The Parable of Eu and Ue: a Cautionary Tale of Friendship and Belief

Two young boys named Ue and Eu once lived in the same small rural village. Ue and Eu were the best of friends; they did everything together. They went to school together, they played together in the fields, they got up to mischief together. They were inseparable.

As they grew up, Ue and Eu became even firmer friends, They each inherited their small family farm on the edge of the village. They helped each other harvest the crops. They spoke in defence of one another in any argument. They lent the other money when times were hard. Everyone remarked on how alike they looked, just like two brothers. They liked the same kind of women, and they adored the same sweet spicy food. They were of similar height and build and they had the same shape of nose. Even their penises were quite similar. They enjoyed life and lived it to the full.

It would be nice to say that Ue and Eu went on living happily like this, but they didn’t. Because one day when they were both in their forties, things in the village changed. Missionaries came to their village and brought a new religion – with optional variations. Ue was persuaded to become a Protestant whereas Eu was swayed towards Catholicism.

This changed everything for them, and for the village too. Overnight, the two men found they couldn’t see eye to eye on anything. They took to hanging out only with people of their own persuasion, in different parts of town. They stopped trusting one another and said bad things about each other. Soon the village had no-go areas and Friday night entertainment was throwing stones at the other side.

Cartoon drawing of two friends

Ue and Eu each began to look back over their past and started saying that they had never really got on so well with each other, that they had always had their suspicions about the other’s true nature. Everyone began to trace this division in their society –  between ‘decent people’ and ‘the other side’ – further and further back into historical times.

This went on for years, with increasing hostility and violence breaking out every now and again. Life wasn’t so good now for either man, and they sometimes missed their friendship, but each knew for certain that he was in the right and the other was in the wrong.

After ten years the situation developed further. Ue carried out research which said his ancestry was of Arab origins; while Eu was informed that his early forefathers were Jewish. Mutual hostilities stepped up a serious notch. Each party was clearer than ever that God was on their side and that the other party was the embodiment of pure evil. Things were now on a permanent war footing. Life was unbearable for everyone, but each party knew it was in the right and that the other side would never change, so there was no point in even talking. This went on for another decade. People somehow got used to life being scary, hellish and generally short. Eu and Ue survived however, hating each other more than ever.

Then, yet another change arrived: democracy reached their village. Now at last, some thought, things will get better,. But they didn’t. Everyone decided which of the two available parties they would support. Ue quickly decided that he was naturally a Democrat. Eu – opining that whatever Ue did was inherently wrong – nailed his colours to the Republican mast. Both became ardent party activists. Ue campaigned for state support for the agricultural sector, while Eu fought for oil pipe-lines across sacred pasture lands. Vitriol and paranoia in the community soared to hitherto unprecedented levels.

It would be nice to to say that after another decade or so. when Ue and Eu were in their twilight years and growing weary of perpetual war, loss and bitter hatred, they each began to think about what great friends they had been,  perhaps question whether they should have written  the other off as a worthless piece of shit, and perhaps recognise that in reality they had more in common than that what divided them, that their likenesses were far greater than their differences.

That would be nice, but it didn’t happen. Instead, the internet and social media arrived. Ue tended to trust everything he read online, while Eu joined QAnon and enlisted for every conspiracist ideology available. Now respected senior elders in their communities, each influenced large numbers of followers.

Fast forward another decade. Eu and Ue are still alive against all odds, probably fuelled by their orneriness and hatred of one another, and now officially classified as indestructible. Then Covid hits. Maybe now at last they can be reconciled? But no. Still they manage to adopt antagonistic positions.  Ue – perhaps obviously – quickly gets multiple jabbed, while Eu is the most natural of anti-vaxers.

And everyone lives unhappily ever after. Unless….

Cartoon drawing by the author