A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
The ant worked hard in the withering summer heat, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter, while the grasshoppers were not nearly so industrious. But the grasshoppers had a good friend in the Grasshopper-in-Charge, and all the grasshoppers benefited very unfairly from this alliance. In fact, there were millions of these industrious ants in the U. S. of Ants, and all they wanted was to put food on their tables, feed their families, and take care of their children. But the grasshoppers couldn’t have cared less.
The Grasshopper-in-Charge was not very bright but he once learned a useful trick from a chameleon he was trying to eat—he could appear to be anyone other than himself or, alternately, he could make others feel that he was just like them. This was one of the ways he became Grasshopper-in-Charge. He convinced the ants that he was a good, decent ant and that he would be just the kind of fellow-ant that other ants would like to have a beer with on Saturday night. Actually he detested all ants and just wanted to use them to get rich and to help his grasshopper pals.
The Grasshopper-in-Charge also had the uncanny ability to lie with a straight face and to be very convincing, and he had the talent for believing his own lies. For example, he had used his family connections to avoid serving in the military except in a purely ceremonial fashion, and he had shirked his duties even then, preferring to go out drinking and raising hell with his grasshopper pals. Yet he was able to convince a gullible populace that his opponent for high office, who was a legitimate war hero, had been lying about his record. (The one news-ant who tried to speak up about this deception was fired and humiliated, even though what he reported was true.) The Grasshopper-in-Charge wasn’t smart enough to have thought of this idea himself, you understand, but one of his grasshopper pals named Rogue was a specialist in Slander and he always came up with a good plan for making the ants look like complete fools.
Once in office, the Grasshopper-in-Charge reshaped the U. S. of Ants so that his grasshopper pals could enrich themselves at the ants’ expense. For example, he strongly encouraged policies that shipped jobs overseas to India and China, where labor expenses were much less than in the U. S. of Ants, plus he encouraged poor ants from Mexico to enter the U. S. of Ants illegally so that their cheap labor could be exploited, in spite of the fact that this was against the law He pretended to lower taxes for everyone but actually he only lowered taxes for the wealthiest members of the population, who were mostly grasshoppers, and he spent far more than he brought in on a war against distant bees, which employed more of his grasshopper pals in high-paying jobs and set them up to harvest the honey from these bees—if they could ever win the war, which they seemed unable to do. The bees were tougher than anticipated. He lied about this too, repeatedly, saying the U. S. was always on the verge of winning when they were not. Thousands of ants were killed, but this slaughter was not permitted to be shown on government-controlled TV, and the grasshoppers didn’t really care. The whole point of going to war with the bees in the first place was to steal their honey, but, of course, the Grasshopper-in-Charge could never admit that to the ants. The grasshoppers loved honey because it was so expensive, and they knew that if they controlled the flow of honey, they would be very, very powerful.
His grasshopper pals did everything they could to make honey even more expensive, and they reaped record profits. They told very believable lies about how the bees were actually responsible for the terrible honey prices, and most of the ants believed them. They also told the increasingly angry ants that the fault was actually the ecology-nut butterflies and the global-warming leaf hoppers, and Jesse Jackson, and some of the ants believed this for a while as well.
Unfortunately, after a few years, the grasshoppers had all the money and jobs; and the millions of ants, even the most hardworking, had no jobs and could not support their families or buy the goods the grasshoppers wanted to sell to them. The U. S. of Ants, which used to be the envy of the Insect Kingdom for its hard work and resourcefulness, did not make anything for itself anymore. It imported everything from China, where all the goods looked shiny and new but were laced with poison. Several ants died from the poison, which served them right, according to the grasshoppers. But the ants were so numerous that when they stormed the house of the Grasshopper-in-Charge and overthrew the government, they quickly subdued and squashed the grasshoppers; and even though the grasshoppers managed to eat several of them before they were themselves killed, in the end the ants prevailed. Unfortunately, by then, the U. S. of Ants had become a Third World country.
The Grasshoppers-in-Charge of China were not only numerous but also extremely intelligent and cruel, and they sent Chinese troops marching down Main Streets all over the U.S. of Ants, and the Chinese ants easily prevailed. The U. S. of Ants was incorporated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of China, and all the hard-working ants found work at minimum wage making poisoned dog food and children’s toys to send to the bees.
Moral of the Story: The function of governments is to have the Greater Good for all citizens in mind, to look beyond short term goals of personal gain for a few, and to rally citizens to a cause greater than personal greed.
By Joe David Bellamy