There seems to be some confusion over the oft-quoted “Give a man a fish” metaphor. I think as a matter of clarification I should explain the nuances of such a frequently used maxim.

We should start with the actual metaphor: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” Some people think the second line is “he’ll never be hungry again,” but this is wrong. I think this confusion comes from blurring the line with the movie Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett O’Hara exclaims, “I’ll never be hungry again!” Of course I could be wrong.

Now first, there’s the question of whether the man owns a fishing pole. This point assumes that one can only catch fish with hook, line, and sinker. Not true. One can use a spear (I saw this in a Tom Hanks movie once), bare hands, a shotgun, a Glock .45, a rocket launcher, or even in a crunch, dynamite (the fish just sort of float up to the surface). Of course, I’m thinking the guy really doesn’t have a fishing pole because some liberal government bureaucrat saw that he did but his neighbor did not, so said bureaucrat took the fishing pole, snapped it in half, and gave each man a half. Neither one of them can fish now, but hey, at least they’re equal. Fishing lessons can’t even be conducted now outside of those contained in Kabuki theater.

But there’s also the problem of getting the man to the body of water. Let’s see: There’s the bus, the metro, the SEIU activist van, or perhaps even-gasp-legs. Logistical transport problem solved!

We now have the concern over whether the body of water has fish in it, or even if the water is contaminated. It certainly makes no sense to have gone to a polluted lake, so if the guy did he better start walking back now.

As to the availability of an edible aquatic food source in the water, I’m thinking it probably worked something like this: There were once plenty of fish in the lake. People fished and had a good ole time. And then one day, STAND arrived and convinced the fish that they weren’t getting enough worms and thus the fish were discontented. And then SEIU showed up and convinced the fish to initiate a work stoppage. Some of the fish were even convinced into not partaking in worms anymore and so have been seen being wheeled around in little fishy wheelchairs by other fish in purple T-shirts. And then just when it couldn’t get any worse, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed up and let those fish know that they have rights, and are thus very busy registering those fish to vote. So you see, there are actually plenty of fish, they’re just a bit preoccupied trying to buy up all the blue tape so they can block the entrance to the lake because someone who wouldn’t know dingy about fishing thinks they own the lake.

Scott Wacholtz is a graduate student in the history department. He can be contacted at