Donkeys and Elephants: An Allegory

I had a vision today—not a dream because it was broad daylight—and it was all about animals. Two animals stood out amongst the spectacle: a donkey, with a greyish type of hide that often looked almost blue in the twilight. The elephant, who had skin that shone like the mid-morning sun, but turned to an almost blueish tint toward evening. In fact, in the evening and despite their size, it was sometimes difficult to tell them apart—until they started talking. For you see, in my vision all animals talked, and there were many of them. There seemed to be an animal Kingdom and their language, I learned, was called “Gibberish.”

The donkey had an enormous set of teeth, a kind of perpetual smile, and was waving an American flag with its tail. The elephant had mammoth ears and it too was waving an American flag, but with its trunk. Both were clearly patriotic. They were part of a vast animal Kingdom that was divided into 50 animal zones. Some of the zones were heavily populated, with great clusters of nests and caves. I could see that sometimes within a particular zone fish could be found in schools, but  they take no notice of donkeys or elephants. I also saw other animals out “marking” their territories.

As I was taking in more of the vision, a monkey climbed on my back and began to tell me things about the Kingdom: “There are at least three parts to our animal Kingdom: The first consists of the animals who make the laws, for we are law-abiding animals; the second are the animals who decide what the laws mean, for most are not transparent; and the third are the ones—and they are all birds—who oversee and manage all of us. There may be a fourth part to the Kingdom, but no one is sure.”

“Who are the animals who make the laws?” I asked, rather timidly. “It is fairly complicated,” answered the monkey. There are actually two sheds for such animals: the first is called the Assembly of Animals and the second simply the Collection of Animals. There are 100 who Assemble and 435 who Collect and there is a great divide between them. But that is not all: those who assemble and those who collect have animals who speak for them.”

“Let me guess,” I replied. “That big donkey I saw speaks for the one group and the elephant for the other group.” “Not exactly,” said the monkey. “Sometimes lesser animals—deer, bear, woodchucks, dogs, cats, even weasels or skunks will try to speak—often at once. Because of the confusion there is a large water buffalo who stands at a table between the two groups and, by pointing its horn to the left or right, it determines who can speak.”

I then noticed something else: hundreds, perhaps thousands of cockroaches, were running around among all the animals in the sheds. “What are those cockroaches doing?” I mumbled. “They are giving counsel to the animals,” replied the monkey. “For example, some animals would like to preserve the passenger pigeon, the American bison and the eastern timber wolf. Others say, ‘no, get rid of them all so we can picnic in peace.’ The cockroaches tell them what is wise and what is not wise. For example, some rabbits wanted to outlaw slingshots because so many are killed each year. But the cockroaches assured the rabbits not to worry because they multiply rapidly.  In another famous case, some animals complained that turtle’s eggs were abandoned or eaten and wanted laws against it. However, the wiser animals pointed out that is was up to the turtle to protect or destroy its eggs—no one should instruct a turtle when or where to lay an egg.” The monkey continued: “Cockroaches are necessary for the running of the animal Kingdom, and were it not for them there would be no laws passed.”

The later Kingdom branch, I found, was ruled by a giant Golden Eagle, one that had an enormous flock of feathers at the crown of its head, protruding slightly to the right, then continued to its tail. It was obviously in charge and surrounded by a number of vultures, as well as a harpy eagle and common buzzards.

I could see that there were 9 Supreme judges, full of wisdom. One of them could hardly hold its head up and was kept awake by side owls. The Supreme owls had their own perches and over the years decided issues for the Kingdom, primarily because of their binocular vision, binaural hearing and sharp talons.

The monkey then asked me if I had noticed the donkey and the elephant. I had, of course, but now I listened to them more closely. The donkey was explaining why additional animals should be let into the Kingdom, including additional spiders, scorpions, poisonous snakes and rabbits. The elephant was arguing that such vermin were the scourge of the Kingdom and should be killed. The Golden Eagle wanted a large rabbit fence built—from sea to shining sea—and intruders killed, either by execution in a large frying pan or by the sterile injection of battery acid.

As I listened, the elephant seemed more interested in health and the economy: “These days it is hard for the average weasel or rat to find a job or to pay for having a loose tooth repaired. Nevertheless, we must find ways to make them happy, perhaps by leaving scraps of food around the Kingdom sheds will help keep them at bay and quiet.”

The monkey admitted that there were problems in the Kingdom: It said that the deer and antelope were always at play and never working. They were becoming a nuisance and the animal Kingdom, but they needed help. The cockroaches suggested that the Kingdom needed laws to allow all beasts to sniff clover and munch on wild mushrooms. But in the end, the animal disease specialists thought it would be more “humane” to set up shelters so they could discuss their problems with the canary consultants.

My vision was beginning to fade—it was close to 8 in the evening and many of the animals were looking for holes in the ground, nests in the trees, or caves in the hills. Even the monkey had gotten off my back and was chomping on some peanuts a squirrel had given him.

“How thoughtful and considerate,” I thought. Although the monkey was an outsider to the animal Kingdom, an insider was helping it. However, the donkey and elephant were eyeing the monkey suspiciously.

“I know that all animals are smart,” said the donkey. “Yes,” said the elephant. “But some of us are smarter than others.” Both agreed that intelligence was not a measure of monkeys.

Post Election Day
November 7, 2018