A Pig Parable

The citizenry is far too dependent on government assistance



Our pleasant Massachusetts suburban neighborhood smelled horrible on rare occasions. The perfume of  blooming lilacs across the road couldn’t mask the odor wafting on a hot summer breeze. One day my brother and I followed our noses and hiked into a forest bordering the local golf course. We heard the grunts and snorts of pigs. Then we saw them: hundreds of porkers penned in metal corrals, their flat pink snouts rummaging and mucking through piles of stinking garbage. Rats as big as cats deftly scurried back and forth to avoid becoming fresh kill to the aggressive pigs. A swineherd — perhaps a latter day prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:11-31) — stood watch, leaning on his staff. Not far off was a barn and three-story farmhouse. This domestic pig farm, two miles from home, was the source of the obnoxious stench.

Feral pigs, descended from escaped domestic pigs, now number in the millions in the U.S. and are a growing nuisance. They are able to reproduce quickly, can eat just about anything, and live anywhere except the north and south poles. When cornered, they will attack and kill men with their razor sharp tusks.

In primitive settings in Indonesia, feral swine are caught by traps. A description of the method intrigues me, especially after realizing how similar the process is to human psychological entrapment. Many of us would like to assume that we’re smarter than pigs, but are we? Maybe not.

Swine are intelligent animals. Primitive hunters use a small clearing in a forest, baited with corn cobs that are replaced often until a herd dependency forms. A snare cage hung over the clearing eventually is dropped to trap the whole herd. At first, the swine panic and try to escape. But more corn calms them down. They eventually go back to gorging on cobs, unaware they are being fattened for slaughter.

Such entrapment of pigs reveals how we “smart” humans have been ensnared by a gradual increase of consumeristic entitlements. Simple things like food stamps for the poor and subsidized housing later became free child care, a guaranteed wage, unemployment compensation, and, lately, the Fed’s rescue check from heaven called helicopter money. We expect those freebies now.

Eventually the people believe they are owed those, and that any politician who doesn’t go along is denying citizens their civil rights. When the entire herd has become reliant on free stuff and is beholden to government assistance, the cage has already dropped.

This is our socialist state, lorded over by the ultra rich who, in the ballot-box chase, snare popularity votes with freebies. Wealthy politicians feed on power and prestige, while harnessing voters caught in a vicious welfare cycle.

Is there any way to escape? Will we realize our dependence and willingly turn back to earning a decent living by physically hard labor? Slothful, self-indulgent people without calloused hands have grown accustomed to smart machines and gadgetry. Having been well-fattened, we no longer recognize freedom. We’d all rather enjoy the junk food tossed in our bait cage by billionaires.


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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