• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Better No Rule Than Cruel Rule

June 2020

Living in a marshy swamp untouched by the law, a boggy but happy land to which free-loving souls are uniquely suited, was a city of frolicking frogs. Imagine such a sight, in the depths of a glen (a moss-laden world to which man hasn’t access!) where frogs, in every direction, were left to leap free. With trees as their buildings, and rivulets as their streets, these frogs enjoyed the sanctity of an unusual terrain—one with which, beyond the dusty pages of bestiaries and hoary old fables, only a select few readers are ever truly acquainted.

Theirs was an environment into which, at their own behest, neither pain nor suffering had yet been introduced. It was a place into which neither enmity nor strife were welcome. It was absolutely peaceful and calm. It was lovable and delicate to the extreme. It was as irenic as the lately storm-tossed sea, an exhausted, now restful body above which the dove once again flies. All the more remarkable was the fact that this frog-covered land was an unsupervised grove, a place over which an oppressive eye dared not watch. It knew neither scepter nor caste, government nor ruler, subject nor king. It knew only of the affinity of one frog to his brother.

Insouciant were they as they splashed about themselves, playful with their engagements, one with the other, from the dawn of the morning until the close of the day. They were comfortably careless and perfectly free, a sight of which, in consideration of their own cruel stations, many of the other animals by which the forest was populated were understandably envious. Yet these simple and mirthful frogs thought not of those others, those pitiable species for whom they hadn’t a care, but only of the happy luxuries to which they were treated. There was, after all, no natural predator by whom they were bothered, no internal affront against which they needed to stand guard.

Then, one day, the philosophical consciences of a few sober frogs were aroused. Thinking, be it human or amphibian, is always a dangerous pursuit; better is it to live in insipidity and peace.

For far too long, thought this contemplative bunch, this freedom of which they made such wanton use had been abused. Liberty, as always it does, had given way to license, and the morals of the frogs had become anarchistic and loose. There was no law, no higher order by which their fellow frogs were to be constrained, and they seemed, for the improvement of all, to yearn for the salutary arrival of some fetters. Thus, in what might’ve been the world’s first pond-side plebiscite, an amphibian election on a revolutionary scale, a vote was held and the results were fixed: the frogs were to have a proper constitution and to impose for its execution a loyally-backed king.

To effectuate this political volte face, this movement from radical liberty to a despot’s regime, the frogs petitioned the almighty Zeus—father of all, as both pagan and Christian acknowledge, from whom the menacing thunderbolts still rain. “Mighty Jove”, they cried, “send unto us a king that will rule over us and keep us in order”. Their unchecked liberty was a problem of which they were only too keenly aware, to which only divine intervention could be a solution.

Unaccustomed to so peculiar a plea, our royal Zeus, in response, let out an earth-shaking laugh. Once recovered from the tumult of his rib-shaking chuckle, he decided to grant these pious frogs their wish. To appease this new group of proselytes, a species from whom, in the absent devotion of the man upon whom he couldn’t be long reliant, he might receive further supplication, Zeus sent down into the swamp an enormous log. This, with the flash of a divine act, was to be that king of whom those frogs were so sorely desirous.

It was, at first, an intimidating sight. An addition to their environment by which, with universal trepidation, the frogs were totally frightened, the log quickly became an object of play. After refraining from touching, much less going near it, the frogs adjusted themselves to its copious girth. This wasn’t the type of law-producing king they’d been expecting, the stolid monarch for whom, in their appeals to the Olympian deity, they had fervidly hoped. It was, in every way, quite different. Instead of conforming to its silent rule, they commenced to dance upon it. Jovial as before, and liberal as they’d ever been, they hardly took notice of their new king log.

And so, they petitioned Zeus yet again. “We want a real king”, they proclaimed, “one that will really rule over us”. Disappointed were they of the bobbing wooden idol, the interloping stick for which they hadn’t any respect. They wanted a force, a rule, by whose presence they could be directly affected. They wanted a king and a law whose tangible reality they could feel. And so, Zeus, ever the accommodating deity, quickly obliged. He sent among them a big, insatiable stork, by whom they were all gobbled up.

Repentance came, but it came too late. None was left to consider the consequences of which, to his great misfortune, he was so unmindful. A lesson for the liberals, the anarchists, and the undaunted, an unrestrained mass for whom this Aesopian tale has any resonance: “Better no rule than cruel rule”—better liberty than its opposite.

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