Eric Bloch Column

The ant and the grasshopper


By Eric Bloch

VERY recently I received an analogous fable, the origin of which is unknown, but the analogy to recent Zimbabwean history being so apposite as to merit its publication. The fable is a revised version of a m

oralistic story of old.


An ant and a grasshopper lived in the same field. During the summer the ant works all day and night bringing in supplies for the winter, and he prepares his home to keep him warm during the cold months ahead.


Meanwhile, the grasshopper hops and sings, eats all the grass he wants and procreates. Come winter, it gets bitterly cold and the ant is well-fed and warm in his house, but the grasshopper has not prepared for winter, so he dies, leaving a whole horde of little grasshoppers without food and shelter.


The moral of the story is of course, that one should work hard to ensure that you can take care of yourself.


However, the updated version has a sequel:


The starving offspring of the grasshopper demanded to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well-fed, while next door they are living in terrible conditions without food and proper clothing. A TV crew shows up and broadcasts footage of the poor grasshoppers, contrasting this with footage of the ant, smug in his comfortable home with a pantry full of food. The public is stunned. The print media is inundated with bitter, recriminatory letters. Thousands demonstrate in the streets of the capital. How can it be, in this beautiful field, that the poor grasshoppers are allowed to suffer so, while the ant lives in the lap of luxury?


In the blink of an eye, the African Grasshopper’s Union is formed. They charge the ant with “species bias” and claim that grasshoppers are the victims of 30 million years of green oppression. They stage a protest in front of the ant’s house and trash the street. When interviewed by the TV crews, they state that if their demands are not met, they will be forced into a life of crime. Just for practice, they loot the TV crew’s luggage and hijack the van, smash street lights and vandalise the ant’s home.


The Take and Redistribute Commission justifies their behaviour by saying that this is the legacy of the ant’s discrimination and oppression of the grasshoppers. The demand that the ant apologises to the grasshoppers for what he has done, and that he makes amends for all the other ants in history who have done the same thing to the grasshoppers.


People Against Grasshopper Abuse and Distress state that they are starting a holy war against ants. Leading politicians appear on the eight o’clock news and say that they will do everything they can for the grasshoppers who have been denied the prosperity they deserve by those who have benefited unfairly during the summer.


The government drafts the Economic Equity for Greens and Disadvantaged Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to employ a proportionate number of green insects, and having nothing left to pay back his taxes, his home is confiscated by the government for redistribution. The grasshoppers vandalise the house, sell all the furnishings, and destroy the previously productive vegetable beds.


The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing off the last of the ant’s food while the government house he’s in (which just happens to be the ant’s old house) crumbles around him because he is too lazy and incompetent to maintain it. Showing on the TV (which he and a couple of friends stole from another ant), the Minister of Expropriation is standing before a group of wildly singing and dancing grasshoppers, announcing a new era of “equality” has dawned on the field.


The ant, meanwhile, is not allowed to work because he has historically benefited from the field. In his place, ten grasshoppers only work two hours a day and steal half of what little they actually harvest. When winter comes again and not enough food has been harvested, they strike and demand a 400% increase in wages, so that they can buy more food, which now has to be imported, because the grasshoppers were not productive enough to produce enough food.


The ant packs his things and emigrates to another field, where he starts a highly successful food company and becomes a millionaire by selling food to the country where he came from.


Yet another sequel develops. The world at large, although aware that the destitution of the grasshoppers is self-created, nevertheless sympathises with their hardships and distress. Nations galore support the intent of the World Food Programme to ensure the survival of the emaciated grasshoppers. They wish for no recompense from the government of the grasshoppers, but they do require that the food they will donate will be distributed to all in need, irrespective of political persuasion, and without corrupt enrichment of any who will carry out the distribution. The grasshoppers’ government is appalled. How dare others dictate to them? What right do intending donors have to place conditions upon their caring largesse? That is abuse of the nation’s independence! That cannot be tolerated!


If that be so, let the donations be rejected, even if many grasshoppers will die, and misery will be the lot of almost all! And so, the nation of grasshoppers become evermore emaciated, decimated and debilitated, whilst their government steadfastly denies culpability, attributing all blame to the ants and to the world at large.