Burning skyOnce upon a time there were two brothers, fraternal twins. They grew up together in their mother’s garden. The boys’ parents saved up so that they would be able to send them both to school, but there wasn’t enough money for university so the boys were told that after finishing school they would need to make their way in the world.

The boys listened, and realised that although a university degree would guarantee them a good job and a secure life, neither of them would be able to go to university after all their parents’ savings had been spent on school fees, unless they were to win a scholarship.

Horace was a clever boy, and resolved to work really hard and to win that scholarship come what may. Jason had a surer plan. One day, a few weeks before they were due to start school, Jason and Horace were playing on the roof of a neighbour’s barn. Jason dared his brother to creep out onto a bare rafter, betting with him and offering a whole month’s pocket money if Horace could balance all the way from one side of the rafter to the safety of the sound rooftop beyond.

Horace did not know that the bare rafter had rotted in the rain. He did not know that he would fall and break his legs, that he would get an infection and lose his right foot, that he would forever feel pain when the wind blew cold. He did not know that he would be unable to start school, that he would become nothing but a cripple, brushed aside as useless, fit for nothing. That he would never go to school.

Meanwhile, Jason did go to school and did well. He too was a bright boy, if ruthless. Since his parents were only paying for one twin to go to school, there was enough left over for Jason to attend university and to become a high-flying surgeon. He grew wealthy.

Meanwhile, Horace stayed at home with his parents, unable to earn a living for himself and dependent on their care. After their death, they entrusted him to his twin brother, knowing that the wealthy doctor Jason would be well able to care for poor Horace. Instead, heart blackened by that early crime, unable to stand the sight of his permanently suffering brother, Jason cast out the one he should have loved above all others.

Horace found refuge with a poor woman, one Laura who worked as a prostitute in the back streets of the city. She was grateful for his humility, glad for the quiet of his company after the havoc and danger of her work. They never married, for such things were not the way for poor people of that city. Yet in time Horace became a father to a thin little boy. He named that boy Jason.

Meanwhile, Jason married a beautiful wife named Ophelia. Together, they had three beautiful children. He named them Jason, Janet and Jonathan. Wealthy from his medical practice, Jason sent all of his children to school and university. Jason Jr did well in business, Janet became a doctor like her father, and Jonathan became a lawyer with a growing practice. They worked hard and became even wealthier than their father.

Time passed, and the twins Jason and Horace grew old and died. Jason’s children set up their own families and prospered while Horace’s little boy became a scrawny beggarman without prospects of any kind, sheltering with his aging mother Laura.

One day, an earthquake hit the city. Jason’s children and grandchildren were safe in their soundly built houses. Horace’s family were not so lucky. The poor block where they shared a flat with another family was old and crumbling to begin with, and it fell to the ground. Laura, already aging and weak, was killed. As she lay dying she whispered to her son that the boy should go to his cousin and namesake, Jason Jr, who would surely help.

Jason had nowhere else to go. Nobody would help a ragged beggar like him, nobody would offer him work or shelter, and he had no other family. He belonged to no-one, no-one except the family that had cast out his father Horace. It hurt his pride to beg to his cousins, but what else could he do? He went to ask for help.

I deeply regret your sad situation, sincerely, I do. I pity you and I’m sorry that your family, and your father, have suffered so much. but I fail to see how it can be in any way my responsibility. It’s all past history, water under the bridge.

I have never taken anything from you, I have never oppressed you, or hurt you, or profited from your suffering. Why should I be expected to help?

And, look at it this way. I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got. Why on earth should I give it all away to someone who hasn’t ever done a stroke of work in his life?

You’re right, society does need to help those like you who are so hard-done-by, but that’s not my problem, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I personally have any responsibility. It strikes me, in fact, that you’ve just got your hand out now that you’ve spotted a gravy train.