You’ve come across it thousands of times. You know it by heart. You are forced to listen as the speaker declaims it as if the story had been invented on the spot. Corporate sycophants developed a special talent at pretending to be amazed by it, as if they are hearing it for the first time.
You hate it.
It is the tale of the lion and the gazelle.
In its popularized version it goes like this: “Every morning a lion wakes up and…” . I will stop it here. You know it already. It has been used in commercials. It is mentioned in “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman.
Well, I have some news for you. This “African proverb” is a fake.
By that I don’t mean just that it is NOT African (it has seemingly been first reported by The Economist magazine in 1985). I mean it is totally fake. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t stand. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Let’s start from the beginning. “Every morning a lion wakes up”. NAAAY. Lions sleep at daytime. If you’ve ever been on a safari you know what I mean: the best lions you see during the day act just like any other cats during the day. They are lazy yawning balls of fur. They are – in other words – boring. They are not role-models. They are bush-potatoes.
The only lions that wake up in the morning are those that have slept at night – contrary to the Lion habits. Possibly, they are jet-lagged lions just flown back to Kenya from a zoo in the Bronx. They might still wake up in the morning, but caring rangers would spot them and shot them some Xanax.
Second, and most importantly, lions don’t hunt. Lionesses do. The only lions that hunt are those who embrace the feminist cause in the feline world – where the workload is shared between genders. Yet so far, missing a furry Erica Jong, it seems that the lion-lioness relations will keep on going like this for a while. Lionesses do all the work and lions exploit them.
But then still, let’s pretend that a jet-lagged, feminist lion wakes up in the morning somewhere in Africa. The “proverb” claims that the feline should start running on the spot.
Imagine the expression of a sentient lion as you ask him “It is true that you start running first thing in the morning?”. He would be puzzled at best. Like “Who told you that? The Economist?”. Because it is a cliché. It is racist.
Because any lions that would start running – and at a fast pace – as soon as he wakes up would immediately attract the attention of the rangers and would be shot on sight. Because only an erratic lion would behave like that (and let me add, only an erratic human would start running as soon as he wakes up).
Let’s rephrase the proverb so far: “It may happen sometimes that in Africa a jet-lagged, feminist and erratic lion wakes up and starts running”. It’s less immediate, but it makes sense.
But now it is the turn of the gazelle. A gazelle that wakes up and starts running would possibly end up like the lion: if the rangers spot it they would shoot without further ado.
Even if the gazelle was not spotted by the rangers, it would soon die of heart failure to the excessive stress of waking up and run every single morning escaping the erratic lion with eye-rings.
Most importantly, the idea that gazelles that do not run fast enough would end up eaten by distressed lions is not appealing as a societal model. The gazelle specimens so slow to end up in the mouth of insomniac lions shall truly be in bad physical shape: suffering some debilitating ailment or being in the realm of gazelle seniority.
A gazelle society accepting such a form of individualism, devoid of any form of market correction (social state, assistance to the ill or to the elderly, a communal system of defense) represents an early industrial model that has been overcome by social-democratic ideologies.
It is self-evident that the society of gazelles is still in the agrarian phase (or, better said, in the gatherer phase) and their societal approach is not at par with the necessities of the early digital society, as the one of the Sapiens Sapiens monkeys. So we cannot blame the gazelles for proposing a full-blown Darwinian model: they just don’t know best. The intelligent monkeys do.
Possibly, gazelles that accepts such sheer forms of individualism are fascist, reacting to the impulses of social-democracy in a changing world. Still, the intelligent monkeys have also (mostly) overcome this approach.
So let’s rephrase the proverb: “Some morning in Africa insomniac, feminist and erratic lion wakes up and starts running to chase fascist gazelles. Most gazelles will just run a little bit, because they know that only the ill and old gazelles will end up in the mouth of the lion”.
The lesson of the African proverb in its true version is much clearer now: if you are in fairly good shape you should promote individualism, because only the less fortunate will end up being killed by sociopaths. Interestingly enough, this is also what the original proverb implies.