Saturday, May 14, 2005
Rats are like us. They are unsinkable, nearly. They are opportunistic and tough; they are survivors. I can relate. Rats are scavengers. They can live off leavings---they do. We leave them plenty, which is why they are plenty. Rats are smart. They watch and learn.
Rats live where we live. Wherever Here is, if rats are Here, it is because we brought them with us.
Rats move into an area and oust its indigenous occupants. Like us. They reproduce until they strain every available resource to breaking. Like us. When resources run low, they fight and die. Like us. They soil and sully every environment they infest. Like us. Bill Hicks called human beings "a virus with shoes."(We, and rats, could stand to change our habits.)
We have a love/hate relationship with rodents. We invite them into our literature, into our homes as pets, into our deepest nightmares. They are objects of hate and revulsion. They are so like us that they stand in for us in the scientific research that benefits us.
I was there for some of that.
And, here’s another nasty little experiment:
A nasty rat experiment
Rats, like people, can be 'trained' to feel and behave helplessly.
In one famous experiment, rats were held down in ice-cold water until they stopped struggling. This taught them, through experience, that effort was futile and that nothing they did made any difference.
Then, 2 groups of rats, the second being a group which had not undergone this experience, were left in cold water without being held.
The group which had previously been held began to drown, on average, much, much sooner than the 2nd group of rats.
Some of the 2nd group, which had not been held immobile, actually managed to escape!
Our depressive rats were behaving as if they were still helpless even when they were not.
This experiment has been repeated in many ways, some on humans. Depression and Your Sense of Control
Rats are so like us that it’s easy to anthropomorphize them. We can imbue them with personalities that don’t exist, that allow us to look at ourselves through them, as through our fingers, fuzzy and funny, the edges softened. They are stand-ins, so like us.
We treat rats horrifically. We kill them inhumanely. We hate them, and pretend that they hate us.
They don’t. They are rats.
The core of the rat matter for me, not being a New Yorker (though often I wish I were) and not being a Londoner (though I’d, er, like to visit) is that they remind me of how it is so very easy to hate rats, but so difficult to hate a rat, if I take the time to consider it.
It’s so very easy to hate people, but difficult to hate persons, if we take the time to consider them.
Yeah, yeah, I know, the Plague. But, really, fleas carried the Plague.
Posted by lisa at 7:29 PM