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Unlacing the Cultural Labels: Ant, Grasshopper & Labels (Article 2 of 5)

Unlacing the Cultural Labels:  Ant, Grasshopper & Labels (Article 2 of 5)

By Dr. Shruti Shankar Gaur

Do you remember the ant and grasshopper story? The ant works the whole summer collecting food while the grasshopper plays guitar. In the end, we are told that the ant survives the harsh winter while the grasshopper dies of starvation. We all end up wishing to become ants instead of grasshoppers. Who would want to die starving? What no one told us was: Even the ants die because of burnout.

The story glorifies the ant’s labor while reprimanding the grasshopper’s creative free-spiritedness. The story is a perfect example of cultural indoctrination. It’s these stories that seep into the subconscious of the masses and create our lifelong beliefs, which we die fighting. Are you curious to unearth such beliefs where ‘slogging hard is injected in your veins as the only way’? We have been hearing the voice of ‘Mother Culture’ silently seeping in through the phrases ‘life is all about blood, sweat and tears’ or ‘there’s nothing called free lunches in life’ or ‘no pain no gain’ etc.

We are conditioned to believe that we all have to work hard in our life to add meaning to it. It’s our hard work that will add value to our existence. No one told us that we need nothing more or less; life itself is beautiful and meaningful. We weren’t told that living meant feeling alive. Instead, we were always directed to follow rules, gather degrees, work, earn, and save for the future. Our whole life path had been carved from birth to death without our permission. Read the first article of WOP to gain perspective. Still confused?

Well, let us transmute the ant & grasshopper story to our current education system. As we are aware, the formal education system was created to produce workers (ants) for the massive workforce requirement post-industrial revolution. Thus, our schools reward students who excel in the standardized curriculum and are prepared to create workers, which basically means, ants.

Every child who isn’t able to excel or sustain the mainstream education system is side-lined, mocked, and devalued, just like the grasshopper. Many such students graduate school with low self-esteem and are barely able to sustain life without ever identifying the inherent talents they were born with.

As for the students who scored high scholastically, who comprise the largest working class, the state isn’t rosy for them either. Maybe they are better off as per social standards, thus enjoying social status more than often. They have been curated to become good survivors. However, a major chunk of their lives is taken up by work.

And what’s the result? Today, we are witnessing a sharp increase in stress levels among the young generation. Insomnia, anxiety, and hypertension are emerging as the new norm among young people. A recent WHO report depicts a rise in heart attack cases among people under forty years of age! Burnout is real in this era of cutthroat competition. The ants worry a lot!

The education system is designed to fit everyone into the same mold. The inherent curiosity and creativity of children are murdered in the process by focusing on scholastic domains to fulfill market demands. After all, the job of education is to get a job.

Using the ant and grasshopper story as the base, we can infer that the job of education is to turn everyone into ants. And in doing so, it successfully assassinates the grasshoppers among us. The moment a student enters school, s/he starts running on the hamster’s wheel. By the time s/he graduates, s/he will have been domesticated.

How do I know? Well, I have been both an ant and a grasshopper. And I have failed and succeeded in pretty much both. I failed to excel in formal education until I discovered subjects that cohere with my core, and after that, I metamorphosed into an excellent student. That’s the ant in me. But the grasshopper is very much alive. Despite the grunt, I always pursued hobbies and followed life’s path in an unscripted way. Believe me, it is by following the grasshopper in me through these untrodden pathways that I have felt alive and vibrant, not by the academic success I ever achieved.

Of course, I understand the value of discipline and hard work. At the same time, I strongly believe in being the grasshopper in life, exploring new shores, and creatively fulfilling one’s soul’s desires. Eventually, becoming more than a survivor. Also, once you do what you love, work no longer looks like work. And automatically discipline enters your life.

I am aware that, anyway, I will die. Thus, I got to choose: I would like to die being an ant, pursuing the socially crafted work for me, or if I would like to die as a grasshopper, thus honing my inherent talents and skills and inventing something new creatively?

To every person reading this piece, my call to action will be: Becoming a grasshopper is equally important as being an ant. Thus, learn to be an ant while ensuring the grasshopper is alive in your heart. Try everything! Don’t let the grasshopper in you die of starvation. Feed it by pursuing a hobby—slow and steady at times, but keep it alive. Listen to songs; travel; dance; do random things; be funny and stupid.

Live a more meaningful life on your own terms. And you never know—one day, the grasshopper decides to come out and take the world by storm with its creative bohemian ways. Believe me, you will become a blessing to those around you. As you spread more love, joy, and positivity. By doing so, you will overrule the flaw in the ant and grasshopper story. It’s time to recreate the ant and grasshopper story by finding our own balance in it.

About the Author:

Dr. Shruti Shankar Gaur describes herself as a nonplussed mother, a Luna to her Alpha, a passionate entrepreneur, a novice thinker, a hard-core dreamer, a scruffy poet, a true seeker, and an unusual sinner. She bares her soul in her blog: Pain & Bliss

(The views contained in this article are solely those of the author, intended for entertainment and opinion based editorials purposes only. They do not represent the views of any organization we are otherwise associated with.)

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