Out of all of the selected poems we read from the Classic of Poetry, “Huge Rat” was the one that I felt had the most obvious and notable political message. The poem tells the tale of a huge rat who keeps eating food provided by the narrator yet not returning any favors to benefit the narrator. The narrator, therefore, swears to leave and go to a happier place. The author writes:
“I swear that I will leave you
and go to a happier realm.
A happy realm, a happy realm,
there I will find what I deserve.”
In this passage, the narrator feels that they are not getting what they deserve to earn for feeding and taking care of the rat. This can be connected to real life politics, as people often feel as if the people in leadership roles in their countries take more from the citizens than they give back.
Later, the author writes:
“I swear that I will leave you
and go to happy meadows.
Happy meadows, happy meadows
where none need wail and cry.”
The final line is particularly interesting: the narrator seems to imagine a sort of utopia in which no one suffers. The “rat” in this poem seems to have taken so much as to cause harm and suffering to others, which many political figures in history have been known to do.
This can be connected to a modern example we are likely all familiar with: the United States government. The United States, despite being a highly developed first world nation, does not have an affordable healthcare system like many other developed nations do. Yet, according to findings by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, our military expenditure was higher than that of any other nation.
Image 1: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Why is it that the United States needs to spend such a large amount on the military rather than allocating those funds toward helping the citizens? Why should taxpayers give the government our money if it is not going to benefit us? Political cartoonist Paresh Nath drew the following political cartoon entitled “Global Military Spending.”
Image 2: Paresh Nath
This cartoon portrays several nations lined up to feed more money into the already stuffed man whose shirt reads “Global Military Spending” while a much smaller man labeled as “Social Spending” stands off to the side, receiving nothing. This is commentary on the trend amongst some large nations, including the United States, to use taxpayer dollars to spend far more than is necessary on the military rather than putting that money toward social programs that would directly benefit the citizens of the nation.
The author of “Huge Rat” seemed to have a similar issue with the government: the citizens gave more than they got back, and the leaders seemed to benefit from the citizens’ work without giving back to their country. It is interesting that this would still be a theme with governments so many years after the commentary made in “Huge Rat.” In this way, we can relate our own modern experiences to those of people who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago, including the author of “Huge Rat.”
Image 1: “Military Expenditure.” SIPRI, https://www.sipri.org/research/armament-and-disarmament/arms-and-military-expenditure/military-expenditure.
Image 2: Nath, Paresh. “Global Military Spending.” 2019.