The decades-old, on-again, off-again battles in the tiny, brutally impoverished, sub-Saharan country of Toomaltia flared up again two months ago. They have continued almost unabated ever since. To date, 178 men, women, children and other people—which represents over five percent of the population at the start of the fighting—have died in the current round of fierce skirmishes. There has also been an enormous increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but that may or may not be related.
No one has been able to trace the cause of this recent flare-up, but the dominant theory is that it had something to do with the price of lobster, a crustacean that nobody in this universally emaciated country has ever seen, let alone tasted.
The odds of reaching a peaceful solution lengthened two days ago when a new faction, the Toomaltia Libation Army (TLA), entered the fray, further complicating the situation.
The TLA is led by Jawbbahh Thehahtte, who was given control of the group because of his virile appearance, his ability to almost correctly pronounce the word onomatopoeia, and his often-proven ability to carve a soon-to-be-formerly-alive body into bite-size pieces using only a wooden toothpick.
On the bright side, the TLA is extremely fractious and it is doubtful that Thehahtte will be able to hold the group together for more than a few months. In fact, large bets have been placed on it disintegrating within the next 15 minutes.
So far, the TLA has issued two demands that it insists must be met before it will stop fighting.
First, all charitable groups with the letter “R” anywhere in their names must not be allowed to distribute food aid to the starving people of Toomaltia, i.e., the entire population. The name of the god of the religious sect from which the TLA draws its members begins with “R.” It is considered disrespectful for an infidel organization to include His initial in its name.
An outsider might view this demand as extreme and inane, but it is reasonable when considered in the context of the TLA’s religion. Under the religion’s dictates, it is a Cardinal Sin—punishable by death—to speak or write the holy name of the religion’s god. This prohibition inadvertently led to the crucifixion, stoning and immolation of an early drafter of this first demand.
The second demand is much more proletarian. The TLA insists that, because of the rampant poverty in Toomaltia, all banks operating in the country must offer no-fee personal accounts and distribute toasters to people who open accounts. The TLA may extend this demand to include business accounts should any commerce ever be conducted in Toomaltia.
Despite believing that this reform is a crucial element in serving the needs of the poor, the TLA has stated that it is willing to negotiate a phase-in period for introducing no-fee accounts. The TLA is disposed to grant this concession in consideration of the fact that there are currently no banks operating in Toomaltia and none are considering commencing operations here in the foreseeable future.
The TLA has contemplated making additional demands, and it may do so in the future, but it has not yet been able to agree on any because the demand-adoption process has been exceptionally painstaking. For example, a couple of members suggested that the group adopt a demand that the country immediately launch a program with the objective of ensuring that, within 20 years, at least 10 percent of Toomaltian citizens will be at least almost functionally literate. This would be a tenfold increase over the current literacy rate.
This resolution was voted down because the vast majority of TLA’s members did not know what “literate” meant.
The people who proposed and seconded the literacy demand also proposed another motion. That motion read, “Be it resolved that liberation is not spelled ‘libation’.” That motion was voted down because the faction had already bought business cards and it couldn’t afford to have them reprinted.
The greatest angst within the group arose as a result of indecisiveness over marketing strategy. The group couldn’t figure out how to brand and position itself within the insurrection market.
Some members suggested they should call themselves the government. However, they decided that this term would fail to gain widespread acceptance among the populace because the TLA’s primary enemy is recognized and supported as the government by a majority of Toomaltians and by a plurality of the members of the United Nations. In contrast, no countries recognize the TLA as the government of Toomaltia. And none of the mothers of the members of the TLA will admit to recognizing their children when they cross paths in a public place.
With the term “government” out of the question, the TLA decided to refer to itself as rebels, but it had to abandon that plan when it learned that another faction had registered a local trademark on the term “rebels.” The lawyer for the other faction sent the TLA a cease and desist order that threatened legal action and/or a massacre of all of TLA’s members if the TLA continued to refer to itself as rebels.
For a time, the TLA had considered adopting the label “insurgents,” but that idea was quickly quashed when it was pointed out that few, if any, Toomaltians have the foggiest of ideas what an insurgent is. The debate continues.
Beyond the marketing issues, because they are poor, the TLA has also found it difficult to acquire weapons. Being good Toomaltians, the TLA fighters turned to their womenfolk for assistance. The fighters forced their wives and daughters into prostitution. This helped a little, but because there are only 24 hours in a day and because Toomaltia has only a very limited number of Johns with money in their pockets, the funds raised in the round-the-clock brothels was sufficient to buy only three bullets and no guns.
A daring raid on another faction’s arsenal finally solved the weapons shortage problem. The TLA’s brave commandos were able to make off with 8 penknives, 12 slingshots and 56 very sharp stones.
Because of the copious blood that continues to be shed in support of their and other factions’ causes, all members of the TLA are hopeful that their demands will be met soon. The death and destruction are horrid. In addition, the TLA’s fighters wear rented uniforms. The garments have to be returned by a week from Tuesday or the TLA will forfeit its deposit.
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