• neil

Day 65 (21 May): Flog it!

I was relaxing in a bubble bath yesterday evening, mug of tea at hand, musing on the story of the return of the prodigal son. No reason behind it. I just was.

It occurred to me that there are aspects of such stories which we gloss over or ignore. You will recall that the warm paternal welcome of the prodigal son is much resented by the brother who stayed home. And it struck me, in my diminishing suds and cooling water, that he is not at all the party to be pitied. It turned out much worse for the calf who, hitherto blissfully ignorant of these family issues, gets fat-shamed, has his throat cut and is roasted for the ensuing festivities.

It also crossed my mind that, had it been his daughter who had waltzed off, ‘prodigal’ might not have been the first word from father’s mouth.

All this set me off (it doesn’t take much) on a mental journey to review some of the fables and proverbs we learn as children.

The fox and the grapes

Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapes hanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.'

The supposed moral: People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves

No. That’s all very well for a human to say Mr. Aesop. You could have propped a ladder against the vine or chopped it down as the mood takes you. Mr. Fox doesn’t have opposable thumbs, which physical difference prevents him from using implements. Essentially this is just more body shaming.

Fortunately Mr. Fox is wise, does his best and moves on without becoming obsessive.

The lion and the mouse

A lion lay asleep in the forest. A mouse came up and ran across his nose. Roused from his nap, the lion laid his paw angrily on the tiny creature to kill her.

'Spare me!' begged the mouse. 'Please let me go and some day I will repay you.'

The lion was amused to think that a mouse could ever help him and he let her go.

Some days later, the lion was caught in a hunter's net and was unable to free himself. The mouse heard him roaring and running to the ropes that bound him, she gnawed them until the lion was free.

The supposed moral: A kindness is never wasted.

No. What we have here is simply a very retarded mouse. How did it ever think that getting close to a lion was a viable option?

Surely the mouse to be emulated is the one which thinks 'Oops! Lion ahead. Abort! Abort!'

When freed, our somewhat challenged mouse goes back to a lion which is miffed and rather hungry. The lesson for our offspring?

'Kids, if you escape from a life threatening situation strive to replicate the risk'.

I don't think so.

The boy who cried wolf

A shepherd boy tended his master's sheep near a forest not far from the village. .

One day he thought of a plan to amuse himself.

His master had told him to call for help should a wolf attack the flock, and the villagers would drive it away. So now, though he had not seen a wolf, he shouted "Wolf! Wolf!".The villagers dropped their work and ran to the pasture. When they got there they found the boy doubled up with laughter at the trick he had played.

A few days later the boy again shouted, "Wolf! Wolf!" Again the villagers ran to help him, only to be met with more laughter.

Then one day a wolf really did spring from the underbrush and start nibbling on the sheep.

In terror the boy ran toward the village shouting "Wolf! Wolf!" But though the villagers heard the cry, they did not run to help him as they had before. "He cannot fool us again," they said.

The wolf killed a great many of the boy's sheep and then slipped away into the forest.

The supposed moral: Liars are not believed even when they speak the truth.

No. The obvious flaw in this argument is in the first sentence. They are not the boy’s sheep. He is having a risk-free laugh here.The wolf eats his master’s sheep.

The moral of the story should perhaps be 'If you own sheep don’t rely on child labour.’

It is immoral, illegal and clearly inefficient.

The whole thing was probably a set-up for the compensation.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger

Was mich nicht umbringt mach mich stärker. Which I defy you to say after two glasses of pinot, even if you are German.

This comes from Nietzsche, who has one or two other things to answer for.

I don’t think you have to be a mental health expert to realise that the idea is problematic; it smacks of cold baths, flogging and pre-dawn public school cross-country running, all of which seems best fitted to turn children into trauma ridden therapist fodder.

I’m amazed that we can repeat such rot, without weighing its merits, simply because it was written by a scholar or philosopher. Topple some sacred cows! Aux armes citoyens!. Froth froth! Where was I?

Or, as the French would say :

Revenons à nos moutons

Let us return to our sheep - let us get back to what we were talking about.

We can’t. The wolf ate them.

Flogging a dead horse and “avoir d’autres chats à fouetter”

(to have other cats to whip)

The French expression is the equivalent of “having other fish to fry”. The English expression might seem a touch more benign, but only if you are not a fish.

Can you just imagine that poor tired Frenchwoman? (no sexism here).

A whole day under the Provence sun flogging felines and you still have another seven to go before dinner . But at least Marie stops when the beasts are dead. Her English cousin has been whipping the living daylights (archaic idiom for somebody’s eyes) out of a horse and carries on doing so even after it croaks. And because its a horse and not a frog it doesn't.

What is it with all this flogging? Although, if they had listened to the adage 'Spare the rod and spoil' the child when bringing up the boy who cried wolf, Marie could have tucked into roast lamb rather than those other fish.

Right. Enough. I’m off for a cup of tea. This has really taken the biscuit.

Love to you all!



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