Have you ever seen an old, neglected garden?
In its heyday, looked after with fastidious care.
Insect pests destroyed.
Plants pruned. Torn out and burned, in the case of them going very bad.
Animals kept out.
The result: a harvest that kept body and soul together for another season, plus some left over to plant the next year, along with more accumulated for the bad years.
The old biblical story. Seven years of plenty, seven years of famine. Seven fat cows, seven thin cows, and the thin cows gobble up the fat cows yet remain thin and bony.
The game of Hammurabi still fascinates me. The delicate balance of good and bad happenings in utter randomness. Pisses me off, too: I know it's random, yet sometimes it seems biased towards the bad for several years in a row. Killing off the citizens, selling some of the fields, is the only way to survive for the next year of growth.
So we keep out the barbarians, walling them away from our lives, carefully fertilizing and growing our culture. Building, growing, building, learning, building, sweating, building.
Then we get soft-minded. The barbarians become cunning. They can't get through the wall, they die in droves as they try, but they can send their starving and weak to us. Out of the pity of our hearts, with a lack of brains, we will take them in.
We invite weeds into our garden. Start to get hungry because we are feeding the useless and hopeless and worthless dregs of the barbarians. We are starving ourselves and too stupid to realize what's happening.
More cunning. More of the weak come to our walls, crying pitifully. We invite them in. This time some of them bring poison, sowing it liberally.
We look at them confused. We feed you. We clothe you. We house you. And you poison us. Why?
With the cloak of weakness veiling them, they don't answer, just keep doing what they do. By their actions we should be able to see that they are scorpions. But we are now too weak to destroy them or throw them back to where they came.
The garden is nothing but weeds now. Barren vines and fruit-trees that drop worm-filled inedible garbage. "Feed us! We starve!" cry the refugees from the barbarians. Other, secret barbarians keep up the poisoning.
Soon there will be nothing but desert with stones and random bones. The barbarians will look around at the falling-down walls, shrug, and go to find somewhere else to lay waste.
By sword or stealth, their thievery has the same effect upon all.