Monday, August 27, 2007

I Know An Old Lady...

Election season blues are fully upon me, as my readers will know by the sheer length of time between my previous post and this one.

For some reason, lately I've had that children's song "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly" in my head. I do pest control, and I somehow got it in my head when I was at a particular house approximately four months ago, and have gotten it back every single time I serviced that house. So I've been mulling the lyrics over on a regular basis. The lady, for some inexplicable reason, swallowed a fly, and rather than doing the sensible thing by shrugging her shoulders and saying "Heh, it's just extra protein" and allowing the fly to take its natural course, she goes on to swallow successively larger animals, each in an attempt to deal with the previous animal, until she finally kills herself by swallowing something truly monstrous.

I had the sudden realization that this song could be considered analogously descriptive of how our society often seeks to solve problems. The problem is caused, in the first place, by society "swallowing" something that isn't good for it, adopting some error or injustice that begins to cause problems. However, rather than simply dealing with the injustice (because the injustice is perpetrated by the very people charged with dealing with injustice), a larger error is adopted in an attempt to correct the smaller error. This, of course, causes even larger problems, and it's almost as if people say to themselves "well, two wrongs may have failed to make a right, but hey, third time's a charm, right?"

Errors and problems compound, as at each stage, rather than dealing with the root cause of the problems, an even larger error is adopted to solve the problem. The cycle has been going on for so long we don't even remember how it started; we don' t know "why she swallowed the fly." At this rate, however, we'll swallow our horse, and then we'll be dead, of course!

It makes me wonder where this song comes from, how old it is, perhaps even in what language it originally appeared. I couldn't find any place on the Internet that described it as anything other than a "traditional nonsense song." I'm starting to wonder if it is any more "nonsensical" than things like "Ring Around The Rosy," actually a macabre song about the Black Plague, or "Humpty Dumpty," which is actually a song about English political events. Where did the Old Lady Who Swallowed The Fly come from? Does anybody know?

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