Friday, October 20, 2006

Depressing Folklore

(Or, as I really wanted to title it, "Steel Drivin' Corpse")

I've never really understood why they teach little kids the story of John Henry in school. (For those of you who are entirely self-educated, John Henry is an African-American folk hero, who may or may not have been real, who hammered in steel spikes on the railroad tracks. One day, management brought in a steam-powered hammer that could do the work faster than any man, but John Henry bet the foreman that he could out-pound the steam hammer. He did just that--but keeled over dead right after winning the race.)

Let's face it--after reading the previous paragraph, you probably take my meaning right there. It's always presented to kids as showing how important it is to strive on, even against impossible odds, because you can do things you never imagined if you try...but really, that kind of overlooks the fact that John Henry keels over dead, while the steam hammer will be up and ready to go the next day. It seems more like the message is, "Try to stand in the way of progress, and you'll end up taking a dirt nap while machines do your job. Go learn how to run a steam hammer if you want to get somewhere in this world, kid."

Which, now that I think about it, is probably a pretty good thing for kids to learn sooner or later.

Never mind.

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