Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called the Pridelands, which was ruled by an elite group of lions. The lions, who represented a fraction of one percent of the kingdom’s population, controlled about 40 percent of the resources in the kingdom. They also frequently ate members of the middle class, like antelopes and elephants. This didn’t sit well with Simba, the bright young heir to the throne, so he asked his father King Mufasa why this seemingly oppressive practice was acceptable.
“It’s okay, Simba,” explained Mufasa. “It’s all part of the Circle of Life.”
“The Circle of Life?”
“Yes, son. You see, it may seem unfair. But when we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. So, you see, Simba,” said Mufasa, “all lives matter.”
Simba was still skeptical. “But Dad,” he asked, “there are so many more of them than us. Why don’t they rise up and overthrow their oppressors?”
Mufasa laughed heartily. “You’re so funny, son!” he exclaimed. “Come, let’s go practice your pouncing skills on our humble and terrified servant Zazu.”
But there was one member of the lion elite who wasn’t so happy with the Circle of Life. That was Scar, the king’s brother. Scar was socially awkward and kind of funny-looking, so the other elite lions scoffed at him. And things were getting worse for Scar, because these days, the female lions were finally getting more power. There was talk of a young lioness named Nala becoming the leader someday, which enraged Scar, because his position in the lion patriarchy was the only thing that kept him feeling superior. On top of that, Nala wasn’t even a 10!
Unfortunately for the other lions — and for the kingdom as a whole — Scar was a sociopathic narcissist, so he devised a plan. He started hanging out with the hyenas, who lived in an elephant graveyard that once housed manufacturing plants. The jobs had moved to other lands, though, and the hyenas were poor, desperate, and despised by the rest of the Pridelands. In fact, disdain of the hyenas was one of the things that kept the middle class antelopes and elephants from overthrowing the lions, as they were easy scapegoats. “It’s the fault of those hyena scavengers!” cried the lions when resources were scarce, and the middle class animals believed them — and felt better about themselves because at least they weren’t as lowly as the hyenas.
Scar started holding rallies in the hyena lands. “If you help me become king,” he declared, “I’ll bring jobs back! Stick with me, and you’ll never go hungry again!”
“Hooray!” cried the hyenas.
“The lions want to make Nala the queen,” said Scar. “She’s the one responsible for the loss of your jobs because of trade deals she made with other lands.”
“Eat her up!” cried the hyenas.
“Ah,” said Scar below his breath, “I love the uneducated.”
So, with the help of the hyenas, Scar killed Mufasa and sent Simba into exile, and Nala returned to her inferior place in the patriarchal system. Unfortunately, Scar had no government experience or diplomatic skills, so the kingdom eroded into disarray. Of course, he abandoned his promises to the hyenas, who were as hungry and despised as ever.
We know how this story is supposed to end. Simba returns to the Pridelands and takes his “rightful” place as the king. Nala becomes his queen, and someday, she or another elite lioness might be the leader of the Pridelands. The hyenas rebel against Scar and kill him, but after he takes over, Simba doesn’t provide anything better for them. The Circle of Life continues, and the elephants and antelopes continue to be dinner.
But maybe there’s an alternate ending. Maybe the antelopes will have some meetings, and start saying, “Hey! The system is rigged, and it’s the lions who are doing the rigging!” Maybe they’ll demand real change from the so-called Circle of Life. And maybe they’ll realize the hyenas are allies, not scapegoats, and maybe they’ll work side by side to create a truly democratic and egalitarian Pridelands.
Maybe. Or more than likely, the antelopes will go back to reality TV, Facebook, and other forms of Hakuna Matata. But maybe, just maybe, the antelopes and the hyenas will have their day.