The Grasshopper, the Ant and the Beaver

[display_podcast] Once upon a time there was a big meadow filled with many little creatures. Among these were a grasshopper and an ant. The ant was always working, piling up food in his little hole in the ground and strengthening his hole for the winter. But the grasshopper rejected the white male European mores of the ant, and sat in the sun all day enjoying himself and strumming his legs. Periodically the ant would lay down one of his burdens, wipe his sweaty brow, and say to the grasshopper: "You know, you really ought to give some thought to tomorrow. You should save for the future, you should work." The grasshopper would laugh, and call the ant insensitive.

This went on through the fall, though the days became shorter and the sun shone less. When the ant would stop and rest and warn the grasshopper about the implications of this trend, the grasshopper would lecture the ant on the Meadow Clause and tell him that this meadow was not like the awful one further south where no one cared about anyone else. "The creatures in our meadow are caring, charitable beings, and they look after one another." And he would stretch his limbs in the waning sunlight, and describe his plans for government tanning salons for the long winter months.

And then winter came. One morning the ant got up and pushed aside the leaf he had cut into a door, and found the meadow buried in a fine thick blanket of snow. He admired the beauty of the scene for a while, and then he went back inside for some breakfast.

While he was eating, a knock came at his door, and he answered it to find the grasshopper there, looking harried. "Brother ant," he said, "it has snowed during the night, and I can't find anything to eat."

"Yes, I know," said the ant. "I seem to recall having warned you about this. I have spent all summer filling my larder against this very development."

"You must share with me," said the grasshopper. "You must be charitable."

"But you would have food now if you had worked as I did during the summer months, instead of sunning yourself, strumming your legs, and lecturing me about compassion."

"You are a racist sexist homophobe," declared the grasshopper, and he mugged the ant and stole his food.

When the ant came to, he hobbled out in quest of the great wise beaver who ruled over the meadow and dispensed justice to its inhabitants according to the Meadow Charter. "Oh great one," said the ant, "I have worked all summer to fill my larder for the winter, and now the grasshopper has assaulted me and stolen my food. I ask you for justice."

"Well," said the beaver, "I hear and understand your point of view. It is certainly valid. But in this meadow all are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, medical care and a decent standard of living. Therefore you cannot begrudge the grasshopper the food. Surely you wouldn't want to live in the dreadful, uncaring meadow south of us."

"But great leader, he attacked me. Look at my leg I think it's broken."

"Well, that is certainly serious, and fortunately for you we have universal medical care, although I don't think we can schedule you for treatment until, say, March. In the meantime, it has come to my attention that the grasshopper has no place to live either. Every lifestyle is equally valid, of course, but homelessness is a scandal, so until we get the social housing built he will be living with you. Don't worry, though, he'll be using the bedroom, which you probably would find inconvenient with that broken leg. You can sleep in the kitchen."

So the ant called up his relatives in the southern meadow, and they came and helped him move what was left of his provender and household down to their neck of the woods.

And what became of the grasshopper? Well, eventually the hole he was living in became dilapidated, and he would sit on his porch and lecture passersby about the neglectful, antisocial attitude of his absentee landlord. I understand that the hole recently collapsed altogether, so I'm not sure what he is going to do.

Excuse me, I have to go now. Someone's knocking at my door.

The End?

[First published in Fraser Forum]

ColumnsJohn Robson