At my lake place there is a mouse bucket in the dark and dank recesses of the crawl space. It is a one-gallon plastic pail with a hollow aluminum dowel set into holes drilled through opposite sides of the pail, close to the rim. The bottom of the dowel is finger painted with fresh, creamy peanut butter. The pail is one-third filled with windshield washer.
The pail’s purpose is to attract mice, who crave the peanut butter. They walk the dowel, somewhat like loggers of days past. They try to keep their balance as they bend to lick the peanut butter. At first the mice are careful to lick only what they can reach without making the dowel roll. Eventually, gluttony overcomes all mice and they bend farther to get more peanut butter. The dowel rolls and they plunge into the pool below where they drown and are pickled by the windshield washer.These are privileged mice, living warm and happy beneath the cabin, and who do not need peanut butter. None of their common-folk cousins who live in the nearby fields and forests have peanut butter available to them. No mouse needs peanut butter to live because food for survival surrounds them – seeds, nuts, bulbs, grasses and dozens of other nutritious foods supplied by nature. The privileged mice want peanut butter only because it is there for the taking.
Our politicians, unelected officials and others who wield power, are awash with entitlements similar to the peanut butter smeared on the dowel. Like the mice, the greediest bend over too far and fall into the pool. However, penalties for greedy officials who fall are much less severe than for the mice. Most suffer embarrassment or what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
Some who slip off the dowel protest that the rules covering entitlements are unclear or unfair. Rules can never be clear enough for anyone who takes something not for need or as fair compensation, but simply because it is there. Greed always obscures clarity.
Such is life in an age of ever-growing expectations and entitlements.