Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Swan of Another Color

When I was first old enough to vote, I registered as a Socialist. I even got a Socialist Labor Party newspaper delivered to me. Of course, I soon realized that to maximize my power as a voter, I had to belong to one of the major parties, so I switched to Democrat. I have only rarely voted a straight ticket and try to consider the candidates and issues on their own merits, but my position usually aligns with the Liberal Democrats.

So imagine my surprise as I watched swans and seagulls compete for handouts from visitors at the Palace of Fine Arts lake this afternoon. One swan got a huge mouthful of something orange and was immediately set upon with beaks, wings and claws by an entire flock of birds who wanted his yummy. They even drew blood which leaked onto his white feathers as they tried to take it away from him.

I found myself rooting for the underdog because it was many against one, but also because that one was enterprising or lucky enough to come into a giant orange yummy. It didn't seem right that all the others should claim a piece of it when they did nothing to deserve it, even to the point of being in the right place at the right time.

And it occurred to me that I was witnessing the battle between the Capitalists and the Socialists. And what is more, God help me, I was rooting for the Capitalist.


nick said...

Ah but did the swan with the food do anything to deserve it or did she just strike lucky, like the person who happens to inherit a few million? In which case, of course she should be sharing her plunder with the other swans. Shame on you!

the walking man said...

Nope no shame needed. The swan hit the lottery next day it's the gulls. At no time has the pond ever been socialist and the idea's of that system are filtering their way through the waters. I would hope that we end up with socialized medicine, without compromising care.

In the end, either willingly or no, it is the swans that are going to pay for the lions share of it. Let them enjoy their treats for today because tomorrow isn't that far off.

Cecilieaux said...

Ah, but what about the people throwing the food? If you take them into account, the analogy reads quite differently.

The people throwing the food are the few wealthy bourgeoisie of investors and capitalists, throwing their leavings at the many for entertainment. Also, note that they try to create conflicts among the populace at large, all the better to control them.

"Arise ye prisoners of starvation ... " (da-DA-da-dum-da-da-da-DUM) ...

The Fool said...

Ah, was only one wasn't like the poor critter was hoarding bushels of them while the others starved. :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I take this alternate view. The swan is AIG and has just taken a handout from the government and everybody is angry with the fact that it is trying to keep it all for itself.

Stay strong. Stay focussed. Stay Socialist.

Ian Lidster said...

Hmm -- swan as political metaphor -- that has possibilities.

Churchill said once that he would be concerned by anybody who wasn't a socialist at age 20, but would be equally concerned if that person was still one at age 40.

Me, I'm essentially an anarchist and mistrustful of all political doctrines, but lean to the left like you on social issues, and probably a bit to the right on fiscal matters.

Otherwise, I often vote 'against' like HL Mencken.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I actually don't agree that someone who inherits money is required to share it, although that is what I would choose to do. I think "should" places a moral obligation on doing so, and people have the right to determine the degree of generosity with which they feel comfortable. Otherwise, it isn't sharing -- it's graft.

Also, need I point out: They're SWANS?


Furthermore, the other swans and gulls who attacked the lottery winner were not interested in sharing the goods. Every one of them wanted the whole thing for himself, and they were willing to murder their hapless companion to get it. It was a feathered lynch mob out there. Not pretty.

But if anyone who gets a bit of security is going to be viciously attacked for it, then we had better have universal health care readily available. (Which I believe would be one of the earmarks of a civilized society anyway.)


I wondered what you'd come up with. You never disappoint. I love your characterization of the crumb tossers as "throwing their leavings at the many for entertainment." Who knows? Feeding swans could become the next blood sport like cock fighting or dog fighting, book would be made and before long, the placid blue lake would turn into another Red Sea.

No fool,

It's true. How much can one beak hold, anyway? And trust me, none of them was starving. I'm sure I even saw one guy throw his small son to the birds.


If I had realized that, i would have brought a BB gun and blown the sucker out of the lake. So much for a lifetime of pacifism.


I'm essentially an anarchist, too. And invoking Churchill and Mencken in the same comment earns you big points. But watch out that no one steals your reward. It's rough out there on the lake.

Rachel said...

I think you're forgetting one thing: in Capitalism, it is the capitalists who take and profit from the labors of the proleitariat. You're letting the numbers confuse you: that swan could just as well have symbolized all the workers that labor for food and wages, and the rest of the pond life the bourgeosise theives who take from him until there's nothing left.

thailandchani said...

Interesting comment thread! :)


Anonymous said...

Maybe. Or maybe you just don't appreciate mob behavior and violence?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Interesting take on it! I was definitely going by the numbers, the unfairness of many against one. I dislike schoolyard bullies and the sight of blood unnerves me. Anyone's.


The commenters are not chopped chicken liver either.


What a staggering concept, not appreciating mob behavior and violence.


I'll have to get back to you on that.

Warty Mammal said...

For some reason, the juxtaposition of animals with political ideas has left me with a huge urge to go reread Animal Farm.

Oh, but wait! My son wants me to wipe his butt! Gosh, which shall I do first?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Is there a difference?

Voyager said...

Democrats and socialists can be quick off the draw too. Or so I hope. Otherwise we are doomed.

nick said...

I'd never realised swans could provide such an illuminating lesson on the nuances of democratic politics. I shall never look at swans in the same way again.

Jocelyn said...

I have to do this little thing now.

I think I've done it before.

But in case it's been awhile, I need to restate something that thrums through my blogging life.

I need to tell you how special I find you in this world of people I don't know, whom I've never seen.

Your comments on my blog mean SO MUCH. They are not vapid or quick or unthinking. Every single comment has genuine content and humor and grace. I crave your comments because they are such a fine reflection of the fine woman you are. Seriously, I was looking last night at a post from two years ago, trying to find a picture for today's post, and I was touched again by the comment you'd left way back then.

And then I get to come here and read your intelligence and dry humor and get a little weak in the knees about your storytelling.

I think we should be glad I don't know you in real life, as it'd be hard for me to be cool and not fawning. I'd always be cooing about your beauty and smarts and laughing at how clever you are, and wouldn't that get old?

The CEO said...

I'm with Jocelyn here. I actually have a background in economics, and I am simply dumbfounded by your use of swans to elicit the reaction of every point of view from capitalism through socialism to communism in a democratic perspective. An academic sentence, not one a decent writer would write. And the side issues of violence, all in 16 comments. Astounding, breath-taking. Please don't stop.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


My sincerest hope is that one day there will be enough luscious orange yummies for everyone.


I was so disillusioned when someone told me long ago that swans were vicious because one doesn't like to think beautiful creatures have the capability to be selfish buggers.


Your comment was the first thing I read this morning, and I knew right away that this would be a Very Good Day.

You are too kind, but please don't stop. At the risk of being repetitive, compliments from you mean more than you can imagine because I so marvel at yor witt and riting skilz, which never fale to delite me.

I'm trying to figure out how to embroider your comment on cloth and make it into a wall hanging.


Awww. Gee, thanks. It's so nice to know you've got my back.

On a limb with Claudia said...

I hate seagulls - but you know that.

To me seagulls are the narcissists of the flying world. They are ultimately selfish - care nothing, even for their off spring. They only want to get to that piece of food. As humans, they would run hedgefunds, AIG, vote for Bush and love Limbaugh.

The lack the nobility of the social cormorant - who btw chase the seagulls out of their pond as a unified flock. Cormorants are the socialists - dedicated to the betterment of the group, not the individual.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I have always liked seagulls, even though admittedly they are not likable, because of their freedom, which they share with all winged creatures, and because I have always associated them with oceans, my favorite topography.

The warring birdies on the lake were mostly swans, though, and a few ducks who, if Hans Christian Anderson was correct, will one day be swans, too, at least the ugly ones.

The Fool said...

Happy Fool's Day, Heart. :)

meggie said...

Ovah heah, it is April Fools Day.
Politics would always seem to be motivated by goodness, but resultant in badness...

Mariposa said...

It feels so good to be back here...and just like before, I find myself reading and re-reading your post and enjoying the comments here...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

No Fool,

Do you claim special powers on that day? Happy April Fool's Day to you, too!


Good point! It's hard to keep those good intentions in mind when things usually turn out so badly.


It's great to see you again! Don't be a stranger.

Jo said...

Socialism failed all over the world, because in order to have socialism, someone has to generate the wealth. Your country was built on capitalism, and the only way for it to work is for capitalism to thrive. The seagulls learned the hard way there is no such thing as a free lunch.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


You made me laugh out loud! No free lunch indeed.

Your analysis of the system makes sense. I think we are foundering because we have become unclear about our direction, to say nothing of the fact that our citizenry covers a very wide range of beliefs. This should create a healthy balance, but it will take time and concessions from both sides.