Category: Speaking Our Peace

The Lilliputians & the Giant

Paul Olson
UNL Emeritus Professor 

Speaking Our Peace Graphic

When Gulliver comes ashore in Lulliputia and immediately goes to sleep from exhaustion, the mite-sized Lilliputians bind him to the ground with tiny ropes, then loose “a shower of above a Hundred Arrows, discharged on my [Gulliver’s] left Hand, which pricked me like so many needles.” The Lilliputians disrupt Gulliver’s life temporarily and cause him pain, but cannot destroy him. They are, I think, a metaphor for modern post-Cold War conflicts: insurgencies waged through small-scale sorties and provocative threats that annoy and create disruption. They cause hurt and upend our sense of security and feelings of control. We respond with modern military assets: smart bombs, surges, drones, counter-insurgencies, bribes, frontal attacks, and efforts to capture the ‘hearts and minds’ of the enemy. As with the Rome’s pax romana, we wish to teach total peace through total control.

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