A veterinarian gives a farmer three days of medication for his ailing horse. “I’ll pass by each afternoon. If he’s not better on the third day, we will have to put him down.“

When the vet arrives the next afternoon, the pig who overheard the conversation tries to rouse the horse, but he won’t wake up.

The second day is much the same. For all the pigs efforts, the old stallion just ignores him.

Come the third day, the vet takes one look at the horse and shakes his head. While he is preparing the injection to send the horse to horsey-heaven, the agitated pig gets serious:

“Idiot! Get your ass up off the ground, or they are going to kill you!”

The horse at last finds his strength and walks off into the pasture to graze.

Excitedly, the farmer cries out:

“Look, he’s fine. This is cause for a celebration! Go get some beer and we’ll slaughter the pig!”

The first time I heard this joke, it was retold in Mexican Spanish. I was traveling with a group of Student Union Communists right after the (Mexican) Presidential Election of the late 1980s. Those were crazy days.

The moral of the joke or instructional tale was “Don’t implicate yourself in the problems of others.”

At the time I thought this was a really lousy moral for communists, but I kept my mouth shut because these folks were a lot more serious than I. I had just seen the horrors of Guatemala in that period, and in Mexico, the soldier stopped me on the street and said:

-So, who are you going to vote for?

-Respected authority figure, I cannot vote as I am not a citizen.

-But if you could vote for someone, who would it be?

-Well, I would probably ask you, Sir!

So, back to the instructional tale. My ancient communist buddies (I had a thing for fierce women at the time) didn’t see any problem with their version of the moral tale.

Despite their supposed superior comprehension of political theory they failed to see that the pig chose to come to the aid of a comrade, who was deprived of choice by the farmer/boss. Who we will remind you, just might have a profit motivation in making glue and dog food from an old horse.

The pig is not stupid either; he could not have envisioned a scenario in which to save the life of the horse meant his own death. Unless, of course he had witnessed the same scene before a few times, or read about World War II. Or perhaps any honest account of any war.

One might argue he isn’t a proper hero either, because he may have made different choices if he knew there was even a tiny risk of his own death.

I am certain however, that the pig is a martyr to what some like to call “human decency.”

©2012 - C Ewen Mac Millan