Following is a modern day fairy tale.
Once upon a time, an ordinary everyday woman named Ms. Rouge decided to open a bakery. You see, she was gifted in the art of making beautiful, delicious pies….chocolate ones, strawberry ones, coconut creme, key lime, pecan…every pie known to man could be made better and more tasty by Ms. Rouge’s talented hands.
Ms. Rouge knew that to open her own bakery she needed to hire some helpers to keep her bakery clean and spiffy. So she put advertisements in the newspaper and put a sign in the door. Many people walked by her help-wanted sign, but no one wished to be a menial dish washer. While she waited for help to arrive, she set to work.
Now Ms. Rouge belonged to the Green Earth Society and chose to grow her own ingredients in her own back yard. She spent hours tilling the ground, planting seeds, encouraging the sprouts, watering in the drought, spraying pepper spray to keep away pests. The villagers in town crowded around her garden plot, watching her work.
Who will help me plant these organic wheat seeds?
Not I,” said Mr. Chien. “I don’t like the dirt.”
The other villagers wandered away. Some went to watch more TV, some hung out on the corner and played some football, others hurried out to the post office for their monthly check from the government. They were curious and wondered at the sweat beading up on Ms. Rouge’s brow, but not once did they offer to help.
Soon the time came for harvesting. The stalks of wheat looked strange standing up against the backdrop of the crowded city streets. The fruit trees were heavy with apples, peaches, and plums. Because it was a small patch, Ms. Rouge couldn’t rely on heavy farming machinery to cut the wheat for her. She had to do it by hand. The scythe weighed nearly as much as she did.
Would anyone like to help me harvest this wheat? I’ll give you a share of what we gather,” she panted.
But none of the villagers had any use for grain. They could buy flour already milled at the grocery store. Why should they expend so much energy for a few measly grains of wheat?
So Ms. Rouge harvested the wheat and the fruit all by herself and soon found herself knee-deep in grains that needed grinding. She scoured the internet and found a mill to grind her wheat, but it was expensive. She’d already spent much money on the bakery, the wheat, and the fruit trees, but she needed the mill in order to get her business off the ground. None of the villagers were interested in helping her purchase the mill, but they all stood around and watched after FedEx delivered it the next day.
Again, the villagers crowded around her strange contraption. Many of them had not seen such a thing in their lifetimes. And again, when she gasped from exertion in lifting the heavy bags and asked for a little help, no one had the time. They all scattered away to spend time pinging friends on MySpace and playing online poker.
Finally, the wheat was ground into a nice, organic flour. It was time for the baking to begin. Did anyone want to help her roll out the dough? Again, the villagers were too busy. She offered to pay minimum wage for some helpers, but many of the villagers were not willing to roll dough for $6.55 an hour. She did find a couple villagers who were eager for the work. They got up early and began baking the next day.
Soon a delicious aroma hovered over the village. The warm scents of apples and cinnamon, peaches, chocolate and sugar made a heady combination. The first pies were warm out of the oven, and the whole village turned out to see what was making that heavenly perfume.
They crowded around and in her bakery. Everyone wanted a taste of the delicious pies.
Wouldn’t it be neighborly for her to share her pie with us?” they asked each other in whispers that soon turned to shouts. Before long, the whole village circled her bakery, chanting in unison,
We want pie! We want pie! We want pie!
But Ms. Rouge didn’t want to give her pies away. She had invested almost all of her money and her sweat and tears in the making of this bakery, because baking pies was her dream. Why were these people demanding that she give them some of the pies that she’d worked so hard to make? These people who had the same opportunity that she had…these villagers who had walked past her “Help Wanted” sign and who had refused to lift one finger to help her grow her business…these villagers now had the audacity…the Audacity of Hope, perhaps, that she would just give away all of her hard work?
No, you can’t have any pie,” she shouted over their clamoring voices. “I offered to hire you to help me, but you wanted to play instead. I offered a chance for you to invest some sweat equity into my bakery, but you said you didn’t like working in the dirt. You strong men stood around and watched me break my back cutting down the wheat. You may buy some of my pie, but I won’t just give it away. No, you can’t freely share in my pie because you haven’t earned it!”
Having said that, she turned and gave wages and slices of pie to the few workers who had worked and sweated with her. Ms. Rouge, however, was in for a big surprise.
Just as she and her workers settled down to enjoy a hot steaming slice of pecan pie, a motorcade pulled up to the village. Sirens were blaring and a voice boomed over a loudspeaker.
Ms. Rouge….hand over your pie, please. This is the President speaking.
What? The President of the Village? Here? In front of her bakery? Flustered, Ms. Rouge stepped through the doorway as a man in a suit waved a fat file folder at her.
Everybody here wants some pie. We want to grow the pie. And then we want a slice of the pie,” the newly-elected President said to the rousing cheers and chants of the villagers surrounding the bakery. “We have a new direction in the village,” he continued. “Haven’t you heard?”
At that point the President’s economic adviser stepped up and informed her of the village’s new economic policy.
“We’ve been living here with decades being told government is the source of all the problems. The fact is we’re finding out we have to rely on government to solve some of these problems. … With new leadership we can change that sorry picture.”
Dejected, Ms. Rouge allowed the villagers to have–free of charge–her hard-earned pies. By the time they all tramped out of the bakery, over three-fourths of her inventory was gone. Because she’d spent so much of her money investing in wheat, fruit trees, and bakery equipment, the money she had left after she’d paid her workers their wages was paltry. She had to lay off two of her three helpers just to have enough left over to invest in another round of wheat.
After six months of being forced to give away her pies, Ms. Rouge closed the door on her bakery — and on her dream — for the last time. There was no incentive or joy in baking anymore. She was unable to keep up with the big-shop bakery around the corner and was losing more money than she was taking in. So much of her surplus earnings were being redirected by the Village Government that she had no extra to reinvest and improve her bakery.
The next day, Ms. Rouge showed up at the big-shop bakery around the corner, watching her new life unfold in gory detail. She joined in with the chanting,
We want pie!”
and then she shuddered as a moldy piece of smushed up pie filled with artificial fillers was placed in her outstretched hands.
Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter,
like a bird fleeing from a net.
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.
(My apologies to the original author of The Little Red Hen.) If we do not rise up and pray and vote (in that order), we might just find ourselves being forced to give away what little pie we have left.
By the way, if you clicked on the link noted in the text, you’ll see that the words of the President of the village are not fiction. They are fact. They were spoken by Senator Obama yesterday, and the crowd around him roared…
We want pie! We want pie!
My question to them, and to you is…who will bake these pies? Will the ants stand by and let the grasshoppers run over them?