Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Victory Over Fear

I've read several headlines about the passage of this "Health Care" bill being a "Victory Over Fear".

Well ... yeah.  I suppose you could put it that way.

You know.... as these things go.


worn said...


I assume the cartoon is making a reference to lemmings and their apocryphal tendency toward mass suicide. Unfortunately, this is false. I'd need to go look for a citation, but my memory is that the most famous incidence of this "phenomenon" being captured on film was for a Disney nature film in which the filmmakers actually staged this behavior.

philmon said...

Good to be aware of that. But it is nonetheless a cultural reference -- deeply rooted enough that I'm making a reference to a Gary Larson reference to the cultural reference. Everybody knows what I'm talking about.

I'm not worried about it.

philmon said...

References are not particularly hard to find. Found one here.

"Disney had to have gotten that idea from somewhere," said Thomas McDonough, the state wildlife biologist. Disney likely confused dispersal with migration, he added, and embellished a kernel of truth.
Lemming populations fluctuate enormously based on predators, food, climate and other factors. Under ideal conditions, in a single year a population of voles can increase by a factor of ten. When they've exhausted the local food supply, they disperse, as do moose, beaver and many other animals.

Lemmings can swim and will cross bodies of water in their quest for greener pastures. Sometimes they drown. Dispersal and accidental death is a far cry from the instinctive, deliberate mass suicide depicted in "White Wilderness," but Hibbler explains that life is tough in the lemmings' "weird world of frozen chaos." The voice-over implies that lemmings take the plunge every seven to ten years to alleviate overpopulation.

"What people see is essentially mass dispersal," said zoologist Gordon Jarrell, an expert in small mammals with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Sometimes it's pretty directional. The classic example is in the Scandinavian mountains, where (lemmings) have been dramatically observed. They will come to a body of water and be temporarily stopped, and eventually they'll build up along the shore so dense and they will swim across. If they get wet to the skin, they 're essentially dead."

"There's no question that at times they will build up to huge numbers," Jarrell added. "One description from Barrow does talk about them drowning and piling up on the shore."

Jarrell said when people learn that he works with lemmings, the mass suicide issue often comes up.

"It's a frequent question," he said "'Do they really kill themselves?' No. The answer is unequivocal, no they don't."

So I'd say the reference stands. Lemmings will often stampede in a herd mentality and it has been known to lead to detrimental effects. Even drowning.

But it is good to know that 1) they can swim, and 2) they aren't killing themselves on purpose -- for future reference.

Which actually makes the reference even more fitting. The herd mentality of the Democrats will lead to something detrimental even though they don't seem to be aware of it.