As we enter the closing days of this election cycle, let’s take a few minutes to remember Aesop’s fable of the horse, the hunter and the stag. Here’s how it goes. A simmering grievance between the horse and stag erupted into a nasty argument. The spiteful horse requested the hunter’s help in exacting revenge. The hunter agreed. After all, their combined abilities would be more than enough to bring the stag to defeat.
As they planned their vengeful campaign, the hunter persuaded the horse to allow himself to be saddled. “The stag is fleet and we must be as fleet if we hope to catch him. Since I am not as fast as you or the stag, I will need to be on your back during the pursuit. And, in order to prevent me from falling off, I must have a secure place to sit.” This made good sense to the horse, so he agreed. He stood passively as the hunter put the saddle on his back. “After all,” said the Hunter, “it’s the two of us against the arrogant stag.”
Next, the hunter produced a bridle and bit. “I have a secure place to sit, but it would advance our cause if I had something to hold onto. These reins will facilitate our communication while we are at a full gallop. After all, we have to work together to see the arrogant stag gets what’s coming to him.” So the horse willingly opened his mouth and allowed the bit to be placed between his teeth.
Once the horse was saddled and bridled, he and the hunter galloped off to the chase. Sure enough, the stag was no match for the combination of the hunter’s shrewdness and the horse’s strength and speed. The proud stag was overcome and humiliated.
As the horse with the hunter mounted on his back stood gloating over the defeated stag, the horse expressed his appreciation for the hunter’s role in the victory. Since the struggle was over, the horse politely asked the hunter to dismount. But, to the horse’s dismay, the hunter liked the idea of having a saddle on the horses and the iron bit in his teeth. So the hunter decided to make the arrangement permanent. The sorrowful horse lived the rest of his life as the unwilling servant of the opportunistic hunter. Moral: If you allow others to use you for your own purposes, they also will use you for theirs.
We see in this fable how easy it is to slip from being a co-laborer in some exploit to becoming the victim of some exploitation. Let’s take a look at how this dynamic may be playing out on the field of modern American politics.
Suppose a shrewd candidate for president discerns some seething grievance threatening to divide America’s body politic. Suppose he devises a plan to magnify the lines of disagreement thus increasing the simmering sense of unfairness. Suppose he keeps adding fuel to the flames of suspicion and envy thus magnifying divisions and amplifying the level of hysterics in the arguments.
Once the sense of grievance erupts into an open social wound, this crafty politician says to some gullible voters, “If you look the other way while I short-circuit the legislative process, all of us working together can defeat our mutual adversary and we can get even.” The shortsighted voters willingly allow themselves to be saddled with a gross departure from their constitutional moorings. They believe this is the path to victory and social justice. Once the master manipulator discerns his constituents are standing still for the saddle, he has another proposition. “I’m going to traffic in gross untruths and misleading half-truths and I need you to keep your mouth shut about it. After all, these lies and distortions will help us win.” So the manipulator’s supporters allow their voices to be silenced by the iron bit of deception.
The expectation is that the devious politician will ride these voters to victory. Then what? They will find themselves saddled by government unrestrained by constitutional safeguards. They will find themselves gagged by political leaders who have no scruples about saying whatever is expedient to achieve their political ends.
These voters, motivated as they were by spite and a sense of grievance, will, at first, revel in their victory. Later, they will wake up to find themselves the lifelong servants of professional manipulators. The saddest thing about this scenario is this: Some of those so willing to allow themselves to be exploited in this endeavor will find they are perfectly happy wearing the saddle and bit forever. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.