Culling the Herd with Arrogant Ignorance

“Culling the herd” may be a crass way of referring to what is going on in too many states and cities today. However, we may learn something by considering the parallels and differences.

culling-the-herd-curt-parkerIn the wild, large predators such as lions or cheetahs cull herds of gazelles, zebras, etc. by attacking the old, infirm, or young who stray from the herd. As a result, the herd is collectively healthier, although the predator’s victims are dead. Well, every animal has to make a living.

Now, most folks agree that humans are different, in various ways. However, social Darwinists, Nazis, and fascists would claim that a natural process of genetic selection results in a higher form of human—survival of the fittest. They are happy to see those they deem as inferior, die.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that cooperation and mutual support have seriously contributed to human survival and development, the US economy, at least, seems founded mostly on the idea that success accrues to those who win the competitive battle built into the US economy.

All sorts of other animals engage in mutual aid to survive. Sometimes they fight too. The cooperation versus conflict dichotomy is far too simple to resolve the complexities of survival, evolution, or progress in any modern society.

A Network is Not a Herd

Humans are called the “social animal” for a reason. Wherever you find humans, they congregate in groups. From hunter-gatherer bands to village communities, to farming hamlets, to cities and suburbs, humans tend to gather, socialize, and engage in all sorts of mutual support. A herd of antelope sticks together, but the social relations are far simpler. Except for lions, jackals, wolves, and even killer whales who cooperate in hunting, many predators operate individually.

Human groups and societies form from networks of relationships of individuals and sub-groups, far more complex than the relationships in a herd. Human relationships rely on trust, mutual identification, and common cultural values. Commitments abound. Mutual support seems to arise spontaneously as if it were innate—maybe it is.

Yet, it is not that simple. Conflicts do arise in communities as well as societies. Some persons and groups gain more influence and power than others do. Power is a self-reinforcing process, in which its possession makes it easier to get more.

The greater the disparity in the power of groups or individuals, the more likely it is that conflict will arise. Unless some institution or practice counter-balances excessive accumulation of power, a society may become quite hierarchic, with power extremely unequal. That’s the direction the US is headed today.

Pandemic, pretense, ignorance, and paranoia

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some of the extremes of social dysfunction and inequity. We have a president whose power arose from celebrity and demagoguery, while his dictatorial tendencies are born of his narcissistic sociopathy. That is why his intentional failure to apply the basic principles and tested protocols of the science of epidemiology to stop the spread of an extremely virulent virus is not so surprising.

A president, who could ignore Russian offers of bounty money to Afghan rebels for killing American warriors, could just as easily treat a global pandemic as just another factor to manipulate public opinion to accumulate more political power. While disregarding the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while pretending that “we have this under control,” Trump flaunts contrary behavior, incites racist violence, denies and projects blame on others, and chooses to publicly ignore growing evidence of accelerating infection, hospitalization, and death.

The result of this criminal malpractice of political authority is that he dupes large numbers of citizens into believing that risk is off and full economic “opening” is safe, especially when the president holds political rallies indoors with almost nobody wearing masks (demonstrated to be the most effective way to prevent infection). Let’s see how that plays out in the next few weeks! The outbreaks from early reopenings have already begun.

i-cull-the-herd_It's what I doJust as with premature unprotected public contact indoors in restaurants, bars, and events, the widespread failure to wear a protective mask or to maintain 6+feet of “social distance” from those not from one’s household offers a very high probability of spreading the disease.

Some folks will suffer from misguidance by Trump’s politicized misrepresentation of the situation, while others simply believe anything their racist hero says. With paranoid intensity, they easily see conspiracies in anything they don’t want to deal with. “It’s a hoax!” shouts the pretend president.

Political arrogance is piled upon self-induced ignorance to produce paranoid self-destructive behavior by the gullible and by some of the most hateful ignorant people in the land—the neo-fascist racists to whom Trump panders. Are the mentally deficient (who can’t or refuse to distinguish a blatant lie from scientific evidence) being self-“culled” from the societal herd by their own denial of facts? Well, sort of…

However, it’s more complicated than that. Those who refuse to follow public health protocols not only enable their own infection but by their same anti-social behavior endanger everyone else who they come within six feet of. Whatever one may define as weakness or inferior, the culling is irrational at best and morally repugnant even though mostly self-induced.

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