Daily Archives: Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ant and the Grasshopper, a la Chilena

Many outsiders find the issue of social class to be highly visible–perhaps even palpable–in Chilean culture. Today’s post touches on the often sore subject of class differences.

Para español usa la herramienta de traducción arriba a la derecha. La versión chilena de la historia está reproducido en español en el primer comentario.

Ok, let’s get down to business. Today’s post is more polemical than past entries, and I not only suspect–but I hope–it will generate discussion. A Chilean coworker sent me one of those e-mail “jokes” that was a parody of Aesop’s old fable on the Ant and the Grasshopper . You know the one: the hardworking ant spends the summer preparing for the rough winter ahead while the fun-loving grasshopper lives for the moment and suffers the consequences later on.

Reflected in this version are a host of underlying ideas about the state of Chilean culture. It makes very clear certain perspectives on class division, notions of capitalism vs. socialism, who deserves and who doesn’t, what is fair and what isn’t. Of course the story is pointed and exaggerated, but the raw edges that are very much present in Chilean culture are all there.

Some people find this story hilarious; others find it very sad, and yet others just nod in painful agreement. Where do you stand? Do you prefer Aesop’s version that emphasizes the moral virtues inherent in the work ethic? Or do you side with this version of the battle between the haves and the have nots? Or maybe you have a completely different take on the story? Please let us know!

Aesop Revisited:

The ant works hard all summer under the blazing sun. He builds his house and stocks it with sufficient supplies to last through the winter. The grasshopper, meanwhile, thinks the ant is stupid and spends the summer laughing, playing, and dancing.

Come winter, the ant snuggles in to his cozy house to wait for spring. The grasshopper, on the other hand, organizes a press conference and, shivering with cold, demands to know why the ant has the right to such a nice home and well-stocked pantry when others less fortunate go cold and hungry.

The local TV station broadcasts a live program that shifts cameras back and forth between the cold and miserable grasshopper and the cozy ant sitting at his bountiful table.

The church says that the grasshopper is an example of social inequality. The Chilean people are amazed that in a country as prosperous as theirs that the poor grasshopper is left to suffer while others live with abundance. Human rights and anti-poverty organizations protest in front of the ant’s house. Journalists publish a series of articles that ask how the ant became so rich on the back of the grasshopper and urge the government to increase the ant’s taxes to finance a better life for the grasshopper.

In response to opinion polls, the government drafts a law on economic equality and another retroactive anti-discrimination law. The ant’s taxes keep rising and he receives a fine for not hiring the grasshopper as his assistant over the summer.

The authorities seize the ant’s home because he no longer has enough money to pay the fine and taxes. The ant leaves Chile and moves to Switzerland, where he has a long and prosperous life.

The local TV does a report on the grasshopper, who has since become fat from gorging on all the food left in the house before the spring arrived. The ant’s old house is turned into a refuge for grasshoppers, and it deteriorates because they don’t do anything to keep it up. The government is criticized for not providing the necessary funding. An investigation is commissioned at the tune of $100,000, and in the meantime the grasshopper dies of an overdose .

The media comments on the government’s failure to correct the problem of social inequality. The house is now occupied by a band of immigrant spiders from Perú, and the government congratulates itself on cultural diversity in Chile.