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The hand that shakes the helmet

Herman Labuschagne

I once had a business partner who told me a story about a fight between a spider and a scorpion. It was a story with more meaning than just a struggle to the death between two creatures. It was a story about us.

The story comes from the time when he was still doing his compulsory military service as a soldier on the border. It was very hot and the soldiers were bored to death. One way or another the boys managed to catch a big red roman spider and a scorpion. Then someone said he'd heard that spiders and scorpions can put up an epic fight if thrown together.

The soldiers thought that this would be a sight to see, so they put both creatures inside a steel army helmet and waited for them to fight.

Nothing happened.



They tried shaking the helmet to agitate the creatures, but still, they refused to fight. All that the two animals were interested in, was to get out of the helmet and mind their own business. No matter what they tried, the spider and scorpion couldn't be antagonized to the point of entering into combat.

But then someone had an idea. He simply left the helmet in the boiling sun. Inside the parabolic reflector that the steel helmet now proved to be, the temperature rose to a frightful level. Tormented by the heat, the spider and the scorpion began scurrying around frantically. Up and down the sides, and over one-another.

Finally, the heat became so intense, and their agony so great, that the two began to take out on one another. A deadly battle for life and death ensued. The elated soldiers crowded around and cheered loudly, each one proclaiming who he thought the winner would be.

In the end, the scorpion won. The soldiers congratulated those who had successfully predicted who the winner would be. And then they dropped the scorpion on the sand and squashed it. Thus ended an hour of morbid entertainment on the border.

At this point, Chris looked at me and said that when he later thought about it, he realized that there was a parallel to this story. He said those two creatures really did not want to fight. All they wanted was to be left alone so they could go on with their own lives and be happy. Yet, outside forces goaded and tormented them, and made a persistent effort to get them to take out their frustrations upon each other. The fight between them had been instigated. The hatred between them was based upon a lie.

He looked at me very directly and then said, "that's what Satan does to us, you know...?"

I instantly knew exactly what he meant, but he continued to explain. In many cases, people just want to go on with their individual lives. We want to live and love and be left alone. But the ruler of this world, as the Bible calls him, does not want this. He wants to inject his own feelings of bitterness and hatred, resentment and prejudice into us.

And so he makes it his daily business to shake us in a helmet, and to turn up the heat as much as possible. He knows that if he can make it hot for us, then sooner or later we will turn on each other and start to destroy ourselves.

You have to know the game plan of your enemy, Chris told me. And you have to know your own human nature. If you know the strategy of your enemy, and if you understand your own human weakness, then you can defeat your enemy. You will need help, of course, but help is always just a prayer away.

I look at the politics in America at the moment. The politics of Europe. The politics in Russia and the Middle East. The politics of the Far East. And the politics in the zoo which is my own country. And I see very clearly, a spider and a scorpion. And a hand that shakes us in a helmet - while the temperature is growing ever hotter.

We can't do much about the helmet or the heat. We're in it already. This is our test of endurance. But to fight each other is our choice alone. We can always submit to human nature and the primitive impulses that guide our instinctive actions, which is to fight each other. That would be the most natural course of action. Indeed, fighting amongst ourselves is the easy way to give expression to our sense of frustration.

If we are not killed ourselves, then we will experience the elation of triumphing over our opponents. But we have to remember one critical fact: In the end, everybody loses. One way or another even the victor becomes squashed. The end of war and human conflicted is mutually-assured destruction.

The greatest irony of the whole situation on the border was that neither the scorpion nor the spider was the enemy at all. And so it is with us. We spend all our time and energy fighting each other. But we completely miss the point:

What we should have been fighting all along, was not each other - but the hand that shakes the helmet.


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