Monday, January 09, 2012
The Tale Of The Swine
Once there was a tribe of wild pigs who lived in a remote area of the woods.
As anyone who's spent time around pigs will tell you, they are by no means the most unintelligent of animals, and these pigs had learned to adapt quite well to their circumstances. They had fashioned dens and had gradually learned to piece together a tribal law that allowed them to work as a group when necessary to ensure an adequate if not over generous food supply, care for their young and defend themselves against any natural predators. In their little corner of the woods, they were pretty much the dominant species, and were reasonably content.
One day, a pig named Andy went missing. The others searched for him throughout their part of the forest, but they were unable to find him no matter where they looked. Andy's fate became a major topic of conversation among the pigs. It was totally unheard of for one of them to simply disappear like that.
The pigs didn't quite keep track of time beyond the seasons, but still by their reckoning it was some time before, to their astonishment, Andy reappeared as the leaves were turning color.
The pigs were ecstatic to see their lost tribe member returned to them..and even better, in what appeared to be rip roaring good health.
Most of the wild pigs tended to lose some weight as the weather started to turn colder and food became scarce and harder to find, but Andy was sleek, fat and obviously had been living, if you'll pardon the expression, high on the hog. His bristles and hooves were clean, his eyes shone brightly and he was as happy as a pig in - well, you know. And much to the other pig's surprise, he had a pretty red collar around his neck, something none of them had ever seen before.
"Wherever have you been Andy?" the other pigs asked. "We looked everywhere for you."
"Oh, I can't wait to tell you", said Andy. "I've discovered something wonderful."
"You know, I was chasing down some berries I smelt over by the oak trees over by our eastern border, you know the place. Well I ended up going a little past our bounds and what bad luck! I wasn't paying attention and got my left rear trotter lodged in a tree root."
"I tried and tried, but I couldn't get free and I thought I might die there. But then the most marvelous thing happened. A man heard my squealing, came through the underbrush and set me free."
Now, the pigs had heard of men before, but only in their pig legends that dated long before they had moved to their present remote home. Some pigs wondered if they even existed. And now, here was Andy telling them he'd actually seen one!
"I was still injured, so the man took me back with him to an amazing place called a Farm. I couldn't believe what I saw there. There are fields loaded with food and grain, and all kinds of different animals living there in peace and plenty. I lived in a large, warm den called a barn, with straw for my bed and the very best of food.No sleeping out of doors for this pig! And do you know what I had this morning? Apples! And corn mash! You can't believe how good it tastes compared to the berries, roots and acorns we live on here - and free, every day, without me having to go out and find it."
"The man - I call him my Dear Farmer - gave me this red collar and made me his pet. He knew I came from a tribe of wild pigs in the area somewhere, and I overheard him say to one of the other men that he was going to let me go near where he found me to see if I would be able to lead him to the other pigs. He wants us all to come live there on the Farm, can you believe it?"
Needless to say, the other pigs were astounded. And as they began discussing this on their own, various differences emerged between them on what they should do.
"What makes you think he wants us all to come live on this farm thing?" one asked Andy.
"Why else would he send me to come and look for you?” replied Andy. " Why, the Dear Farmer loves pigs! He said so. He probably wants our manure to help grow his crops. This is a time for us to move on and progress now that we have a golden opportunity to have a better life for ourselves."
The pigs debated this at length. A number of them, particularly the sows with young piglets were all for going to the Farm. Winter was coming on, food was getting harder to find and the prospect of a warm barn to sleep in and ample food was very enticing. And all of it in exchange for a little manure!
One faction, headed by an old boar named Ronaldus was adamant in arguing against the move. No matter how glowingly Andy painted a picture of progress and plenty, Ronaldus insisted there was no guarantee of the Farmer's true intentions, and that more important, they had no guarantee that the food and lodging would continue. "If the Farmer can give you these things and you come to depend on them, the day may come that he takes them away. Better we stay in the forest and depend on ourselves."
"You're old fashioned and afraid of the future, Ronaldus" responded Andy. "This is all about change...there are plenty of animals already living on the Farm and it works out well for them. It's an animal's paradise. Why should it be any different for us? I tell you, I've been to the Farm, I've seen the future and it works."
With that, the majority of the pigs voted to follow Andy to where the Dear Farmer was waiting and begin a new life on the Farm. Besides, as Andy explained, if they didn't like it, they could always leave and return to their old life in the woods.
Once they reached the Farm, the pigs saw that it was very much as Andy had described it. The Dear Farmer seemed pleasant and genial, and the Farm had many animals living in it and looked peaceful and prosperous. And there, just as Andy had said, was the nice warm barn!
The pigs spent a couple of nights in the warm barn, and even if the food wasn't quite the way Andy had described it, it was still delicious and plentiful.
But on the third day, the Dear Farmer and one of his men herded the pigs into a fenced enclosure, all except Andy, who continued to be allowed to stay in the barn and to roam free during the day. The pigs heard the Dear Farmer refer to their new quarters as 'the sty' and while it wasn't as nice as the barn it was still sheltered and warmer than some of their old dens, and the food was still much more plentiful than back in the forest.
Some of the pigs had a few misgivings. Some of them noted that now that they were in a fenced enclosure, there was no chance to return to their old life in the forest even if they wanted to. And they noticed that only Andy, with his red collar, still had the freedom to roam and still slept in the nice warm barn.
"You're being unreasonable", some of the other pigs replied. "You're simply not progressive. The Dear Farmer is providing for all our needs here. This sty is far better than our old dens in the forest, and the food is better and comes without our having to hunt or do anything for it. And besides, why shouldn't Andy run free? Isn't he our leader now? And since he's the Dear Farmer's friend, so much the better for us."
Life for the pigs assumed a day-to-day routine. The Dear Farmer or one of his men came every day and continued to make sure that the pigs were fed and watered regularly and their needs were taken care of. Some of the pigs noticed that Andy had ceased coming around, although they spotted him roaming the farm occasionally. When some of the pigs questioned this, the others responded, "How can you criticize Andy like that? Look at all he's done for us! He's probably working hard with The Dear Farmer to make sure we get what we deserve and are taken care of properly."
Many of the pigs, you see, especially the younger ones had largely forgotten the old days in the forest and felt they were entitled to food, shelter and good treatment just because they were pigs.
One day, an unusual thing happened to break the routine. The Dear Farmer and two of his men came into the sty, picked out a couple of large hogs and a couple of piglets and drove them out of the sty towards another building over by the other side of the Barn, one the pigs heard the Dear Farmer refer to as a 'smokehouse.'
The pigs were quite surprised at this, and spent much time debating over what had happened and what it meant. Some of them thought that perhaps the Dear Farmer felt their sty was getting too crowded, and that the 'smokehouse' was simply another sty. "It's just another example of how the Dear Farmer looks after us."
Others theorized that the hogs and piglets had been promoted and were going to join Andy in assisting the Dear Farmer in looking after the other pigs, and that they would soon be seen wearing pretty red collars too. Still others thought that they had disobeyed the Rules of the Farm in some fashion, were being punished and would be returned to the Sty shortly.
The next day, some of the pigs noticed Andy walking by and called out to him, saying they needed to talk to him. To their surprise, Andy approached the sty at a brisk trot. "Hello my fellow pigs", Andy said. "How goes it with you?"
"Andy, we need you to find out something for us", one of the hogs said. "Yesterday, the Dear Farmer took two of the hogs and couple of piglets out of our sty. We've been wondering what happened to them."
"Oh, I know all about that" Andy said. "This is probably an excellent time for us to talk about what being part of the Farm really means."
"You see, being part of the Farm is not about the individual, it's bigger than that. Here, we're all part of the Farm. And to keep the Farm going, everybody in the Farm is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good. Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game."
"That means that we pigs also have to sacrifice. We have to be about the good of the Farm, and all the animals on it, not just say 'hey, we're doing fine' and not worry about the rest of the Farm".
"What do you mean, Andy?" asked one of the pigs.
"I mean that the pigs you mentioned are helping the entire Farm, including all of us pigs, by performing a special role in keeping the Farm going. That's why they're in the Smokehouse. As the Dear Farmer taught me, from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
The pigs mulled this over for a bit. Finally, a sow named Dinah asked, "Andy...I understand that maybe it might be necessary for some of us pigs to go over to the Smokehouse to help the whole Farm. But if that's our role, where do you fit in? Are you going to be going to the Smokehouse too?"
Andy chuckled, "Not quite Dinah. The Dear Farmer gave me other duties to perform for the Farm. I've already been able to tell another tribe of pigs in the forest near the south part of the Farm about the animal's paradise here and some of them are in the Barn as we speak. They'll probably be in a sty over in a different part of the Farm tomorrow, enjoying all of the benefits we have and doing their part to keep the Farm going just like we are."
"Not only that, but I also help them get the things they need and deserve from the Dear Farmer, just as I'm helping you. You need me to intercede with the Dear Farmer because I understand his ways. I'm the.. community organizer for all the pigs on this farm!"
"Wait a minute Andy", asked another of pigs, an older hog named David. "I don't like this one bit. Look at what we've come to. We were told that if we came here, we'd live in the nice warm barn, get free food and nothing was going to be demanded of us except a little manure. Now it seems like things have changed. We're not in the Barn, the food's not quite what we were told and it looks like a lot more is being asked of us than just manure. I want out of this deal. I want to go back to the forest."
"I see", said Andy. "Because things aren't exactly the way you want you're willing to jeopardize the entire community for your own selfish needs. Let's say all of us abandoned the Dear Farmer the way you want to. What do you suppose would happen to the Farm? What about the piglets? You want to deprive them of food and shelter too? Remember what I said about us all needing to have some skin in the game? "
"Yeah", yelled Dinah and some of the other pigs as they glared at David "Isn't it time we thought of the piglets?"
"I could care less,” replied David. "I want out!"
Andy looked at him a second, and then said very quietly, "Fine David. If you want to put yourself ahead of the piglets and their needs, ahead of the whole Farm, that's something I guess you'll have to live with."
'How do I get out of the sty?" asked David.
Andy looked at him for a long moment. "David, its one thing for me to listen to you outrageously putting yourself ahead of every animal on the Farm. It's something else for you to expect me to help you do it. I'm fighting for the average pig, the little porker, not the greedy one per cent who don't want to give so we all can enjoy peace and plenty."
He then trotted away, listening to the other pigs applaud him and shout out his name. And as he went, Andy made a note to himself to talk to the Dear Farmer about moving David to the Smokehouse the very next day.