The Semi and the Butcher


This is a parody in the style of Ayn Rand by Brett Holverstott. As i have tremendous respect for Ayn Rand’s work, this is not meant to dismiss it, but i post the story because it’s both absurdly humourous—to those familiar with Ayn’s work—and unwittingly touches on themes related to both this blog and my book (Society VX).

I’ve changed the version i found slightly to correct minor errors (eg spelling), and to try to make the second-last paragraph clearer.


Ayn Rand answers the question which has plagued philosophers and the general public for centuries: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” She proposes that throughout the history of poultry, chickens have been offered two false alternatives: to either die as roadkill or submit to The Butcher. With ground-breaking symbolism paralleling Nietzsche’s Apollo vs. Dionysus, Rand argues that each alternative is a reciprocal manifestation of the same ideology—and proposes a third alternative consistent with her Objectivist philosophy of living on Earth.

The Semi and the Butcher

an essay by AYN RAND

If you have ever asked the question “Why did the chicken cross the road?” it is you to whom I write. It is you who for centuries have held that chickens are either food on your plate, or vermin on the road, giving them no alternative with which to live a life consistent with their values.

Throughout history there have been two kinds of chickens which have come into power whenever society abandoned reason—The Butcher and The Semi. The Butcher succeeds by the very virtue of those they enslave, by deceiving chickens into believing that they are fulfilling their “Destiny” or entering “Nirvana,” by sacrificing themselves for “The Chicken Coup.” Under The Butcher, the chickens offer themselves to slaughter. But The Butcher ultimately must rely upon The Semi for survival, an agent of fear and muscle with which to dominate those who reject the creed of self-sacrifice. The Semi survives by running straight over any chickens in its path. But The Semi is also dependent on The Butcher for justification of its slaughter.

In either case, the historical product is the mass slaughter of innocent chickens. The Semi which does not regard the values of the lives of the chickens runs right over them, and The Butcher which does not regard the value of the life of the individual chicken leads them to mass extermination for the Whole. These two alternatives are manifestations of the same false ideology—the lack of recognition for the rights of the individual chicken.

But politics is always a complement to culture. When you hear the phrase “Why did the chicken cross the road?”—this is your cue to run. The chicken who says this gives up his ability to think, leaving the world to the Semis and Butchers. He comes in many forms, passive—giving up the world to The Semis, or mystical—giving up the world to the Butchers. Each false alternative is a manifestation of the same deliberate attack on the rational faculty of chickens.

Why did the chicken cross the road? The question is impossible to answer—we are given no information as to which chicken and which road. We are given only two abstractions without context. The question itself implies either rationalism, that knowledge is not based in reality—or empiricism—that knowledge bears no relation to how chickens think. The question is a society-wide symbol of epistemological disintegration. Its cultural/linguistic function is to complement The Butchers and The Semis, by severing a chicken’s mind from reality and leaving him to wallow in what he cannot know. Only by rejecting the question altogether, and its political implications, can chickens be saved from mass extermination.