【明報專訊】Once there was an emperor who was taken from his warm bed with the finest cotton sheets, fluffy down pillows and silky soft blankets to a dark and gloomy place. To put it bluntly, this person was now in hell.
Sitting in judgement from a high, imposing seat was the god of hell, whose duty was to decide the fate of each soul, based on a record of one's deeds while on earth.
"What sort of emperor were you?" demanded the god in stern tones. "Speak the truth or your sentence will be doubled!"
"Oh, your worship, I confess that I was quite a lazy one," stammered the frightened soul. "My health is poor and my energy level so low that it's really hard for me to handle all these affairs of state（國務）day after day. What's more, I'm sensitive by nature and can't cope with any stress, criticism or negativity. Furthermore..."
"Enough! Silence! Stop your babbling excuses, you fool. Minions（來人；僕從）, read out the charges."
So the minions read out a long, long list: under this emperor, his ministers were allowed to increase taxes, accept bribes from large companies, sell parkland to developers — the misdeeds were countless.
"Well, what do you have to say to all these accusations? All this happened on your watch. What were you actually doing while all these terrible things were going on?" The god of hell glared at the wretched soul fiercely and caused him to tremble with fright.
"I'm afraid I must have been resting, sleeping or travelling abroad. As I tried to explain earlier, my poor health prevented me from taking a very active role in governing the country," the emperor replied in a small voice.
"Hmph," scoffed his judge. "Do you know what sentence we handed out to your ministers? They're in the deepest part of hell right now. Do you have any idea what your own sentence is?" The emperor looked glum（沮喪的） and shook his head.
The god of hell called out, "Minions, take the emperor up to heaven at once!"
The minions were shocked and some began to mutter, "What's going on? What sort of justice is this? It's so unfair!"
The god of hell gave a cold laugh and said, "Look at it this way — true, this ruler didn't try to stop corruption and bribery during the period when he was in power. But can you imagine what would happen if such a fool attempted to put into action his own schemes? The world would be turned upside down! It would be a disaster, a catastrophe; countless innocent people would suffer, the country would be turned upside down. Hell would become so crowded we'll be working overtime!"
On hearing these frightening words, the minions hurried to send the little emperor on his way.
■Something to discuss
Would you prefer a ruler who's active or passive?
■Text: A Lamb