There are, everywhere, two types of people: city mice and country mice. This is from Aesop’s Fables, of course. City mice had wealth but country mice had security. Here is the entire tale:
Now you must know that a Town Mouse once upon a time went on a visit to his cousin in the country. He was rough and ready, this cousin, but he loved his town friend and made him heartily welcome. Beans and bacon, cheese and bread, were all he had to offer, but he offered them freely.
The Town Mouse rather turned up his long nose at this country fare, and said: “I cannot understand, Cousin, how you can put up with such poor food as this, but of course you cannot expect anything better in the country; come you with me and I will show you how to live. When you have been in town a week you will wonder how you could ever have stood a country life.” No sooner said than done: the two mice set off for the town and arrived at the Town Mouse’s residence late at night.
“You will want some refreshment after our long journey,” said the polite Town Mouse, and took his friend into the grand dining-room. There they found the remains of a fine feast, and soon the two mice were eating up jellies and cakes and all that was nice. Suddenly they heard growling and barking. “What is that?” said the Country Mouse. “It is only the dogs of the house,” answered the other. “Only!” said the Country Mouse. “I do not like that music at my dinner.”
Just at that moment the door flew open, in came two huge mastiffs, and the two mice had to scamper down and run off. “Good-bye, Cousin,” said the Country Mouse, “What! going so soon?” said the other. “Yes,” he replied; “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”
Much has changed since Aesop’s day. Back then the rich gorged on Twinkies and Ding-Dongs, while the poor made do with bacon and cheese. What happened? The march of technology made starch and sugar cheaper than pork and Parmesan. (When it comes to food, the rich and the poor have long switched places. America’s Pilgrims settled near the Atlantic Ocean, and so the rich had turkey on those early Thanksgivings. The poor had to settle for lobster.)
From a modern perspective, the choice Aesop offered is no choice at all. Today all of America’s mice can have beans and bacon and cake and ale. Almost all can have Skype and Twitter and Netflix, eBay and Amazon Prime. But Aesop’s countryside was absolutely safe; no hawks or foxes hunted there. Meanwhile city mice were hunted by dogs while hobbled by Type II diabetes. No contest, then; country mouse wins.
But real life, as Aesop knew, is more complicated than any single Fable. This is why he came up with hundreds of stories. American girls who learn them all are far better off than classmates knowing only the latest Department of Education fad. Our Aesop lasses would still have much to learn, but they would be educable. Millions of America’s children, to our shame, are not.
And what of a boy who not only learns the Fables but takes them to heart? That lad would be among the wisest and the best, young and old alike. “Appearances are deceiving.” “One good turn deserves another,” and, “revenge will hurt the avenger.” “Look before you leap.” “Little by little does the trick.”
“A man is known by the company he keeps.”
There are many distinctions between America’s “city mice” and “country mice”, but there is really only one difference. That difference, though, is primal. It is attitudinal, and thus filters perceptions, shapes thoughts, and dictates conclusions, not necessarily in that order. Exploration of this difference could fill a book. And, here, it does.
But before we examine the great gulf between America’s city and country cousins, consider how we differ from those primitive creatures of fable.
Aesop’s mice loved each other.