Monday, January 16, 2023

#16 / The Ants And The Grasshopper


Most of us remember the Aesop's Fable about The Ants and the Grasshopper. The moral of the story is  usually expressed this way: "There is a time to work and a time to play." Woe betide anyone who doesn't know the difference, and who fritters away what could have been productive hours in mere idle enjoyment. Bad times are coming for that person! You can, by the way, get the story by way of a very nice song, should you be so inclined - and the song puts in a pretty good pitch for the grasshopper. Just click this link!

There is truth to the moral lesson, of course, as the story is typically told, but the more one looks to the protagonists, those who deliver the lesson (I mean the "ants" and the "grasshopper"), the more difficult it is to attach the "moral" to the actual actors in the drama. 

Ants, for instance, are definitely a great symbol of "work." But when is it that the ants get their chance to "play"? Maybe we are to surmise that when the cold winter comes, the ants, having provisioned themselves during the summer, are partying down in their safe, warm, and secure underground cities. They worked when they should have, and now they can really cut loose and have fun.

Except, what we know about "ants" is that they don't ever seem to have "fun." Ants "work." That's what ants do. That's what we know about ants. 

I think there may be another moral to be derived from the story, different from the traditional lesson that "there's a time to work and a time to play." The grasshopper is the prototypical "individual," who acts individually in all circumstances. Ants are definitely not seen as "individuals." Ants work together; they place the needs of the overall society first. 

I tend to think that Aesop's fable about the ants and the grasshopper can best be seen as providing a message I often try to deliver in my various blog postings: "We're in this together." If we forget that (and the grasshoppers among us usually don't get the picture until it's too late), we're going to have problems - particularly when the weather turns cold, and the hard times come. 
What is most amazing about ants is their commitment to a social organization that ties individual productivity to an overall social goal, founded on the idea that individuals can't prosper if they are not part of a larger effort.
One important and real lesson of this famous story, it seems to me, is that a society and an economy that is premised on the idea that everyone should act "individually," and that somehow all of our individual actions will add up to political, social, and economic success, have missed a critical point. 
We do need to remember that there is a "time to work and a time to play," but an even more important lesson is this one:

We are all in this together!
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  1. I certainly agree that we are in it together, although I do think the grasshopper has always been the more appealing character in this tale. I don't suppose you're advocating against individuality?

    1. NOT advocating against individuality!!!


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