Musings on Sports, Politics and Life in general

The Little Red Hen


In case you’re wondering why so many Americans are dependent on the government for subsistence today, I thought returning to our childhood might be a good place to start. When I was a wee lad, I was told the story of the Little Red Hen. It goes something like this:

*****

Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who lived on a farm with her friends, the dog, the cat and the duck. One day when she was scavenging for food (for that’s what hens do), she found some seeds laying on the ground. Being a bright hen, she had an idea. She would plant the seeds and see what grew.

“Who will help me plant these seeds?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” said the dog. “Not I” said the cat. “Not I” quacked the duck.

So, the little red hen tilled the ground and planted the seeds by herself. But she knew from watching the farmer that the seeds needed to be watered.

“Who will help me water the seeds?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” said the dog. “Not I” said the cat. “Not I” quacked the duck.

So, every day the little red hen watered the seeds by herself. Soon, she had big stalks of wheat ready for harvest.

“Who will help me harvest the wheat?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” said the dog. “Not I” said the cat. “Not I” quacked the duck.

So, the little red hen harvested all the wheat by herself. She was tired, but proud that her hard work had paid off with such a handsome harvest. But what to do with the wheat? The little red hen thought she could grind the wheat into flour.

“Who will help me grind this wheat into flour?” she asked.

“Not I” said the dog. “Not I” said the cat. “Not I” quacked the duck.

So, the little red hen ground the wheat into flour. It was wonderful flour, pure and white, perfect for baking a cake. The little red hen, being hungry from all of her hard work, decided to do just that.

“Who will help me bake the cake?” asked the little red hen.

“Not I” said the dog. “Not I” said the cat. “Not I” quacked the duck.

So, the little red hen baked the cake. When it was done, it smelled soooo good that the little red hen decided to eat the cake.

“Who will help me eat the cake?” asked the little red hen.

“Oh, I will” barked the dog. “Yes, I will, too!” purred the cat. “I will eat the cake” said the duck.

The little red hen looked at her friends in amazement. “When I asked your help in planting the wheat, none of you would” she said. “When I asked your help to tend and harvest the grain, none of you would. When I asked for your help to grind the wheat into flour and to bake the cake, none of you would. So, I will give each of you as much cake as you have earned.”

And with that, the little red hen sat down and ate the whole cake by herself.

*****

Today, I see a lot of people acting like the dog, cat and duck in the story, but very few little red hens. Once upon a time, this was the American ethos. But the dual ideals expressed in the “Little Red Hen” are apostasy to many of our countrymen these days. The ideals of earning you own way in the world, and the that diligence in your labors enable greater gains in the future. Rather, today the story is seen as an example of greed and avarice: how dare that little red hen keep that cake all to herself when those around here are asking for their “fair share?”

How old is the story of the little red hen and her barnmates? Nobody knows for sure, or even knows the origin. Some say it began in Russia, others in Germany. What we do know is that the principles exhibited by the characters and the results of their work (or lack  thereof) are found in texts that predate the Persian Empire. In the Bible, the Book of Proverbs (also known as the Wise Sayings of King Solomon) has several passages that refer to laziness. Among them is Proverbs 10:4, “He becometh poor that dealeth [with] a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich” and Proverbs 19:15, “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” The current idea that your “fair share” is determined by need, not effort is a relatively new phenomenon, first expressed by Karl Marx. You know, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

I often wonder if the folks protesting at OWS encampments are aware of the story of the Little Red Hen. I’ve no doubt they’re aware of the Marx quote (although I would be willing to wager a small sum that most would confuse its origin). If we want to fix what’s wrong with the country, perhaps we should return to teaching more “Little Red Hen” and less “Critique of the Gotha Program.”

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