another chance to see if you can make good. Our advisors have long consorted over this and advised me to pardon you, so now I offer you your freedom but be warned if things go bad I will have you immediately destroyed. You are to be released immediately.”
For those of you who need a more detailed sketch of Polyphagous, a good comparison is Ovid’s Erisichthon. Here’s a summary of his account…
Erisichthon was punished by Demeter (the ancient Greek Goddess of harvest and agriculture) for cutting down the sacred grove of Demeter, (very possibly to obtain fuel to cook his food,)
Trouble emerged for Erisichthon when he took an axe and cut down a massive Oak Tree covered in votive wreaths that symbolized answered prayer and Demeter’s response to earth’s people. In doing so he murdered a dryad nymph who in the throes of death put a curse on him.
The nymph’s curse stood and called up Limos, the spirit of unrelenting and insatiable hunger, to take up an unforgiving position in his stomach.
Erisichthon sold everything to buy food, but his appetite was humongous. He even sold his own daughter Mestra into slavery to make money to feed himself, but no amount of food was enough.
Eventually, his crippling need to overcome hunger ended his life as turned to eating his own limbs.
Back to our story about Polyphagous now you have some idea of what he was like. Polyphagous was a lot more versatile and clever than Erisichthon though, because he could convince people his greed had far-reaching benefits.
Here’s what happened…
Despite the resistance of a few who frowned on and quarrelled about his freedom, he convinced most that he would stop humans suffering in a soupy mess of apathy due to their lack of consumption… he declared that he could foster consumption better than any living creature in the history of living creatures.
On his first day of his freedom…
Polyphagous bared his massive open mouth lined with razor sharp jagged teeth, dripping with dark green mucus. Staring through two large, glassy, cold blue eyes set deep in his grey, leathery reptilian head, he seized with large clawed hands a sheep and ate it raw, followed by a sucking-pig. For desert, he swallowed sixty pounds of prunes, stones and all.
The next day he started out by eating…
Two bushels of cherries, with several earthen vases, and chips of a furnace. This meal was followed up by sundry pieces of glass and pebbles, a shepherd’s bagpipe, rats, various birds with their feathers, and an incredible number of caterpillars.
On day three his jaws were getting into a stronger rhythm for gorging and his capacity to consume continued to grow when…
He swallowed a pewter inkstand, with its pens, a pen-knife, and a sandbox. During this deglutition he seemed to relish his food, but was also under the influence of potations of brandy.
Enough was enough for Amis Jones, the nervous guard who was assigned to watch over Polyphagous’ habits. He sent out a communique expressing deep concern that a terrible mistake had been made in letting “… this monster loose.” He reported that things were rapidly getting out of control so, “…should he be punished… brought in for imprisonment or just eliminated?” Jones wanted directives now because, in his opinion, the situation was heading towards disaster?
His concerns were not an over-reaction, everything was at risk of being eaten as hour-by-hour the monster became larger and stronger. If the current trend continued soon there would be nothing left to eat in the world’s great food bowl – inanimate and animate all were on his menu.
And then when all seemed hopeless and the experiment looked like it would be abandoned with the likely execution of Polyphagous, the TUWO’s Chief Banker, came forward with a ground-breaking idea that would put the monster’s talents to good use.
What he proposed is that Polyphagous needed to be incarcerated and intermittently released under strict controlled conditions, enabling consumption to be used as lever. “Quick harsh biting episodes of greed are good”, argued the Chief Banker, “it stirs people into a purchasing frenzy, stimulates a false sense of importance among the masses… the what I’ve got and you haven’t got factor. It gets consumables moving out of the storehouses, off the farmlands and stimulates production. It then puts it onto the streets and into the marketplaces. It creates a Push-factor. The possession of such an affliction by the monster could be carefully employed for our benefit.
The Chief Banker’s theory sounded so convincing that it was unanimously decided by the TUWO it should be trialled immediately. Polyphagous had to reluctantly agree to collaborate. For him, it was either controlled greed or be killed off with a public burning at the steak.
And so ECONOMICS was born…
And Polyphagous lives on for the benefit of all humankind… many argue… although many disagree.