On the right side of the head of the table sat the Mad Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty sporting a sealskin vest. He had a little club with a spike on it in his left hand.
Beside him on the left at the same end of the table sat Mark Carney, the President of the Bank of Canada. The Banker wore a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey sweater and carried a hockey stick in his right hand.
The two Canadians looked a little sad as they glumly stared at the empty seats and place settings. Each little place setting had a name card. One for France, another for Germany, one for the United Kingdom, another for Italy, a fifth seat for the United States, and the sixth seat for Japan.
The two bored-a-crats were very sad to see all those empty seats. They were both very much looking forward to exciting conversations on international finance, trade, and fluctuating interest rates.
It was very, very rude of the other Finance Ministers to not come to their little Canadian tea party and seal meat banquet, very rude indeed. And now Canada’s Finance Minister had only the President of the Bank of Canada as a dinner guest and since they were both Canadian they could only talk about sports, primarily hockey and seal hunting.
Well, they were not quite alone. Sitting between them was a little semiconscious baby harp seal, a trickle of blood dripping down on its white fur coat.
It was a strange place to have a dinner party. A High School Gym in a remote village in the middle of nowhere in the far frozen North is the last place one would expect seven of the most influential finance ministers in the world to be gathered. But they had come and they attended the meetings, but it was the Plât du Jour that had discouraged six of the G7 from attending the closing banquet dinner.
The table fairly groaned under the weight of seal meat and lots of it, both raw and cooked, along with generous cuts of musk ox, caribou, narwhal, beluga whale, and Arctic char.
It was barbarian cuisine par excellence and even the representative of whale meat eating Japan turned up his nose at the Canadian menu.
Timothy Geithner, the US Secretary of the Treasury gruffly refused to attend the banquet.,“Let me see Jimmy my boy, the U.S. just posted a $1.6 trillion debt, the largest deficit since World War II and you want me to talk about bailing out a measly $2 million dollar seal clubbing industry? Are you mad? Besides selling seal meat in America is illegal. You don’t see us sitting down with the Columbians to snort coke and talk about legalizing cocaine do you?”
France’s finance minister Christine Lagarde told the Mad Finance Minister that, “I have no intention of eating a baby seal. Brigitte Bardot will shave my head and parade me down the Champs Elysees if I did that. Sauvez les petits bebe phoques!”
The baby Harp seal was sitting on the bench between Flaherty and Carney, semiconscious and the Banker and the Mad Finance Minister were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it and chatting over its head.
“Not very comfortable for the baby seal,” thought Alice, “only as it’s practically unconscious, I suppose it doesn’t mind.”
“It is clubbed regularly in a very well regulated manner,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: “No room! No room!” they cried out when they saw Alice coming.
“There's PLENTY of room!” said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.
“Have some Canadian Club whiskey,” the Banker Mark Carney said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.
“I don't see any whiskey,” she remarked.
“There isn't any,” said Banker Carney.
“Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice angrily.
“It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,” said Banker Carney. “We may not have the whiskey but we have the Canadian Club, eh” he said as he waved a hockey club in the air above the Baby Harp Seal’s head.
“I didn't know it was YOUR table,” said Alice, “it's laid for a great many more than three.”
“Your intelligence needs lowering,” said the Mad Finance Minister. He had been staring at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech. “You look like you’re a member of the public,” The Mad Finance Minister said. “The public is not welcome here, eh.”
“You should learn not to make personal remarks,” Alice said with some severity, “it's very rude.”
The Mad Finance Minister opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he SAID was, “Why is an Inuit Sealer like a Newfoundland sealer?”
Come, we shall have some fun now! thought Alice. I'm glad they've begun asking riddles. “I believe I can guess that,” she added aloud.
“Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?” said the Banker.
“Exactly so,” said Alice.
“Then you should say what you mean,” the Banker went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied, “at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Mad Finance Minister. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’! Therefore when you see a seal you will mean to say you will eat a seal.”
“I will not!” Alice said impatiently.
“You might just as well say,” added the Banker, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”
“You might just as well say,”' added the baby Harp seal, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, “that ‘I don’t suffer when I’m clubbed’ is the same thing as ‘I’m clubbed when I don’t suffer!’”
“It IS the same thing with you,” said the Mad Finance Minister, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alice thought over all she could remember about Inuit’s and Newfoundland seal hunters, which wasn't much.
They both kill seals, she thought. But that is the only similarity. The Inuit shoot adult seals for food and the Newfoundlanders club baby seals for just their fur.
But before she could answer the Mad Finance Minster spoke up. “What day of the month is it?” he said, turning to Alice. He had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.
Alice considered a little, and then said, “The seventh.”
“Two days wrong!” sighed the Finance Minister. “I told you seal blubber wouldn't suit the works!” he added looking angrily at the Banker.
“It was the very BEST blubber,” the Banker meekly replied.
“Yes, but some mercury must have got in as well,” the Mad Finance Minister grumbled, “you shouldn't have cut it up with the blubber-knife. The Governor General used her teeth.”
The Banker took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, “It was the BEST seal blubber, you know.”
Alice had been looking over his shoulder with some curiosity. “What a funny watch!” she remarked. “It tells the day of the month, and doesn't tell what o'clock it is!”
“Why should it?” muttered the Banker. “Does YOUR watch tell you what year it is?”
“Of course not,” Alice replied very readily, “but that's because it stays the same year for such a long time together.”
“Which is just the case with MINE,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Mad Finance Minister’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English.
“I don't quite understand you,” she said, as politely as she could.
“The baby Harp seal appears to be asleep again,” said the Mad Finance Minister, and he poured a little hot Red Rose tea upon its nose.
The baby Harp seal shook its head impatiently, and said, without opening its eyes, “Of course, of course; just what I was going to remark myself.”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Mad Finance Minster said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied, “what's the answer?”
“I haven't the slightest idea,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
“Nor I,” said the Banker.
Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with your public relations,” she said, “than to confuse us by asking riddles that have no answers.”
“If you knew Public Relations as well as I do,” said the Mad Finance Minister, “you wouldn't talk about confusing people. That’s what public relations people do.”
“I don't know what you mean,” said Alice.
“Of course you don't!” the Finance Minister said, tossing his head contemptuously. “I dare say you’ve never even spun a story to confuse the truth!”
“Perhaps not,” Alice cautiously replied, “but I know I have to tell the truth when I speak to the public.”
“Ah! That accounts for it,” said the Finance Minister. “The public won’t stand for the truth. Now, if you only kept a good spin on things, the public would do almost anything you liked with the truth. For instance, suppose it is obvious that clubbing seals to death in inhumane, you only have to hint to your public relations firm that it is humane and in a twinkling the public will believe it is humane.”
“Not at first, perhaps,” said the Banker, “but you could eventually get the public to believe anything you wanted them to believe.”
“Is that the way YOU manage?” Alice asked.
The Mad Finance Minister shook his head mournfully. “Not I!” he replied. “I always tell the truth but I let others do the lying for me. Just before HE went mad, you know—“ (pointing with his tea spoon at the Banker,) “--it was at the great concert and feast given by Governor General Michaëlle Jean and I had to sing:
‘Twinkle, twinkle, little seal pup!
How I wish to bash your skull up!’
You know the song, perhaps?”
“I've heard you Canadians do these things,” said Alice.
“Its fun, you know,” the Mad Finance Minister said “`in this way:
‘The rest of the world may care about you,
Innocent and cute you may be too.
Twinkle, twinkle little seal pup
We need to get the public to simply shut up.’”
Here the baby Harp seal shook itself, and began singing in its sleep, “Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch—“ and went on so long that they had to club it to make it stop.
“Well, I'd hardly finished the first verse,” said the Mad Finance Minister, “when the Governor General jumped up and bawled out, ‘it’s murdering time! Bash in their soft little white heads!’"
“How dreadfully savage!” exclaimed Alice.
“And ever since that,” The Finance Minister went on in a mournful tone, “The Europeans won’t do a thing I ask! It's always clubbing time these days. And the Europeans won’t have tea with us because they think we are bloody cruel and despicable.”
“Well, you are!” said Alice.
“Not according to our Department of Fishy Business. They say it is the most kind and gentle and well regulated mass slaughter in the world,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
The thought came into Alice's head: “Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?” she asked. “You thought they would change their mind and that they would eat seal meat with you.”
“Yes, that's it,” said the Hatter. “Yes exactly, we thought if we cooked it they would come. But the problem is that all we think about now is clubbing seals and we’ve no time to waste in talking to the public. The Europeans need to get with our program.”
“Why?” said Alice.
“Because it is the humane thing to do.”
“What? Clubbing seals is the humane thing to do?” she inquired.
“But of course!” said the Mad Finance Minster. “If our seal slaughter is the most humane gentle and kind seal slaughter in the world, it is only right that the Europeans support it.”
“Then you just keep arguing the same thing over and over, I suppose?” said Alice.
“Exactly so,” said the Mad Finance Minister, “as the truth gets used up we just make up more truths.”
“But what happens when you run out of justifications?” Alice ventured to ask.
“Suppose we change the subject,” the Banker interrupted, yawning. “I'm getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story.”
“I'm afraid I don't know one,” said Alice, rather alarmed at the proposal.
“Then the baby Harp seal shall!” they both cried. “Wake up, baby Harp seal!” And they cuffed it on the ears on both sides at once.
The baby Harp seal slowly opened his big, watery eyes,.“I wasn't asleep, just dazed,” he said in a hoarse, feeble voice, “I heard every word you fellows were saying.”
“Tell us a story!” said the Ottawa Banker.
“Yes, please do!” pleaded Alice.
“And be quick about it,” added the Mad Finance Minister, “or we’ll club you to death before it's done.”
“Once upon a time there were three little baby seal sisters,” the baby Harp seal began in a great hurry; `and their names were Snowflake, Frosty, and Iceis, and they lived on the ice floes off Eastern Canada in the Gulp of St. Lawrence.”
“What did they live on?” said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions about natural history.
“They lived on blows to the head with a club” said the Baby Harp Seal after thinking a minute or two.
“They couldn't have done that, you know,” Alice gently remarked, “that would have been very painful.”
“So it was,” said the Baby Harp Seal, “VERY painful.”
“But gently and humanely painful,” interrupted the Mad Finance Minister.
Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: “But why did they tolerate being clubbed over the head?”
“Have some more seal meat,” the Banker to Alice, very earnestly.
“I've not had any seal meat,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “And I don’t want any, it’s disgusting.”
“You mean you can't take LESS,” said the Mad Finance Minister, “it's very easy to take MORE than nothing.”
“Nobody asked YOUR opinion,” said Alice.
“Who's making personal remarks now?” the Mad Finance Minister asked triumphantly.
Alice did not quite know what to say to this, so she helped herself to some tea and cookies, and then turned to the Baby Harp Seal, and repeated her question, “Why did they tolerate being clubbed over the head?”
The Baby Harp Seal again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, “Because they were trying to be nice.”
“That ridiculous!” Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Mad Finance Minister and the Canadian Banker went “Sh! sh!” and the Baby Harp Seal sulkily remarked, “If you can't be civil, you'd better finish the story yourself.”
“No, please go on!” Alice said very humbly, “I won't interrupt again. I dare say there may be reasons to enjoy being clubbed over the head.”'
“Yes, indeed!” said the Baby Harp Seal indignantly. However, he consented to go on. “And so these three little sisters-they were learning to be hit over the head, you know-“
“How do you learn to be hit over the head?” said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.
“By getting hit over the head repeatedly of course,” said the Baby Harp Seal.
“I need a clean plate,” interrupted the Hatter. “Let's all move one place on. My plate is a bloody mess but the French Finance Minister’s plate is clean.”
He shuffled over as he spoke, and the Baby Harp Seal was pushed along, the Ottawa Banker moved into the Baby Harp Seal’s place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the Banker. The Mad Finance Minister was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the Banker had just thrown up on his dinner plate.
Alice did not wish to offend the Baby Harp Seal again, so she began very cautiously: “But, I don't understand. What is the point of getting clubbed over the head?”
“So we can make the Newfoundlanders happy,” said the Mad Finance Minister. “Newfoundlanders like hitting baby seals over the head, anyone can see that this is a good reason for being hit over the head, eh, stupid?”
“But they are just little baby seals minding their own business on the ice floes,” Alice said to the Baby Harp Seal, choosing not to notice this last remark.
“Of course they are,” said the Baby Harp Seal. “And it is our job to make the Newfoundlanders happy or else they will whine piteously to all the other Canadians, so getting clubbed to death is our patriotic duty.”
This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Baby Harp Seal go on for some time without interrupting it.
“They were however learning to protest,” the Baby Harp Seal went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy from loss of blood, “and they protested all manner of things--everything that begins with an M-“
“Why with an M?” said Alice.
“Why not?” said the Banker. “Money begins with M.”
Alice was silent.
The Baby Harp Seal had closed its eyes by this time, and was going unconscious. But, on being slapped by the Finance Minister, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: “--that begins with an M, such as MacDonalds, morons, Mormons, and muchness-- you know you say things are ‘much of a muchness’--did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?”
“Really, now you ask me,” said Alice, very much confused, “I don't think-“
“Then you shouldn't talk,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off. The Baby Harp Seal finally died, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her. The last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Baby Harp Seal in a meat grinder and making tea from its penis.
“At any rate I'll never go THERE again!” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. “That was the stupidest tea-party I ever was at anywhere.”
The Mad Finance Minister and the Banker sipped their seal penis tea and played dice on a polar bear rug.
“Cheeky little thing,” said the Mad Finance Minister.
“The public is like that,” said the Banker. “Ahh rolled a 7, let’s fix that as the new interest rate.”