Once upon a time there was a turkey farm that grew so large that no one had ever seen one so vast. There were so many turkeys that, over time, the turkeys began to specialise in what they did. There were turkey-surgeons with white plumage, who operated on other turkeys. There were turkey-physicians, with fancy black and white plumage not unlike a human frock coat, who were called in when no one knew what to do. The turkey-physicians didn’t know what to do either, but were very good at making it look as if they did, which made everyone feel better. There were turkey-apothecaries, always busy in their brown aprons, handing out this pill and that potion. Over time, the turkey-apothecaries renamed themselves turkey-GPs, which made them feel more important, but no one else was fooled, and the turkey-GPs carried on doing what the turkey-apothecaries had always done, the over-worked under-appreciated back bone of Turkey Farm. There were even mad turkeys, as they were affectionately known, whose plumage tended to look as if they had been dragged through a hedge backwards, whose job it was to lock up deranged turkeys. No one liked locking up fellow turkeys, but sometimes it had to be done, and it was the mad turkeys who did it.
All the while Turkey Farm grew bigger and bigger. The turkey-GPs got rather out of order, handing out too many pills, often of the wrong kind. A board, called NITE (the National Institute for Turkey Excellence), was formed, to call the unruly turkey-GPs back into line. Over time, NITE extended its grip to all turkeys, but no one really minded, because all NITE did was produce guidelines, and any turkey worth its feathers knew – or thought it knew; in fact a dangerous precedent was being set – that it was free to ignore NITE’s guidelines if it wanted to. But, as time went by, NITE became more powerful, and turkeys less autonomous. Some of the turkeys, who called themselves evidence based turkeys, thought this wasn’t such a bad thing after all. The rest didn’t like it, but put up with it all the same, because that is what turkeys do. Generations of turkeys had learnt the hard way you can’t fight the inevitable. That, after all, the turkeys said to each other, is what we turkeys call the Christmas Message.
One day, a small speck appeared high in the sky above Turkey Farm. The turkeys were so busy on the ground they did not look up and see the small dark speck high in the sky above them. Had they looked up, they would have seen a bird very different to them, with a powerful sharp beak and gimlet eyes behind steel rim glasses. On some days, this strange bird wore what looked like a white nest on top of its head, but in fact it was a small wig, which made the strange bird look silly, and so less threatening. None of the turkeys were the least bit worried about this strange bird, which was a mistake, because it was a carnivorous bird, and it knew a hot lunch when it saw one.
At night, the bird high in the sky above Turkey Farm would go back to its roost, and tell its mates there were lots of hot lunches waiting for the taking down in Turkey Farm. Some of the younger wilder strange birds were all for going in and grabbing hot lunches as and when, but the older strange birds reminded the young hot-heads that it would be much better to have an ongoing supply of hot lunches. What they needed to do, said the older birds, was take over Turkey Farm. All the strange birds agreed this would not be difficult, because all knew turkeys were a push over. Why, sometimes all a strange bird had to do was look at a turkey, and the turkey would peg out. The strange birds decided to form a Council, which they called the General Turkey Council, to oversee the take over and running of Turkey Farm.
The Council held a number of meetings, and was soon ready. The plan was to arrive quietly, and set up HQ, before the turkeys had a chance to realise what had happened. This was done easily. The turkeys were so busy fussing among themselves the did not notice the new GTC until it was in place, and by then it was too late. The strange birds were now in charge, running and controlling Turkey Farm from their GTC headquarters. The new order had arrived.
What happened next was as sad as it was predictable. In the early days, the GTC picked off hot lunches as and when they felt like it. The strange birds got fat, and declared things had never been so good. The GTC made up an ever expanding set of rules, and for its sport told the turkeys to obey, or else face the ovens. GTC operatives set up a network of turkey informers, and told them to get on with it, or else they too would be for the ovens. At council meetings, GTC members spent more time telling each other how wonderful they were, and less time on running the farm for the long term. When they weren’t congratulating themselves, they devised ever more imaginative ways to stuff and cook turkeys. As they celebrated the glory days that would never end, they believed they had found the Tausendjähriges Landwirtschaft – The Thousand-Year Farm.
But, as we all know, absolute power corrupts, and soon enough the GTC got ahead of itself. It started to hold rallies, where it chanted over and over ‘Lawyers good, doctors bad!’ and began to believe if it chanted it, it must be true. It hatched crazy schemes to toughen up turkeys, but instead of toughening up, many turkeys got sick, and some of them even died. By now, the Council had issued so many rules it couldn’t itself understand them, let alone follow them. The once vigorous Thousand-Year Farm started to look scrawny.
But the General Turkey Council was blind to what it was doing to its ecosystem, and ploughed on regardless. The fertility of turkeys began to fall, and the population declined. Some of the younger turkeys escaped and went to live elsewhere, leaving behind an ever smaller pool of weakened turkeys, all of which looked pretty much the same and, so far as the hungry strange birds were concerned, were distinctly unappetising. Soon enough, some of the more adventurous strange birds took to the skies again, searching for a new source of hot lunches. Before long, they found one.
If you go to Turkey Farm today, all that remains is bent wire and broken down buildings. Not a single turkey survives. One of the buildings, bigger and stronger than the rest, sits at one end, and dominates. High on its walls it has the letters GTC carved, and below them, the strange birds’ favourite chant, ‘Lawyers Good, Doctors Bad’. It is all that is left to remind us of what was once Turkey Farm, and what happened to that once vigorous place.