[FOUNTAIN]Life, real estate not fair
“The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a fable that has taken its place among the classics.
The first parody version of the fable was written by Jean de La Fontaine, a great 17th- century French writer. The ant in “The Fables” of La Fontaine’s work was inspired by “Aesop’s Fables.” When the grasshopper comes to ask for food, the ant says, “You have been singing all summer long while I worked so hard. Now why don’t you go dancing all winter long?”
English writer W. Somerset Maugham produced a follow-up. In a short story titled “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” Mr. Maugham juxtaposes Tom, the younger brother that embodies the character of the grasshopper, and George, the older brother and the ant.
Tom quits his job in his twenties and wastes his life, and George does his best to pay off his brother’s debt. Twenty-five years later, George, now in middle age, says, “I have saved one third of my earnings all my life. By the age of 50, I will have 3,000 pounds in savings. Penniless Tom will realize what is really good for him, whether to work hard or to idle his time away.”
However, life takes a strange turn for poor George. Tom gets married to an aristocratic lady who is old enough to be his mother. She suddenly passes away, leaving Tom with 500,000 pounds in cash, a yacht, and a grand mansion in London. The death of the spouse made Tom very rich in one fell swoop. The story ends with George venting his anger. “It’s not fair, I tell you, it’s not fair. Damn it, it’s not fair.”
There is also a capitalistic version. The ant is a conventional primary industry laborer, and the grasshopper is employed in the tertiary industry, producing an enormous value of added services. Therefore, most of the wealth goes to the grasshopper, creating a vicious cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The latest satire on the theme is the real estate version in Korea. A five-scene comic strip has become very popular online. Mr. Ant is a new hire who works hard all the time. But Mr. Grasshopper is enjoying himself in the house his mother bought for him. Mr. Grasshopper has 200 million won more in assets than Mr. Ant, but happens? Three years later, the thrifty Mr. Ant has saved 30 million won. Mr. Grasshopper has been out of work and enjoying himself, but the price of his house still increased by 300 million won. Now their difference has widened to 470 million won. Mr. Ant says, “Damn it, it is not fair.”
Most readers who commented on the comic strip wrote, “I want to be a grasshopper, too.”
*The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yi Jung-jae