It has been nearly 100 years since Franz Kafka’s (1883-1924) story Metamorphosis (1915) was first published. He did not experience success as an author during his lifetime but has since gained fame as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He might have been a little prescient, intuiting the direction humanity was taking or maybe he felt the approach of the insanity about to engulf Europe. He was a Czech Jew and his three sisters would end up dying in Nazi concentration camps. In any case, his stories foreshadowed darkness and much like the story of humanity today most Europeans of his day didn’t see it coming.
Gregor Samsa, the protagonist in Metamorphosis, awakens one morning to find that he is gradually being transformed into a large insect. Gregor is disgusted as he experiences his emerging giant Ungeziefer (dung beetle) form.
Now hear me out before you decide that I have gone too far this time. Have you known me to fail to connect my widely dispersed dots? In America we are currently choosing our future form (identity). We each have the option of two transformations—butterfly or dung beetle. The following facts provided by Nicholas Kristof and my own Kafkaesque imagination will help you make your choice. Yes, you too are going to end up with an insect-like “form” but unlike Gregor Samsa, you at least have a choice. Pick a bug!
I am going to describe an insect community and you try to determine by the behaviors of the bugs which one it is, the butterfly community or the dung beetle community. From this, you can choose your new identity and the direction that you want your community (nation) to go.
One bug community will have the lowest tax burden of any community of bugs in the world with fewer than 2 percent of the bugs paying any taxes. It seems these bugs want limited government believing that government regulations inhibit bug activity (kills jobs).
These bugs don’t coddle deviant bugs, are hard on criminal behavior, allow only homogeneous bug-relationships (no same-sex marriage) and are religious bugs allowing prayer in bug-school. This is a martial bug society expending large amounts of their resources on training warrior bugs. The institution responsible for protecting this bug community (the military) is the most respected and powerful in the community.
These bugs as you can see are politically conservative and when resources are scarce, the defense budget is off limits and cuts are made in education and social services revealing the high degree of inequality within this bug community. Typically two-thirds of budget cuts in severe recessions harm low and middle income bug families—the most vulnerable and also the most politically powerless.
If this bug community were matched with a nation in the human community it would most resemble Pakistan or the Congo. (Did you think I was describing U.S.? Not quite, but we are headed in that direction.) For this bug community to take a different direction they would have to increase spending on education, especially higher education; pay higher taxes, regulate the free-wheeling business sector and create a more responsible and involved bug government (bug citizen involvement).
Which insect is described above? What behavior do these insects manifest? This particular insect spends its short life collecting as much crap as it can, endlessly rolling it into balls, storing it and going after more, never satisfied that it has enough. How do their human equivalents behave?
Instead of financing education with taxes, these feudal elites send their children to elite private schools. Instead of financing a reliable police force, they hire bodyguards [and live in gated communities]. Instead of supporting a modern health care system for their nation, they fly to hospitals in London….Instead of paying for a reliable electrical grid, each wealthy family installs its own powerful generator to run the lights and air-conditioning. These are the people for whom the dung beetle is a metaphor.
What about the butterfly community? This is the bug that is the obvious metaphor for an
extraordinary transformation. Instead of a greedy and pointless accumulation of stuff, this bug spends its life after its transformation dancing, gracefully floating on warm and uplifting puffs of air. It behaves as if it were aware that its existence will be brief. Unlike is beetle cousin, it is not attached to the world of form, to materiality. The butterfly expresses an otherworldly beauty in its gentle but soaring poetry. It seems to be responding to a simpler reality. It must have made a radically different choice from most other insects
on how it will express its ephemeral life.
Nicholas Kristof’s column was entitled “Our Fantasy Nation.” No sane or compassionate people would consciously choose the American experience or label it a fantasy. To those of
us with the courage to face the reality of P-B, it resembles a Kafkaesque nightmare more than it does a fantasy.
Will humanity one day begin to choose for itself a radically different mode of self-expression or will we continue to make the unconscious, habit-driven decision to react to
fear? Will it be compassion, joy and freedom or compulsive aimless anxiety? Pick a bug!