The Origins of the Gadfly

“Jai guru deva, om
Nothing’s gonna change my world.” — John Lennon

The first time I saw the word gadfly being used was in “The Apology” which was written by Aristotle. It was the story of the trial of Socrates where he was eventually put to death for crimes against Athens. Socrates’ story is an interesting one. Essentially, he was told by the oracle that he was the wisest man in Athens. Then (according to him), he spent the remainder of his life trying to prove the oracle wrong.

Anyone that is well read knows that he ended up proving the oracle right. That’s at least according to him. At some point, his death becomes understandable if you look at things from the Athenians point of view. You have this guy that does nothing but tell you how unwise you are. Yup, we gotta get rid of that guy. He’s as annoying as hell.

This point came up in a discussion surrounding one of my pieces on the other site. I likened AOC to a gadfly and someone else didn’t like the characterization. It presented like “bothsidesism” (it’s own term that needs exploration) because people like Matt Gaetz, Majorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert consider themselves to be gadflies as well.

I suppose you can consider yourself to be anything, but there is a fine line between being a gadfly and just being a jackass. The John Lennon song referenced above is a perfect example. Before he utters the line above he throws out this gem, “Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind.” I naturally didn’t know Lennon personally, but from what I do know and reading the lyrics as I do I’m guessing he was being unintentionally ironic. It is somewhat maddening that brilliance gets heaped on a man that stumbled into it like the humor of a Chris Farley sketch.

I can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing he never grasped the sardonic humor of singing about an open mind immediately preceding saying that nothing was going to change his world. Thus, we see the subtle differences between a gadfly and a jackass. One bites at you in the hopes that you will some day see the light. The other offers no light because they have no light to offer. They bite at you because they need the attention.

Of course, these subtle differences get lost on a lot of folks. While the gadfly seems like a small and insignificant being, it is something of substance. Socrates had something to say. AOC has something to say. These other folks really don’t. That’s the difference.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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