What follows is a very clever story sent to me by a good friend. I’ve edited it slightly, but not enough to change the story. Here are two versions of the famous ant and grasshopper story.
“This one is a little different; two different versions, two different morals. Here’s the old version: The ant works hard in the withering heat and rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold. The moral of the old story: Be responsible for yourself! Modern version: The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving. CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The insect kingdom is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in an ant community of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so? Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper and everybody cries when they sing, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green ...’
“A group called ‘Occupy the Anthill’ stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the Reverend Al Sharpton and a group of grasshoppers kneeling down to pray for the grasshopper while he damns the ants. He later appears on MSNBC to complain that rich ants do not care about those insects less fortunate. Former President Obama condemns the ants and blames Donald Trump, President Bush 43, President Bush 41, President Reagan, Christopher Columbus, and the Pope for the grasshopper’s plight. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer exclaim in an interview on The View that the ants has gotten rich off the backs of the poor grasshoppers, and both call for an immediate tax hike on ants to make them pay his fair share. Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity & Anti-Grasshopper Act retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the Government Grasshopper Czar and given to the grasshopper. The story ends as we see the grasshopper and his free-loading grasshopper friends finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government-owned ant house he is in, which, as you’ll recall, just happens to be the ant’s old home, the house crumbles around them because the grasshoppers don’t maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow, never to be seen again. The grasshopper is found dead from starvation, and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once prosperous and peaceful ant neighborhood. The moral of the modern version of the story: Be careful how you vote in 2018.”
Actually, I think this is a pretty clever adaptation of the classic ant and grasshopper story.
Interestingly enough, the original story is from Aesop’s Fables and it’s really quite an ancient tale, at least the first version. Aesop lived from approximately 620 to 564 BC. He is described as a storyteller who lived around the same time as Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. Not much is known about his life, but his fables remain popular even today, some 2,500 years after they were written.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the fable: “The story has been used to teach the virtues of hard work and the perils of improvidence. Some versions state a moral at the end along the lines of ‘Idleness brings want,’ ‘To work today is to eat tomorrow,’ ‘Beware of winter before it comes.’”
Although there have been some interpretations of the fable that suggest that the ant is being selfish, however, “…the point of view in most retellings of the fable is supportive of the ant.” But since the 18th century the grasshopper “has been seen as [a] type of artist and the question of [his] place…in society has also been included” in various interpretations of the fable. Now, we’re on our way to something approaching the second version of the fable!
Is the ant just being greedy and selfish? That’s a spin that has been put on this ancient fable about the role of the arts in society. Remember, the grasshopper “dances and plays the summer away.” And if the arts have a place in society, shouldn’t society provide the basic necessities to the artist so he can continue to dance and play, (play, in this fable has to do with playing music on a fiddle, not just playing as a child would.) This is an even closer interpretation to the second version of the fable written above.
Needless to say, the more liberal interpretation of the ancient fable probably isn’t what Aesop intended. I can’t imagine Aesop suggesting a tax on the ants for redistribution to indolent grasshoppers.
That’s – 30 – for this week.
Paul W. Barada is a retired Rush County businessman. He can be contacted via this publication at firstname.lastname@example.org