Today is Dr Seuss Day, according to my 9-year old, who was once a big fan of fables like Oh The Places You’ll Go. She has (temporarily) outgrown the good doctor, but like many of us may rediscover him in later years. I think my daughter would particularly enjoy What Pet Should I Get? – the newly discovered Seuss book written 50 years ago, but lost in a trunk in La Jolla until last year. I might like What Pet? myself, if the pets include bees. I haven’t seen this new, posthumous story. Perhaps bees are indeed in there.
Dr Seuss, or Theodor Geisel, as he was once known, was neither a doctor nor a Seuss. Nor, I suppose, a keeper of bees. But Seuss occasionally allowed bees to flutter within some of his stories. As we remember the 112th birthday of the great artist (and our children enjoy their celebratory day off from school), we note Seuss’s bee-watcher watcher, watched by watcher-watchers.
The story, a didactic for libertarianism, goes like this:
Out west near Hawtch-Hawtch
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.
Well… he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.
So then somebody said,
“Our old bee-watching man
just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can.
He ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher!
The thing that we need
is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher!”
The Bee-Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee-Watcher.
He didn’t watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher who’s watching that bee.
You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher. You’re lucky, you see!”
– Dr Seuss, 1973
Of course, the bee-watcher is a fable protesting those who idly watch others create, labour, and produce. Political radicals of differing stripes have used the poem to disparage totalitarian overlords and capitalist shareholders alike. But be aware, bees actually work harder when not watched.