That Squealing Second Pig

Ideology Meets Reality

I was reading an interesting anecdote yesterday which reminded me a lot of a story my mother-in-law would tell. The central character in yesterday’s tale was a Frenchman and tells how he gave up on Communism. When he discovered that, if/when Communism came into effect in France, he was going to lose half the francs he had saved, he dropped out of the Party.

Coins equal.Kevin schneider
Image: Kevin Schneider at Pixabay

The tale Mom told must have been adapted to the Canadian prairies. Apparently back in the 1920s and 30s, the goals of Communism sounded quite noble and had a fair bit of appeal to some average working people. Mom said it was quite common to hear people going on about how communism could make the world — or at least some people’s lot in life so much better.

As mom told it, two farmers were visiting and the one — I’ll call him Percy — was going on enthusiastically about how things would change for the better once the Communists took over in this country. Which they surely would, he assured his neighbour. I’ll call him Bert.

“There’ll be no more poverty, no more crime,” Percy was saying. “Everyone will work for the good of all. Everything will be shared equally. All those farmers with big herds and lots of land will have to share with the guy who has none.”

“So what you’re saying is that, if you had ten sheep you’d give me five,” Bert asked.

“That’s right.”

“And if you had four cows, you’d give me two?”

“Sure thing. That’s exactly how Communism will work. Everyone will have the same,” Percy assured him.

“And if you had two pigs, you’d give me one.”

“Yes, of course I… Now hold on here, Bert! You know I have two pigs!”

According to Mom, this was where Communism as a theory ran smack into the reality of human nature. People who have nothing are quite ready to receive, but as soon as they have to give up something themselves — like their second pig — the whole scheme breaks down.

In more recent years I read the account of a girl in the eastern States whose parents, along with many others during the 1930s, were so enthused about this ideology that they sent their children to a summer camp where socialism was taught and practiced as a model for future society. (Or where children would be indoctrinated, if you want to be a skeptic.)

The children at this camp would receive packages from their parents at home, and the rule of the camp was: “Whatever you get, you share with the others in your cabin.” One day she received a package from home and opened it. Her eyes lit up. Among other things her mother had sent along the girl’s favorite candy bar.

She reached for it eagerly, then thought about the sharing rule. She imagined her bar split six ways; it would give each of the cabin mates — herself included — a very small piece. Yes, she was supposed to share. But it was her bar; her mother sent it for her. Furtively she slipped it into her sweater pocket and hurried outside behind the cabin. Renouncing socialism, she ate the whole bar herself — and enjoyed every last bite.

Almost all of us seem to recognize that some government-enforced “public sharing” (like income tax) is necessary to keep things running efficiently. Communes may work for a time because membership is — at least initially — a voluntary thing. But Communism, that great theory of universal brotherhood and sharing, has proven unsuitable to human nature. And human nature has been a fairly constant thing through the years. 🙂

Victims of Peace

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the gentle and long-suffering Rochelle-Wisoff Fields. And today Sandra Cook, who blogs at castellsarrasin has offered the photo prompt, hoping it will get our creative juices flowing.

My response this week comes from a rather unusual source. Lately I’ve been contemplating one line from a 60’s song:  (House of the Rising Sun)
“I’ve got one foot on the Platform and one foot on the train…”

So which way will this person go? There’s probably a zillion ways a writer could portray this “point of decision” scenario, but I’ve come up with this one. Sorry, no chuckles today.

Ilisius tightened the backpack straps and showed Nakala the cord. “A good hard tug will set off the charge. Mix with the tourists; get into the Council chamber if possible. Take out as many as you can.”

Nakala’s voice trembled. “They say they want peace.”

Ilisuis snorted. “Peace! Never peace nor justice while these fiends rule. We must destroy them. Whenever, wherever.”

Later on the balcony with other tourists Nakala watched the councillors below discussing funding for a zoo. Two children nearby grinned at her, their eyes sparkling.

“The victims of peace,” she acknowledged as her fingers worried the fraying cord.

Improvement

by Edgar Guest

The joy of life is living it
or so it seems to me;
in finding shackles on your wrists,
then struggling till you’re free;

in seeing wrongs and righting them,
in dreaming splendid dreams,
then toiling till the vision is
as real as moving streams.

The happiest mortal on the earth
is he who ends his day
by leaving better than he found
to bloom along the way.

Were all things perfect here there would
be naught for man to do;
if what is old were good enough
we’d never need the new.

The only happy time of rest
is that which follows strife
and sees some contribution made
unto the joy of life.

And he who has oppression felt,
and conquered it, is he
who really knows the happiness
and peace of being free.

The miseries of earth are here
and with them all must cope.
Who seeks for joy, through hedges thick
of care and pain must grope.

Through disappointment man must go
to value pleasure’s thrill;
To really know the joy of health
a man must first be ill.

The wrongs are here for man to right
and happiness is had
by striving to supplant with good
the evil and the bad.

The joy of life is living it
and doing things of worth,
in making bright and fruitful
all the barren spots of earth,

in facing odds and mastering them
and rising from defeat,
and making true what once was false
and what was bitter, sweet.

For only he knows perfect joy
whose little bit of soil
is richer ground than what it was
when he began to toil.

From his book, JUST FOLKS
published 1917 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

Missed Opportunity

Old woman heaped with heavy load
tottered down a cobbled road.
Young man walked by, his theories grand,
to better the lot of his fellow man.

She struggled on with weary sighs;
he passed with blinders on his eyes.
“Out to right the world,” he’d say;
he missed his opportunity that day.

A Wise Prayer

Give me a mind that is not bored,
that does not whimper, whine or sigh.
Don’t let me worry over-much
about the fussy thing called I.

Give me a sense of humor, Lord;
give me the grace to see a joke,
to get some happiness from life
and pass it on to other folk.

Author Unknown