Of Pandemics And The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf’



You understand that the Boy Who Cried Wolf isn't just a story about the boy and the wolf, it's a story about the village too, right?

The village lost a lot of its flock. When the boy issues a warning and he is not believed because he has lied in the past, both the boy and the village lose.

What I see is two broken thought processes. Pandemic hawks: 'always believe the boy (well except if it's #metooism, then it's 'always believe the girl'). He's a shepherd boy. He's the expert. If he says there's a wolf, there's a wolf.

Pandemic doves: 'The boy was wrong about global warming (SARS, global cooling, eggs, killer bees, etc.) so the boy is a liar therefore there is no wolf.'

Aesop was quite wise (after all, there are not a lot of non-Biblical writers who got quoted by Jesus, ‘wolves in sheeps' clothing’) and both boys and villages would be wise to heed his epistemic warning... a system which is supposed to be based on trust does not work well when there is no trust for anyone (well, anyone except the wolf).

"There was once a young Shepherd Boy who tended his sheep at the foot of a mountain near a dark forest. It was rather lonely for him all day, so he thought upon a plan by which he could get a little company and some excitement. He rushed down towards the village calling out “Wolf, Wolf,” and the villagers came out to meet him, and some of them stopped with him for a considerable time. This pleased the boy so much that a few days afterwards he tried the same trick, and again the villagers came to his help. But shortly after this a Wolf actually did come out from the forest, and began to worry the sheep, and the boy of course cried out “Wolf, Wolf,” still louder than before. But this time the villagers, who had been fooled twice before, thought the boy was again deceiving them, and nobody stirred to come to his help. So the Wolf made a good meal off the boy’s flock, and when the boy complained, the wise man of the village said:

“A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth.”"

My friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin has suggested that Aesop was a Jewish slave. This makes a lot of sense to me, he was a foreigner, he seems to have a Jewish sort of proverbial wisdom to him – Solomon also used animals for moral instruction and finally, his name seems like a Hellenization of Joseph (remember the ‘J’ was added by modern transliterators, in Hebrew it’s more like ‘Oseph). Whatever his lineage, the picture is not a picture of a morally broken boy only, but rather of a morally broken society. In later versions of the story, not the original, the boy is eaten by the wolf, so the story was retasked as a warning to naughty little boys. But it was originally a warning to all.

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