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The Ant & the Grasshopper

The Classic Version
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s 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 Modern Version
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s 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 others are cold and starving. BBC, ITV and Sky show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. Britain is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can it be that, in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Then a representative of the NAAGB (National Association of Green Bugs) shows up on ‘Newsnight’ and charges the ant with ‘green bias’, and makes the case that the grasshopper is the victim of 30 million years of greenism. Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when he sings “It’s Not Easy Being Green”. Tony and Cherie Blair make a special guest appearance on the BBC Evening News to tell a concerned interviewer that they will do everything they can for the grasshopper who has been denied the prosperity he deserves by those who benefited unfairly during the Thatcher summers.

Gordon Brown exclaims in an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his ‘fair share’. Finally, the EU drafts the ‘Economic Equity and Anti-Greenism Act’ retrospective to the beginning of the summer.

The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, has his home is confiscated by the government. Cherie gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of judges that Tony appointed from a list of single-parent welfare moms who can only hear cases on Thursday’s between 1:30 and 3pm when there are no talk shows scheduled. The ant loses the case.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him since he does not know how to maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. And on the TV, which the grasshopper bought by selling most of the ant’s food, they are showing Tony Blair standing before a wildly applauding group of New Labourites announcing that a new era of ‘fairness’ has dawned in Britain

(original provenance unknown)

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32 comments to The Ant & the Grasshopper

  • rica

    Deleted: completely off-topic, not to mention a bit… strange.

  • Bryd

    The musical version of this anecdote just happens to be one of the greatest ever Rock anthems. It’s called THE TREES by RUSH. Even if you don’t like rock, seek this one out and listen carefully to the lyrics. Don’t cheat by going to a lyrics site – you will miss out on the music, which echoes the sentiment brilliantly.
    Cheers,
    Bryd.

  • Eric

    Sadly, it’s funny because it’s true, although it leaves out the part where the ant is assaulted by the grasshopper’s bastard children in their search for beer money.

  • Nick M

    I dunno Eric,
    The original post is amusing… But it certainly doesn’t need elaborating. Thing is the point is so obvious that we can safely stop reading the minute you’ve got up to the line: The Modern Version.

    Anyway, I always thought ants were paradign of socialism?

    Some thoughts on insect politics might be welcome here but… let’s not go all E O Wilson about it…

    rica,
    I’ll reply in kind:
    wtf?

  • guy herbert

    Oiginal provenance clearly American from internal evidence. There’s also a hint of “nothing’s been the same around here since civil rights” crypto-racism about it, what with the glances at the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League. Perry’s I’m sure didn’t want that to survive translation, though the central point is well taken.

    I have the same problem with ants as examplar as Nick M. Ants are really frightening. Totalitarians. See the first part of The Sword in the Stone (TH White’s original, not the Disney version) for the appropriate fable.

  • guy herbert

    Don’t know what happened to last sentence of first paragraph of the above comment, sorry. It was supposed to say: I’m sure Perry didn’t want that to survive translation, though the central point is well taken.

  • Guy, I did not change the text at all, so I’m not sure why you think there is a racist subtext… and the person who sent it to me is quintessentially British

  • Ants are Stalinist, surely. Dictatorship until death when one of the “comrades” mutates into a new leader.

    As for the Georgist “version”, they magically drop the Grasshopper as landowner with no reference of how it got the land (the original is self-contained, in that the ant works all summer and does not rely on past reserves) and ignore/deny the right of the Ant to save up and buy their own land.

    A small alteration to the Georgist version and it returns to Libertarian – the Grasshopper is the State who rents/taxes the Ant into poverty. With the state there is no competition and no choice.

  • NightEye

    I don’t know where this text came from but I clearly remember reading a French version of it at least a year ago.

  • Alex

    How about this:

    The grasshoper saves up all year (at a ridiculously poor rate of return) with the ants company antpack even though the ant knows its going to go bust.

    Which after reciving a salary from the grasshoper’s money all summer the ant duly does, retiring to his gated ant mound leaving the grasshoper to starve due to ‘light touch financial regulation’ insited upon by the wise libertarian owl who lives in the tree.

  • Jim

    A Canadian addendum goes thusly:

    “So the ant followed his nature, quit his job, laid back, grew his hair long and assiduously cultivated the bad back that he had scrupulously documented during his 29 years of service in the CF (Canadian Foraminifera).

    Then he sent a lawyer’s letter to the Prime Minister, stating; “I find myself no longer able to work and feed my growing family of two-million-or-so hungry dependants, itemized in attached appendices A – ZZF, so I am claiming Social Welfare benefits to commence immediately. I will also point-out to you, and to the Press if need be, that I am small and black, with red ancestors. What’s good for the grasshopper is good for the ant – pay me.”

    The Prime Minister quite reasonably replied that he found it regrettable and difficult to believe that such a valued former taxpayer should be so abruptly be reduced to indigence, to which the ant equally reasonably replied, “#### you – pay me.”

    The ant and his dependants now live in a modest 70,000-room mansion in Mexico, neighbours to a certain absentee Canadian Senator.”

  • TrailDazer

    PDH wrote:

    I’m not sure why you think there is a racist subtext…

    Try:

    Then a representative of the NAAGB (National Association of Green Bugs) shows up…

    NAAGB — NAACP. NAACP — NAAGB. Spot any faint similarity?

    …makes the case that the grasshopper is the victim of 30 million years of greenism.

    Greenism — racism. Racism — greenism. Spot any faint etc?

    As a 101% dedicated, 25/7 anti-racist myself, I’m disappointed that a fellow comrade like yourself failed to notice what was going on.

  • TrailDazer… I need not parade my anti-racist credentials, but I also have little tolerance for people (such as the civil rights racism industry) who cry “racism” in 2006 because the consequence decades of welfare statism and identity politics have subsidised poverty and rewarded fecklessness. The majority of welfare state parasites in the UK are quite white, though due to the success of identity politics, a higher proportion in some non-white communities are on the public teet…and racial flashpoints in the UK are down to communities with a high proportion of state subsidy (such as council houses) resenting other groups getting ‘their share’ of the state money neither community actually worked for themselves. The Anti-Racist Industry is (generally) part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  • Brad

    To echo the purported racist aspect of this homily, versions of this made the e-mail rounds a few years back and my old college roommate, a county councilman at the time, now a State Representative, wasn’t careful enough to whom he forwarded the e-mail. It happens that the county had two distinct populations nested around two of the larger cities, one very white, the other more “urban”. The councilmen of the more urban area demanded his resignation and tried to force him out. They didn’t succeed of course, but it made news for quite a while in the area. The controversy was mostly due to the green (read black) hue of the shiftless character.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Perry, you forgot to add that the Anti-Racism Industry and its adherents (such as TrailDazer) see racism in everything. If they feel like seeing it, they will, no matter what you write. It makes them feel smugly morally superior, because they are “101% dedicated, 25/7 anti-racist[s]”.

    Maybe they’d be better served by being “101% dedicated, 25/7 anti-collectivists“–that would cover the racism part and a lot of other worse stuff besides.

  • I am all for genuine anti-racism… I hate all forms of collectivism.

  • I believe the ultimate provenance is to Aesop:
    Aesops fables

  • Samsung

    When I was a school kid, a friend of the family once warned me that Socialist ideology was simply: “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine”. An ethos commonly shared by many psychopaths.

  • guy herbert

    The textual evidence that it is originally a US piece at some point in the chain is as follows:

    Come winter, common syntax in the US but not here.

    BBC, ITV and Sky show up the three ‘liberal’ networks converted far too approximately?

    Britain is stunned… a country of such wealth again more American phrasing than British.

    a representative of the NAAGB (National Association of Green Bugs) … victim of 30 million years of greenism Direct allusion to the NAACP. Note the mismatch in the initials. I think this is potentially sub-racist travesty inadvertently transmitted by the British members of the chain because the NAACP, tho’ liberal in culture for sure, isn’t actually given to crying racism and compensation at every black person’s misfortune. The colour theme takes throughout the rest of the piece off in a way it wouldn’t in Britain, I suggest, because there is very little assumption in Britain that our underclass is racially uniform and approximated by colour.

    Tony and Cherie Blair make a special guest appearance That’s the Clintons in drag. One or the other would comment to the press in an originally British version.

    The EU drafts the ‘Economic Equity and Anti-Greenism Act’ Even the most know-nothing Euroskeptic knows the EU doesn’t ‘draft Acts’, but the Federal Government, a weak analogue does.

    green bugs = green insects

    having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes … they’d be retrospective in Britain.

    Cherie gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the antwelfare moms In Britain? We don’t even have ‘benefit mums’.

    the government house he is in ‘Council house’, our only “government houses” being grace-and-favour residences or official residences.

    QED

    Alfred E.,

    I’m not an adherent of the anti-racism industry (or race relations industry 🙂 ) and Perry knows it. I wasn’t accusing him of anything more than having his ear for language dulled by painkillers.

  • Julian Taylor

    I also have little tolerance for people (such as the civil rights racism industry) who cry “racism” in 2006 because the consequence decades of welfare statism and identity politics have subsidised poverty and rewarded fecklessness.

    Absolutely spot-on. I loathe these civil rights imbeciles who subscribe to the NuLabour standard, where it is sufficient to believe that if you yell harder than anyone else to prove that you are not a racist then anyone who disagrees with you ergo sum must be racist.

    I do recall some years ago, in 1992 I think, a case of ‘inverse racism’ (if that’s the right expression for it) where someone took the BBC to task over the BBC’s removing a programme from schedule, because it showed chimpanzees in a derogatory fashion … thus implying, in the BBC’s mindset, that it was actually aimed at black people. The claim against the BBC, if I recall correctly, was that it acted in a racist manner in its association that black people are like chimpanzees.

    Anyone who can discover when this happened and what programme it related to would earn my everlasting gratitude.

  • Guy… who gives a shit? I really could not care less about where whoever changed this text got the idea from. It stands on its own just fine.

  • Nick M

    Perry,
    *Chuckle*. Much though I think Guy got the textual analysis correct an proved his point so what? It must have been a slow evening in the Herbert household is all I can conclude!

    Julian,
    That’s a good story. I wish I could help you. Though perhaps that’s not what the BBC was upset about. Perhaps they just felt a slur against chimps was a slur against the apes (and typewriters) in their sitcom scripting department…

  • Nick M

    Anyway, if the ant-ecdote had truly meant to be some kinda American racial slur wouoldn’t they have chosen a wasp tirelessly working on his sugar caves?

  • Nick

    Without wishing to imply any slurs on anybody, nor any implication for myself (some hope), a quick Google finds a few more versions:

    The African Version
    The ‘original’ US version
    The rebuttal to the original

    The original Aesop has already been posted. So given it appears to have been floating around the internet for a while, the only question to ask, is why now? And I presume the answer is, why not.

  • Paul Marks

    Government regulations (and executive agenices) do not prevent fraud – they push up costs and reduce returns. They also spread a false sense of security “I can trust these accounts, the government is looking out for me”.

    Trust nothing – verify the facts.

    As for government (or “community”) ownership of land (Henry George style) the idea that this will reduce poverty is simply false – it will increase poverty over what otherwise would have been.

    The best refutation of Henry George that I know of is in Murry Rothbard’s “Man, Economy and State”.

  • adamthemad

    Paul Marks,

    And there is another consequence of heavy gov. regs; increased corruption both in the private sector side and between the private and government actors.

    Heavy regs create a kind of blackmarket of favors and bribes. These actions become more and more tempting to businesses that are under heavy regulation.

    The law of unintended consequences is an wily beast.

  • “But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a racecar. Is any of this getting through to you?”

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    damaged justice: Futurama.

  • Kulibar Tree

    Here again, I don’t know the provenance, but I found this version on the web about a year ago:

    THE ANT & THE GRASSHOPPER

    CLASSIC VERSION:

    The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

    THE END

    ———————————————————————-

    THE PC BRITISH VERSION:

    The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

    The shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like him, are cold and starving.

    The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the ant in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food.

    Britons are stunned that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so while others have plenty.

    The Labour Party, Greenpeace and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the ant’s house. The BBC, interrupting a Jamaican cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts them singing “We Shall Overcome”

    Ken Livingstone rants in an interview with Trevor McDonald that the ant has got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his “fair share”.

    In response to polls, the Labour Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

    The ant’s taxes are reassessed, and he is also fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as helpers.

    Without enough money to pay both the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the government repossesses his home.

    The ant moves to Spain, and starts a successful wine-exporting company.

    A Panorama special later shows the now fat grasshopper finishing up the last of the ant’s food, though Spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him because he hasn’t bothered to maintain it.

    Inadequate government funding is blamed, Trevor Phillips is appointed to head a commission of enquiry that will cost £10,000,000.

    The grasshopper is soon dead of a drug overdose, the Daily Mirror blames it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity.

    The abandoned house is taken over by a gang of immigrant spiders, praised by the government for enriching Britain’s multicultural diversity, who promptly set up a marijuana plantation and terrorise the community.

    THE END

  • Uain

    I used to read a version of the classic to my kids. It was very “old fashioned” in it’s message “Those that work, eat.”
    In that one, the grasshoppers come to the ants in late
    fall and ask for food.
    Ants; “And why have you no food?”
    Grasshoppers; “Because we sang all summer”
    Ants; ” Well if you sang all summer, you could do no better than to dance all winter. And the ants chucked, as they went back to their work.”