February 13, 2009

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

2600 years ago a fable was written, read by generations, understood by none.

The boy cried, Wolf! and the villagers came, but there was no wolf.  And the boy laughed, amused with himself and by their gullibility.  He did it a second time with the same results; and a third time, each time to him more amusing.

But the next time was not a joke, a wolf indeed came, and killed most of the flock, and almost killed him.  Wolf!  Wolf!  But no one came, of course.  It was too many times.

Even when a liar tells the truth, they are never believed.



II. 

The winter came, and the villagers were cold and hungry, and many died, for there were no sheep.  An old man from another village shook his head: why was such an important aspect of their survival trusted to a boy?  How much did you expect from a child?

He seemed really mature, observed one man.  And we're really just children ourselves.  We didn't notice much of a difference.

Why continue to leave him in place after the first lie?  Or the second?  Clearly he doesn't take the job seriously.  If you no longer trusted his call, why did you leave him there?  "But we were busy with other things." 

Perhaps you knew wolves were coming, inevitably; there was no stopping them.  And rather than try and fail, you didn't want to be the one blamed.

Or perhaps you expected that because he lied about the wolf, that there was no such thing as wolves.  Not: he lied because there are no wolves.  Since he lied, therefore there are no wolves. 

Other than the solitary boy you left in the field to do a job you didn't trust him to do, what other warning signals were you expecting?

The boy grew up, resentful at the villagers' resentment towards him, what did he do wrong?  He called them and they did not come.   They told him they would.   They lied.  And like the children they are, they took no responsibility-- they tried to blame him.   

The adults in the village failed, the blame is theirs entirely.  Wolves exist, you don't throw a boy to the wolves.  And when you send a boy to do a man's job but still treat him like a boy, then the problem isn't the boy, the problem is you.






Comments

This is so true... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 11:18 AM | Posted by Lasse: | Reply

This is so true

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This is a load of BS.... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 12:50 PM | Posted by "Peter": | Reply

This is a load of BS.

The message is already there.

If you are *caught* lying, you are less likely to be believed.


This tries to be way too "deep".

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If the villagers knew</i... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 1:01 PM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by Eevee: | Reply

If the villagers knew they wouldn't believe the boy even if a wolf actually came.. why did they ask the same boy to tell them something important that they knew they wouldn't listen to?

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It's being caught out on nu... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 1:01 PM | Posted by Dave Johnson: | Reply

It's being caught out on numerous occasions. All credibility vanishes. But the idea of sending someone out to do the work you don't want to do-even though you know they're not up to it-that's a valid point as well. We saw that play out when large numbers of Americans voted for change, in other words, anyone but a Bush/republican tool. 8 years of hot air, contradicted by cold facts, was more than enough for the American stomach. Of course, the 30 percenters still carry the torch of lost love.

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I like Dr. House's take on ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 1:29 PM | Posted by Marcus: | Reply

I like Dr. House's take on the subject from the TV show House: It doesn't matter how many times he lied, they would still come to his aid every time. Which is why liars can keep lying.

Still, I like your take on the story. I always thought it was a bit of a silly story. I suppose it was only good for little kids so you could get them to tell truth or something.

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Are you serious? are you r... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 1:33 PM | Posted by Dave: | Reply

Are you serious? are you really going to relate this to American politics? The election is over, Bush is out, the change is in. Stop pretending to be intellectual on random websites by relating the "boy who cried wolf" to US politics. Go back to your own perfect country and stay there, you pretentious nut.

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Psht, everyone knows the re... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:06 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Psht, everyone knows the real moral of that story is "never tell the same lie twice."

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Peter and Dave, I suspect, ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:23 PM | Posted by mik: | Reply

Peter and Dave, I suspect, have 2-digit IQs. It's not hard to understand this point of view. I always thought of it as explaining that you shouldn't lie about things you need, in a way that you can't retract (pretty odd thoughts for a 6 year old, but I did grow up to become VERY good at lying). There are usually several ways one can look at a story and this one can present many different faces to different readers.

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1. The fact that they are ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:25 PM | Posted by Christopher: | Reply

1. The fact that they are villagers indicates they are living in an agrarian, not pastoral, culture. Ergo sheep, albeit important, would not be their only, or even primary source of food, or even of their economy as a whole. Further, one wolf wouldn't be able to eat a substantial flock anyway; kill, yes, but eating would take a substantial amount of time. In sum then, very doubtful that come winter they would be starving and dying en masse.

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Cool, did they have compute... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:25 PM | Posted by lolwut: | Reply

Cool, did they have computers and the internet 2600 years ago too, or just typewriters?

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2. "How much did you expect... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:28 PM | Posted by Christopher: | Reply

2. "How much did you expect from a child?" Usually in the fable the adults in the village are busy at work. It's axiomatic that a grown man is potentially more useful in this type of economy than a mere boy, cf. strength. Why not a girl? Because in terms of reproduction, males are expendable. Watching sheep and crying out is something a boy can and should be able to do. He's obviously of the age of reason >7. What's the problem with the initial assignment?

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3. "But we were busy with o... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 2:37 PM | Posted by Christopher: | Reply

3. "But we were busy with other things." That's about it, seems to me. F him. F him and his master's sheep. Recall, this is an ownership society; the wolf emergency is responded to much like a fire. It's voluntary, based on good will, exchange of favors, good standing in the community. In the version I read, the wolf eats the flock and the boy, so the master gets what he deserves for maintaining an incompetent who keeps interrupting everyone with false alarms and the boy gets punished in overwhelming fashion. What's the problem? The damage to the community as a whole is secondary and minimal in comparison to the moral, which, is, basically, don't lie, especially about important things that upset adults.

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No... this is just looking ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 3:17 PM | Posted by fail: | Reply

No... this is just looking too deep and finding a meaning that isn't there

: /

just no

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This sounds like one of th... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 3:32 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

This sounds like one of the parable questions asked as part of a psychiatric intake inteview to assess someone's capacity to think metaphorically--or not.

My reading:

Someone who lies actually will be believed--at least for awhile.

Two..this kid is described in tale as enjoying the gullibility of the villages who came in response to his cries of 'Wolf!'

First cry of wolf--"And the boy laughed, amused with himself and their gullibility. "

Two, the kid is described as crying Wolf a second time, and getting greater enjoyment from the villagers persistent gullibility

"He did it a second time with the same results; and a third time, each time to him more amusing."

Finally, lets look at how the tale is told--the villagers were described as 'gullible.'

Well...to me the villagers were persons who placed this young person in a position of *trust*.

You have to be able to do that if your village is to function.

And this boy betrayed thier trust and not only that, their willingness to continue trusting him a second time--and even a *third* time, amused him.

Finally, we need to consider whether the boy's repeated violations of trust not only did harm to the villages by hardening their hearts and hurting the social contract...the boy, by repeatedly making that noise may have signalled to a nearby wolfpack that there were juicy and edible creatures in thier area..thus inviting a visitation from the wolves.

The villages were doubly wounded by the cruelty of this boy.

He not only violated their trust, and probably created a lingering social discord in the village, but thier sheep were savaged as well.

That village lost a large part of its food and also its wealth--they would have needed those sheep to barter needed services and goods they could not have produced for themselves.

That kid was tested with his first important job and failed--at multiple levels.

For we need to be able to trust each other if we are to function as a society.

The worst injury is to behave in a way that makes us regret trusting other and makes us regret generous and compassionate behavior.

That's my response to the tale.

LP is free to 5150 me, if he thinks it necessary.

(California speak for involuntary 72 hour hold for observation in a psychiatric facility.)

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Footnote:Very like... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 3:38 PM | Posted by AK: | Reply

Footnote:

Very likely this village was close to subsistence level. Cash could have been scarce. They would have needed those sheep for barter.

And in a setting like that, you were not allowed to be a heedless child for very long.

Children had to become capable of taking on important jobs as soon as they could. A lengthy no-consequences artificial childhood as we know it today was a luxury they could not afford.

Putting that kid in charge of the sheep was a position of profound trust--he was entrusted with safeguarding a great deal of wealth--by the standards of that village.

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or, maybe, "never tell the ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 3:43 PM | Posted by trekkie: | Reply

or, maybe, "never tell the same line twice" - garek (STDS9)

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no matter how you try to de... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 3:56 PM | Posted by Shorty: | Reply

no matter how you try to defend against it, this points out a very valid flaw in the fable: if the village had lost faith in the boy, why entrust him with a task which was of measurable value to them?

it's true that Aesop wrote these stories without morals: i think they're designed to be thought excercises, ie, a way of making you consider aspects of society we take for granted, but which are not necessarily valid. the message i take away from this fable is:

*why expect someone who provenly does a job poorly, or who does not take their job seriously, to continue to work at that job?

it's not an uncommon theme, even in modern society.

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What do you know, Kafka is ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 4:08 PM | Posted by Matt Spire: | Reply

What do you know, Kafka is still alive after all, and he's posing as Aesop.

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lol this is so funny... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 4:51 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

lol this is so funny

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Correct. Management should ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 4:52 PM | Posted by John D'oh: | Reply

Correct. Management should have intervened immediately; a formal discussion for each infringement - so totalling three formal discussions for a repeated infringement - would have been sufficient to terminate the boy's employment, and so avoid the resulting inventory shrinkage.

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This is too much interpreti... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 5:09 PM | Posted by Mark Laporta: | Reply

This is too much interpretive weight on a story that, after all, is simply a coded reference to received social standards. Ripped out of its context, it's meaningless.

This is a story about human nature and a cautionary tale in form only. At heart, it's a sly observation about the way we're wired as a species. We're programmed to "learn from experience," even when that canned kind of learning works against our larger interests.

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"if the village had lost fa... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 5:37 PM | Posted by Christopher: | Reply

"if the village had lost faith in the boy, why entrust him with a task which was of measurable value to them?"
Doesn't follow. At least in the version I read that talks about a "master" i.e. one guy who presumably owns the sheep or the boys services or both. If that's the case, then the village didn't entrust him with anything, the master did. The village merely declined to volunteer for more abuse. In terms of comparison to today's America, the analogy would be to think about how four months time or so our boyishly sadistic rulers starts crying wolf about another banker's bailout. Oh, that's right; our elected representatives are in on the scam. So instead of the particular incompetent asset managers losing their stocks, the whole body politic will be taxed with losing productive work-time (read taxes). I see another moral to this story: though cruel, it may be right and good and just to ignore the legitimate pleas for help of those who have F-d you over oft before.

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This assumes that the sheep... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 5:51 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This assumes that the sheep belonged to the village. They could have belonged to the boy or the boy's family.

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> Peter and Dave, I suspect... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 6:19 PM | Posted, in reply to mik's comment, by spriteless: | Reply

> Peter and Dave, I suspect, have 2-digit IQs.
You know, the biggest idiot in the world saying the sky is blue doesn't make it any less so, and I hate hate HAAEEET those who use irrelevant attacks onto their opponents to argue. And really? Someone might be below average? That's half the population, right there. And since they disagree it means they don't understand? Because Last's and yours is the only point of view that's logical, right?

Rage rage rage rage rage... disclaimer: this rage doesn't mean I agree or disagree with anyone about anything ever.

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Good midrash--ie elaboratio... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 6:21 PM | Posted by Lilian Nattel: | Reply

Good midrash--ie elaboration, ie taking a "sacred" story, asking questions, embellishing it and in so doing finding answers to the questions you pose. This isn't about the village or the boy, it's about how we as a society make assumptions about the story and about teaching our children. ie "don't lie, nobody will believe you". And the post proposes a different lesson: "adults, take care of your children." Appropriate to the present day and I'm sure a lot of what brings folks to your office.

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To insist he is 'wrong' for... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 6:52 PM | Posted by Sfon: | Reply

To insist he is 'wrong' for seeing the story this way is to miss the point of thinking entirely. The moral of any story or situation is what you are able to learn or communicate through it. I would even go so far as to say that there is no reason for anyone here in the comments to be arguing about wolves, boys, or Aesop.

It is funny, a person has an idea and to help communicate it that person paints people a picture. And so what do those people do? They critique the color of the paper or paint used. Pick apart the easel and have rows about how old the wood is. Calculate the average interal area of the closed shapes used in the diagram. And in the middle of it all it takes effort to simply remember that it is supposed to be a painting OF something.

Before someone feels the need to correct me: Yes, I know this is text and not a painting. Thank you for your concern.

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"The moral of any story or ... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 7:18 PM | Posted, in reply to Sfon's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"The moral of any story or situation is what you are able to learn or communicate through it."

Yes, but how is one able to learn something from a story if one has misunderstood it in part or whole? For instance, let us deal with formal mistake. What if I don't understand English too well, and believe the word gullibility signifies not easily deceived or duped for being too trusting, but something else entirely, say fatigability, a tendency to get tired or lose strength. In that case, he's laughing at the villagers for being so tired (fat?) when they finally arrive. Story takes on a different meaning. Exegesis is all about thinking clearly, not just going off on tangents and making $#%! up. What, no culture ever had a fable about taking care of one's children?! Why don't we just grunt at each other if specific words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories aren't going to have specific meanings?

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The premise of "Aesop's" re... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 7:25 PM | Posted by B: | Reply

The premise of "Aesop's" reproach is flawed: children were regularly trusted with guarding sheep in many agrarian societies--this still occurs in modern-day Arab communities. It is not foolish to trust a young person with this job--it is appropriate, necessary, and it teaches responsibility from a young age.

And also? Tending sheep is almost always a solitary job. Part of being a good shepherd was learning to protect one's sheep alone--slingshots and staffs were a big part of this.

A good bit of the reason behind assigning children to the guarding of sheep is that it isn't necessarily physically taxing--older children can help with the heavy lifting around the farm while the smaller ones watch over the flocks. It's sensible, really.

In spite of this lack of historical/cultural research aside, the last bit of what the narrator states is true: if you don't trust him, you find someone that you do.

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Really? I mean, really? Hav... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 7:35 PM | Posted by Erik: | Reply

Really? I mean, really? Have you read Aesop's other fables? These aren't nuanced and detailed full-length allegories. They're simple, simple metaphors.

Whoever "fail" is, he nailed it on the head.

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This is lovely retelling of... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 7:42 PM | Posted by Anna: | Reply

This is lovely retelling of a classic story. Thanks! -Anna Boh

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No, this is not the moral o... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 9:01 PM | Posted by Hank Racker: | Reply

No, this is not the moral of the story.

What the villagers failed to consider adequately was that this was a very different boy who cried out. The old boy was a chronic liar. The new boy was truthful, but the villagers, not wanting to feel chumped once again, viewed the new boy as a liar.

The defense of narcissism destroyed everyone in town.

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I think this is great. This... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 9:32 PM | Posted by Batmaniz: | Reply

I think this is great. This gives a new and creative way of thinking about an old fable. Its called thinking out of the box! love it!!

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I must say, you analyzed th... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 10:47 PM | Posted, in reply to Christopher's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I must say, you analyzed this way too much. It's a story meant to teach a lesson to little children in a "colorful" way so that it keeps their attention. Don't so analytical. But I do enjoy this view of the story. I never thought of it this way.

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Clearly photoshopped.... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2009 11:10 PM | Posted by Phil E. Drifter: | Reply

Clearly photoshopped.

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This post seems to have ins... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 12:17 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This post seems to have inspired a number of very irritating writing styles.

"Are you serious? are you really going to relate this to American politics?"

"No... just no"

"And really?"

"And also?"

"Really? I mean, really?"

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maybe the village didn't en... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 12:29 AM | Posted by Anya Botte: | Reply

maybe the village didn't entrust the task to the boy. Would the flock belong to the entire village?
It is not and was not uncommon for children to take part in important tasks/chores in an agrarian, village society.
In context it was not asking too much for the villagers to entrust a boy (we don't know his age) with a flock of sheep. And as to why did they continue to give him the job? assuming they did give him the job, there could have simply been no other person available - maybe everyone else had other, equally important tasks to do.
They were poor villagers, not psychologists!lol!
They did what they could to get by even if it meant allowing someone who proved themselves untrustworthy to care for the sheep.
The moral of the story makes the most sense if the idea is that the sheep belong to the boys family rather than to the village.
THe moral stands....if you yank people's chain and lie to get attention, they will come for a while because they love you and want to be kind, but if you repeatedly lie, they will ignore you ad you will be the one ot pay the consequence.

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I'm hungry. ... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 12:42 AM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I'm hungry.

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....who cares?... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 1:26 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

....who cares?

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I don't think this story is... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 1:50 AM | Posted by octotroph: | Reply

I don't think this story is about lying. It's about attention. How far will one go to attract attention? After all, the boy is out in the field with a bunch of sheep. At least the rest of the village had someone to talk to while they work. As to how far one will go to attract attention, just read in the paper today about females risking their lives having silicone shot into their butts to look like J-Lo by inexperienced people. Butt attention getter!! This boy was lonely. Also, I can't believe this story was meant to teach children not to lie or that bad things happen when one lies. Bad things happen when one tells the truth as well. The village did not lose their sheep because the boy cried "wolf" too many times. The village lost their sheep because they stupidly sent a boy to do a man's job. Especially putting him in harms way when they knew there was a good possibility of being attack by wolves. BTW: Even in the Middle East one child does not attend sheep. There is always more than one.

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no you fool it makes perfec... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 5:10 AM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by anonymoose: | Reply

no you fool it makes perfect sense, they had no other warnings of the wolves coming, so the had to trust the boy every time, because they appointed him to do it, the moral is that it was there fault for putting him in that position in the first place

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I'm not surprised that so m... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 7:05 AM | Posted by C: | Reply

I'm not surprised that so many object wholeheartedly to someone's personal interpretation of a story. Instead of being open to receiving a new idea, a new take, people completely deny its credibility. Regardless of what Aesop's specific moral was (if there was only one intended), once his story was published for public consumption, he lost ownership of it; it is now owned by us, the public. We are free to experience it as we naturally would without being held back by rigid limitation of one single moral. Art is objective, people. Don't get your panties in a bunch if one's opinion isn't precisely your own. Discuss it.

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"2600 years ago a fable was... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 7:16 AM | Posted by Dorn im Dunklen: | Reply

"2600 years ago a fable was written, read by generations, understood by none."

Looks like this is going to remain true.

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They knew the wolf was comi... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 10:26 AM | Posted by KL: | Reply

They knew the wolf was coming, could not BE stopped, and they wanted a scapegoat to blame.

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Beware of false prophets, w... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 12:21 PM | Posted by stuart crawford: | Reply

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.

The fruits of the boys labour was initially laughter through ridicule and ultimitely the loss of credibility and finally.......

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"2600 years ago a fable was... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 3:36 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"2600 years ago a fable was written, read by generations, understood by none."

"....except me. Your friendly neigborhood, narcissistic psychiatrist."

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I read the post differently... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 4:15 PM | Posted by RLWemm: | Reply

I read the post differently from most of the other readers here.

The meaning of the original story is quite clear: don't make a habit of telling lies or you will not be believed when you tell the truth and it is important that you be believed.

The meaning of the "edited" version of The Last Psychiatrist is different. It is a comment on the personality characteristics of those who tell moral stories to frighten children into conforming to societal conventions and mores. The average moralist is quick to blame others but slow to see fault in themselves or their society. In the fable the bulk of the burden of responsibility is placed on the immature child and insufficient is placed on those with more experience and maturity who are supposed to be teaching and caring for him. The lesson from the amended parable is relevant to societies, like some States of the US, which have so-called "justice" systems which punish children for the rest of their lives for crimes which result, in large part, from the failures of their parents and their society.


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man those writing styles re... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 5:15 PM | Posted by john: | Reply

man those writing styles really get on my tits too.

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who gives a shit.its doesnt... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 5:38 PM | Posted, in reply to Lasse's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

who gives a shit.its doesnt even matter!

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Children like to cry wolf. ... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 8:13 PM | Posted by Common Reader: | Reply

Children like to cry wolf. The first joke a baby makes is the fake cough/sneeze. They learn that you react to a cough or a sneeze, so they make a cough/sneeze noise, and then they laugh when you react. They got to control your reaction! It's amazing!

This is hilarious and cute when an 8mo baby does it. It's dangerous when a 6yo pulls a fire alarm or tells you a bad man tried to talk to him when he was out with the babysitter. Children have a hard time learning what truth is and not all of them do. Your kindergartner screams HELP HELP MOMMY HELP from the other room, and you run in scared and he laughs and laughs, or if he's more sophisticated he tells you he THOUGHT he saw smoke and then he tries it again ten minutes later. He got to control your reaction! It's amazing!

Then you tell the child the story of the boy who cried wolf. Why? Because children can make an abstraction and understand the one they made for themselves - they can derive that the same moral principles apply to their behavior and the behavior of the boy in the story; but they cannot understand your articulation of an abstraction for them - they can't understand your explanation of why lying is wrong and how you need to be able to trust them. That's just how cognitive development works.

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I agree with RLWemm's take ... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 8:34 PM | Posted, in reply to RLWemm's comment, by Esther: | Reply

I agree with RLWemm's take on this. The original story is a moralist story, but Alone has interpreted it to show something else. Parents who raise children poorly -- narcissists if you like -- tend to put the blame on the child for not raising herself properly. Somehow, little people with no life experience are expected to make no mistakes whatsoever. When we do make stupid and sometimes deliberate mistakes we get punished for being "smug" or "amused." The adults in the village should have given the boy some oversight and positive attention rather than expecting him to learn without any experience.

Moreover, where did the boy learn that telling a lie to get a rise out of people was funny? It could not have been because adults in the village did the same sort of thing? I know, that's not in the fable. But sometimes kids copycat not realizing the consequences because adults just assume they should know what to do or not to do. Or adults tell a really boring, silly fable to scare the kids into doing the socially accepted thing and kids kind of hate being condescended to.

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That's the point.... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 8:37 PM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by bakedpotates: | Reply

That's the point.

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"provenly"?... (Below threshold)

February 14, 2009 9:05 PM | Posted by Grammarian: | Reply

"provenly"?

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Wolves work in packs. ... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2009 1:28 AM | Posted, in reply to Christopher's comment, by Colin: | Reply

Wolves work in packs.

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Usually but not always. Th... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2009 10:37 AM | Posted, in reply to Colin's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Usually but not always. Think lone wolf. Or for instance, consider that desperate, sickly, or beta wolves may drift away from the pack and out of their best wild environment to the more dangerous (for them) human populated zone in search of easy prey such as domesticated animals.

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This whole argument proceed... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2009 6:59 PM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by Thomas: | Reply

This whole argument proceeds from the fact that the boy has somehow been deputized to be the town's wolf spotter. Reading the original story above, though, there is no evidence of his acting in any official capacity.

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Why has this particular art... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2009 7:39 PM | Posted by Augustus: | Reply

Why has this particular article received so much attention?

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Hungry like the wolf?... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2009 9:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by EhWhat?: | Reply

Hungry like the wolf?

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My take on this story:... (Below threshold)

February 16, 2009 8:42 AM | Posted by not otherwise specified: | Reply

My take on this story:

True warnings of a threat may sometimes come from unreliable sources. So, as a physician who must first do no harm (must first cover his ass), you must parse every allegation of a symptom (or a side-effect) to see if it 'sounds true' even if it is likely just a manufactured symptom (or side effect).

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Moral of the story? <... (Below threshold)

February 16, 2009 12:34 PM | Posted by Ronnie: | Reply

Moral of the story?

Right after the first lie but certainly no later than the second one, the kid should have been at another job. Preferably one plowing fields.

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It's an allegory, which by ... (Below threshold)

February 16, 2009 6:02 PM | Posted by Valerie: | Reply

It's an allegory, which by definition, means that it is meant to be SYMBOLIC. Your missing the point if you are analyzing it within any historical or cultural context. You might as well say the moral of the story is 'boys with sheep lie'.

Abstract. Symbols. Wrap your brain around this: This is no wolf. There is no boy. This is no agrarian culture.

Having said that, allegories can communicate different things to different peoples, cultures. I think this is a neat little evolution of the tradition. Well played, TLP.

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I always thought the boy wa... (Below threshold)

February 16, 2009 8:21 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I always thought the boy was watching his own sheep, and the villagers were helping him altruistically. Or under the assumption that if the person watching their sheep called wolf, the boy would reciprocate. That way, by lying, the boy only lost his families sheep.

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It's a Honda del Sol! Trust... (Below threshold)

February 17, 2009 1:51 AM | Posted by anton: | Reply

It's a Honda del Sol! Trust me, I've gone through three different ones over the years. Definitely not a Miata. Aiden, you're an idiot.

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Common Reader, are you rela... (Below threshold)

February 17, 2009 9:13 AM | Posted, in reply to Common Reader's comment, by fraise: | Reply

Common Reader, are you related to my parents? My mother, especially, accused me of lying and manipulating her throughout my childhood with quotes like yours. Here's a "parable" for you.

It nearly killed me. I had endometriosis, which was then undiagnosed because my mother thought I was exaggerating my complaints and stealing menstrual supplies to get her attention and anger her. Unbeknownst to me, I developed an ovarian cyst. Because my 8-day, hemorrhaging periods that caused so much pain that I passed out on the floor were ignored by my mother as "exaggerations" and "lies to get her attention", I got no treatment (that would be The Pill), and the cyst continued to develop. It eventually burst; I still remember the sharp burst of pain.

Luckily I was not living with my parents with it burst -- but I was living with the effects of 20 years of "you are SUCH a liar and a manipulator, don't tell us otherwise, all children do the same", so doubting my body's signals, I didn't go to the doctor until the next day. On seeing the sonogram, they rushed me to be operated. I asked why so soon, since I'd eaten recently and would be going under general anesthetic. "Because you'll be dead from internal bleeding in an hour."

I survived, obviously. I was put on the Pill and am fine now -- so fine that life is a true joy to live. My parents' reaction when I phoned them after awakening from the operation? They told me I should have died. In so many words (not a paraphrase). So I did -- to them.

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Good article. There is oft... (Below threshold)

February 17, 2009 3:31 PM | Posted by infopractical: | Reply

Good article. There is often a second good telling of a moral story -- if we are interested in learning that much from it.

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Ya'know what, that kid was ... (Below threshold)

February 18, 2009 11:58 PM | Posted by Guffin Mopes: | Reply

Ya'know what, that kid was a little liar and he deserved the distrust he got. If he expected people to take him seriously he should've been honest from the start.

Liar's cannot be trusted!

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I find it very humerous whe... (Below threshold)

February 19, 2009 12:11 AM | Posted by Eric Brown: | Reply

I find it very humerous when people try to disregard the intended message of somehting, even when they clearly understand it's meaning. Although this story doesn't completly exemplify the point that the original author was trying to convey, it's point is no doubt tangible. I must admit though, the author of the article about the story was very clever, but i must assume that they only over-analyzed the original story because they enjoyed arguing and also going against the grain. Then again maybe I wrote this comment for the exact same reason.

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Thats not what happened. <... (Below threshold)

February 19, 2009 12:29 AM | Posted by jim: | Reply

Thats not what happened.

After the sheep were eaten, the villagers became vegitarians and lived long and ealthy lives. The Boy, now without a job, realized how the wolf had lost him his job, wrote a book about Peter and the Wolf so that everone would understand the danger wolves present. And now you know the rest of .....

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I liked this analysis :-)</... (Below threshold)

February 27, 2009 11:32 AM | Posted by Andy: | Reply

I liked this analysis :-)

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Moral relativism is so easy... (Below threshold)

March 1, 2009 2:00 PM | Posted by Rob: | Reply

Moral relativism is so easy. No choices, just blame. You must be a liberal.

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i like this thing even thou... (Below threshold)

March 5, 2009 7:21 AM | Posted by Your Mum: | Reply

i like this thing even though i dnt knw what it is...

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This is a stupid article. Y... (Below threshold)

March 7, 2009 6:51 AM | Posted by df: | Reply

This is a stupid article. You are seeing things. But there is nothing.

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Moral absolutism is so easy... (Below threshold)

March 7, 2009 7:22 PM | Posted, in reply to Rob's comment, by Neil: | Reply

Moral absolutism is so easy. No choices, just blame. You must be a conservative.

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I would never have thought ... (Below threshold)

March 9, 2009 4:22 PM | Posted by MacDylan: | Reply

I would never have thought so much about the story if I hadn't read all the comments, so cheers for that.
My view is that the story is a Tool that can used by whoever is weilding it as they wish. I always assumed that it was a way of descreibing consequence that you might never imagine. I have told my kids this story and it seemed to provide a good way of finding out why lying isn't something we should do (and here comes the clever bit). The truth is that we use "Lies to children" all the time. At some point my kids will have to tell little white lies, and at some point they will tell a big fat lie because they're scarred of angry or whatever. You can not explain the fine nuauces to children (who dont have the practical experience) so you have to help them find out for themselves. Aesop is telling us many things at many differant level because it's a story about humans and how humans behave. The multitude of points are great (even if some are irritating) we are the children and some of us understand this story in ways others do not. This is not a Test this is a story and it is as real and relavent as we make it.

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Sometimes, helping is hinde... (Below threshold)

March 11, 2009 4:47 PM | Posted by JL: | Reply

Sometimes, helping is hindering. Thomas Jefferson nearly hit the mark when he said,"Never ask someone to do for you what you can do for yourself".

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Fool me once shame on you..... (Below threshold)

March 13, 2009 1:44 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Fool me once shame on you...Fool me twice shame on ME.

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get out of the house.... (Below threshold)

March 16, 2009 10:33 PM | Posted by rachel: | Reply

get out of the house.

go talk to people...face to face. not online.

just...get a life. oh god, please..get a life.

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He is right, this tale coul... (Below threshold)

March 21, 2009 12:36 PM | Posted by john: | Reply

He is right, this tale could be seen in as a failure of delegation because having someone convenient in the field was easier than finding someone reliable. trust is essential and it never says whether the whole thing was just a series of genuine false alarms whose details were embellished by a resentful sheep farmer.

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y will a lil boy cri wolf w... (Below threshold)

April 10, 2009 11:32 PM | Posted by jasmelie: | Reply

y will a lil boy cri wolf wen there wasent oo can u help mii fine a video of the boy who cried wolf

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Photoshopped.These... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2009 7:39 PM | Posted by Joe Cool: | Reply

Photoshopped.

These porn pics were obviously edited to look like some stupid story.

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Or how about - the boy simp... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2009 12:09 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Or how about - the boy simply doesn't lie, then he won't be left alone with no one believing him and risking his own life.

This isn't the adults fault. One must learn from their mistakes.
And yes, maybe the points made are somewhat factual, but are you being serious? I think that you're just trying too hard.
It's a good story, with good morals.
Quit thinking you're smart for depicting a timeless story that has meaning behind it.

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Your MOM's too deep... (Below threshold)

May 21, 2009 3:11 PM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by anonymous: | Reply

Your MOM's too deep

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I just remember the boy wou... (Below threshold)

May 26, 2009 9:34 PM | Posted by anon: | Reply

I just remember the boy would claim to have seen a wolf, not that he was in charge of alerting the village in the event of a wolf attack. Interesting mental masturbation, though.

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STOP BEING GAY... (Below threshold)

June 16, 2009 9:38 PM | Posted by fufufufu: | Reply

STOP BEING GAY

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part IIISo the the... (Below threshold)

July 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Posted by tom: | Reply

part III

So the the whole village went to therapy and discussed their feelings about wolves and boys and lies. They were charged by the hour and after years of therapy they wound up losing everything they owned. When they were finally destitute and could no longer afford the fees, the psychiatrist pronounced them cured of "Agrarian Canus Psychosis" (or ACP), and moved to a better office in a nicer part of town.

The wolf and the psychiatrist then split the profits.
The boy became a lawyer for a large drug company which marketed a new drug (Canobrex) to victims of ACP. The drug eventually caused them to die from kidney failure, a side affect clearly stated on the drug's package insert.

The End.

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It's simple and too many pa... (Below threshold)

July 19, 2009 12:05 PM | Posted by Brenda Mayer: | Reply

It's simple and too many parents do it today.

The adults deliberately denied their responsibility and then tried to justify it with the adolescent claim of being busy doing other things. It's really almost toddleresque: "Well, we'll show you!".

You can't blame a kid for being a kid. They are going to do unwise and/or obnoxioius things--repeatedly. That is what kids do. It is incredibly irresponsible to expose them to danger as a teaching tool. Or in this case, assume they are lying.

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Your poor grammar is enough... (Below threshold)

September 23, 2009 3:24 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Your poor grammar is enough to make any opinion you may have invalid in my eyes:
"Since he lied therefore there is no wolf"
really?

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I don't know if I'd admit t... (Below threshold)

September 23, 2009 6:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by rodeoburger: | Reply

I don't know if I'd admit to thinking that way in public, Anonymous.

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Eric, why do you think the ... (Below threshold)

September 23, 2009 6:44 PM | Posted, in reply to Eric Brown's comment, by rodeoburger: | Reply

Eric, why do you think the "intended" message is the only valid one? Once you know the author's intent, must you shut down your brain?

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wtf... haha!oy, th... (Below threshold)

October 17, 2009 2:58 PM | Posted by Jenny: | Reply

wtf... haha!

oy, there is no hidden meaning in it— it means what it does.

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If you are caught ly... (Below threshold)

March 26, 2010 8:04 PM | Posted by Mobility Scooter: | Reply


If you are caught lying -no one will believe you! simple

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Lol the story teaches you t... (Below threshold)

August 12, 2010 3:19 AM | Posted, in reply to Colin's comment, by Lupo: | Reply

Lol the story teaches you to work in teams. (wolves) lol

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The moral of that story is ... (Below threshold)

December 2, 2010 10:21 AM | Posted by Hank Scropio: | Reply

The moral of that story is not to tell lies, or that the boy lied and the villagers lied. It's not about trust or betrayal or resentment. The moral of the story is "never tell the same lie twice".

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<a href="http://www.smbc-co... (Below threshold)

July 31, 2011 3:57 AM | Posted, in reply to Dave's comment, by KP: | Reply

http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20110730.gif

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I love the way articles deg... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2011 11:25 AM | Posted by Christa: | Reply

I love the way articles degrade into a fight in the comments. It's so entertaining.

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When you're in uncomfortabl... (Below threshold)

January 8, 2012 1:56 PM | Posted by PhyllisHammond20: | Reply

When you're in uncomfortable position and have no money to go out from that, you will have to take the loan. Just because it will aid you for sure. I get consolidation loans every single year and feel good just because of it.

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No matter if some one searc... (Below threshold)

October 29, 2012 1:23 PM | Posted by Kyle Ochoa: | Reply

No matter if some one searches for his vital thing, thus he/she desires to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.

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I don't think you got it ri... (Below threshold)

November 24, 2012 3:19 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't think you got it right. The way I knew that story, the boy were not on a wolf watch job of any kind. He was just being a boy, and cried 'wolf' like anyone could. After he cried wolf several times when there was no wolf, his cries were understood to be devoid of information on the lupines in the vicinity.

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Wow, I had no idea this blo... (Below threshold)

December 7, 2012 2:08 PM | Posted by Janonymous: | Reply

Wow, I had no idea this blog had readers who were this stupid and pedantic.

"OMG NO THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS THAT IF YOU LIE YOU WON'T BE BELIEVED IN FUTURE!".

Bravo. You have correctly comprehended a literal interpretation of a story that was designed to be understood by 5 year olds. Some of you were far too proud in correctly recalling what the usual interpretation is.

File that in with your other towering intellectual achievements, like your college degree and online IQ test results.

It's a story, a parable no less. Like all stories its open to interpretation. The Last Psychiatrist made a re-interpretation that was a lot more insightful and relevant than "don't lie".

Whatever you guys do, don't watch DS9. There's an episode were Garak suggests that the moral of the boy-who-cried wolf story is actually not to tell the same lie twice. You guys will literally lose your shit.

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lol I noticed before that a... (Below threshold)

December 8, 2012 4:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Janonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

lol I noticed before that a lot of people "correct" alone with standard, well-known theories and dogmas every time he has an unique take on things.

It's like they feel they are actually being helpful and gifting us of their immense wisdom.

Anyway a bunch of dumb idiots

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The different interpretatio... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2012 1:01 PM | Posted by Murph: | Reply

The different interpretations of a deceptively simple fable are fascinating. I take it as a parable about the value of truth and the importance of its container, honest communication. The container is valuable because of what it can hold. It may not seem valuable at first, but the boy realizes its value when it is too broken to carry what it was designed to carry.

Of course, the stakes are raised by making it a question of survival value, to illustrate the roots of this principle. There are many situations with less dire consequences, but this is to ground the child's understanding of the origin of this particular clause in the social contract.

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Alone, my only concern with... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2012 6:39 PM | Posted by Madness: | Reply

Alone, my only concern with your take on the story is that, at least in the version you quoted, it doesn't say he was actually put in charge if the sheep or any such specific "lookout" task. That's just a technical vulnerability, but i found it intriguing, so i pondered the validity of your point but taking it as if the boy is just another member of the village with equal responsibility to raise an alarm for threats if he happens to be the one to spot them.

Following through on this analysis of the story as-is, one can come to a very similar conclusion. If he was just one of the villagers and they all have equal resonsibility to look out for wolves and threats, after the first lie (or two), why didn't the village instate (or perhaps reinforce if there was such a principle) a law or rule to discourage false alarms through potential for punishment? After all, that is how modern society attempts to minimize false distraction of the police and feds and all law enforcement: lying to them is a punishable crime. Not just providing false statements, but rather "zomg, come quick, there is a bank robbery!!... Lol, trolling" calls to 911.

So even in the story as-is, the problem is you (us), not the boy, for not handling an exposed potential failure (intentionally falsified positives) and instating modification that would begin to handle that inherent vulnerability. There is no guarantee that those modifications would work. But the village didn't even try. At least not in the fable.

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What are you, Dave, a Youtu... (Below threshold)

March 20, 2013 1:39 AM | Posted, in reply to Dave's comment, by Atarii: | Reply

What are you, Dave, a Youtube commenter?

Does it matter that YOU personally believe that he is being pretentious, or that his analogy is irrelevant?
He thinks it is. Why not consider the possibilities instead of shooting off a knee-jerk reaction response?

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Yes.I'm surprised ... (Below threshold)

July 30, 2013 5:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Janonymous's comment, by Ash: | Reply

Yes.

I'm surprised no-one has pulled evolutionary biology on us yet. They tend to do that in every other thread, apparently oblivious to the fact that psychoanalysis is incompatible with their "x happens, so there must be a rational evolutionary explanation why x happens" paradigm.

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So even in the sto... (Below threshold)

August 1, 2013 7:16 AM | Posted, in reply to Madness's comment, by jonny: | Reply

So even in the story as-is, the problem is you (us), not the boy, for not handling an exposed potential failure (intentionally falsified positives) and instating modification that would begin to handle that inherent vulnerability. There is no guarantee that those modifications would work. But the village didn't even try. At least not in the fable.

Why would you imagine prohibiting insanity could be worth a try? Would you punish the insane for shooting themselves in the foot by harming others in confusion about their best interests?

Why would you want to tell the insane that Self-defeating behaviour is in their interests, and that Justice is about not getting caught?

To those who believe the moral of the story is don't tell the same lie twice; what benefit did the boy gain from the first lie (his successful lie)?

A world of shrewd little Toddlers, shooting themselves in the foot with their hilarious lies.

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The story is a metaphor on ... (Below threshold)

October 30, 2013 7:30 AM | Posted by progretarian: | Reply

The story is a metaphor on the interplay of superego, ego and id.

"But, who is who?" cried the boy...

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It doesn't "try" to be deep... (Below threshold)

December 8, 2013 11:37 AM | Posted, in reply to "Peter"'s comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It doesn't "try" to be deep, it IS deep. I never thought of this, myself, and I think it has significance not only in the interpretation, but insofar as the question that must then be asked: Why did no one ever consider the various aspects of the story more thoroughly?

There's some CHILD who is left to tend sheep, and when he lies, the villagers still allow him to tend the sheep?

It is a good example of how we are taught what to think, but not how to think, or rather, we are taught how to think also, but it's not the right way to think.
Alone challenges the form of even interpreting the story, enlightening all the elements thereof, rather than accept that a boy is tending sheep, and the villagers leave him to it even when they clearly distrust him.
It is compelling, if you want to think more. You CAN simply say, "Well, he's just reading too much into it"; but if you do that, then, in the words of the Riddler as played by Jim Carrey(sp): Yuh won't learn nothin'.

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It is a good examp... (Below threshold)

December 8, 2013 6:35 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

It is a good example of how we are taught what to think, but not how to think, or rather, we are taught how to think also, but it's not the right way to think.

How about Hans Christian Andersen's fable of The Emperor's New Clothes? Was the point of that story lost on everyone?

Clothes were placed on us, like a saddle; our strong opposition to such needless restrictions snapped like a twig. Could you walk through a busy city mall naked? If a gun was put to your head, could you do it? Many people couldn't. They wouldn't want to die, they wouldn't be able to live. PTSD is debilitating.

"Look! The princess is wearing clothes."

Why are toddlers being objectified by their mothers as if the mere sight of an asexual toddler's naked body was prized by men? Filthy perverts wrap their children up like gifts (to curry favour with powerful priests who don't care for girls) or package them for exclusive sale to The One.

As for men being aroused by asexual children, women condition pedophilia into men with respondent conditioning, associating cute with sexy. Cute now triggers the conditioned response of arousal in broken men confused by women's malicious 'need' to exploit the biological mechanism that serves to protect the young of every mammal species. Women want protection...from retaliation.

Mothers objectify girls by telling them their purity is a highly-valued prize and then feign confusion about why girls sell themselves. Bunch of twisted infantile perverts breaking children.
_____________
I was presenting an assignment at uni when a girl in my class interrupted to declare that men wanted to look up her skirt. Taking control of her skirt, she sat again with a smooth, a fold, and a flourish tied together with a look of disgust for the world in general. Why...to see a glimpse of cloth, I dunno? I've met some sick guys but none have ever cared about looking up a girl's skirt.

I asked her, "Why?"

She got aggressive. "Why don't you tell me? All men are pigs."

I shook my head. "Are you obsessed with men? Focus on what you can control. I asked Why?...why aren't you wearing pants?"

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How fascinating. Another r... (Below threshold)

February 6, 2014 2:24 PM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Your Friend: | Reply

How fascinating. Another rant about your evil mommy. I didn't see that coming. Nope. not at all.

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I know why you're annoyed b... (Below threshold)

February 8, 2014 9:45 PM | Posted, in reply to Your Friend's comment, by jonny: | Reply

I know why you're annoyed by that post and it's got nothing to do with mothers.

As for men being aroused by asexual children, women condition pedophilia into men with respondent conditioning, associating cute with sexy.

Cute now triggers the conditioned response of arousal in broken men confused by women's malicious 'need' to exploit the biological mechanism that serves to protect the young of every mammal species.

You imbeciles misinterpreted [the male biological instinct to protect children] for [a male preference for infantile grownup women]. You fools.

Now children get raped by men who get hardons around cute kids, having been conditioned to be pedophiles by perverted, mutilated, face-painted objects who only think with their dicks.

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