Monday, October 30, 2006

Rats in the Kitchen: A Parable

Once, there was a man who had to deal with rats when he had a major infestation in his home.

The rats' normal environment became unable to support them all, and they began coming down from the hills looking for new digs... and decided they liked the man's house. They were perfectly happy to hunker down in the attic, garage and basement with free access to the goodies in the kitchen and pantry. And once they had moved in and saw what rich booty was to be had, they were determined to take over.

At first the problem wasn't evident. The man would see an occasional rodent scurrying around in the basement, and being a live and let live sort, it never bothered him too much.

As more and more rats began showing up, their presence became much more noticeable. The man made an effort to understand the rats and their needs. The thought even crossed the man's mind that he and his neighbors, by living in the area, owed it to the rats to try and coexist peacefully.After all weren't they entitled to live on the planet too?

The man talked to a local expert on rats, who owned a pest control business. The expert warned him that he had to get rid of the rats now, and act decisively when things were at an early stage, or he would be faced with a major problem in the future. The man listened politely, but thought `well, this guy has his own agenda...after all, he makes his living scaring people about rats. I don't see it as any kind of major problem yet...nothing that can't be handled.'

So he tried what he thought was the most compassionate way out, taking bread and putting it out in the fields, figuring that the rats would be satisfied with that and leave. No luck..having learned to enjoy the basement and access to the goodies in the pantry and the kitchen within, they weren't content to scrounge in the fields any more. Next he tried purchasing a number of those electronic gizmos that claim to drive rats away using high frequency sound. Not only didn't they work, but the rats became even more blatant and bold. The high-pitched electronic sound drew them like an Islamic prayer call or a rock concert.

And as the rats became more bold, they began coming into the house at will.And their numbers continued to increase.

It was pretty obvious that they had nothing but contempt for the man and that they considered his house to be their house.Aside from the unsightly droppings they left as calling cards, they would raid the cupboards and attack boxes of cereal, bread, sacks of cornmeal and flour, bags of chips or anything else they were capable of getting into. And as this went on the man learned a few things about rats. They're essentially parasitical and create nothing except more rats. They aren't interested in co-existence. They're extremely territorial and demanding, and they have no understanding or appreciation of anyone who isn't a rat, nor do they care to. Give them a foothold, tolerate them in the least, and they'll cheerfully take over. Their agenda is surprisingly uncomplicated.

So the man started to become more uncomfortable with the rats and gave some serious thought to getting rid of them somehow. But he wasn't the decisive sort, and it was more complex than it seemed at first. For one thing, his kids, brainwashed by years of propaganda at the local public school and cartoons showing rats as cute cuddly creatures objected to his efforts. Why can't we just live with the rats? they said. Maybe we can keep them as pets. They have a right to live too, and they don't cause any trouble...why are you so against them? Do you have some kind of rat-phobia?

That lasted until their pet parakeet was killed and savaged by the rats in its cage, and one of the youngest children was bitten at the breakfast table by a rat boldly trying to get at her food.

After that, the children realized that they had been somewhat...misinformed, and they weren't so supportive of the rats anymore. And the man finally realized that if the rats had gotten that confident and aggressive, it was time to take action.

After thinking it over, he figured that his choices were to continue to ignore the problem and play host and provider to a bunch of rats, to move out, or to eliminate the rats. He finally realized at long last that appeasement or pretending there was no problem was a dead end; it was simply getting worse. The rats had no respect for him, his home or his efforts at peaceful co-existence. So the man decided on some kind of elimination as the solution.

He thought about poison, but realized that trying to poison the rats en masse would lead to unexpected consequences when they died in between the walls or in the attic and began to smell, not to mention the danger to his family. There was no sense fouling his own nest. And it would do nothing to permanently solve the problem, since more would just move in, and he would be faced with the same problem all over again. No, to really finish something like that once and for all, he needed to mount a determined campaign, with a rat free environment as the goal. He had no desire to be unnecessarily cruel, but he knew he needed to make sure that the rats got the message that they were not going to take over his home and that they needed to return to the fields they had come from. And he understood that he could no longer afford to be afraid to do what was needed.Not if he wanted to keep his home.

Oddly enough, some of the man's neighbors were highly critical of his plans to get rid of the rats. Some of them had their own problems with rats and were afraid that his efforts would just make things worse for everybody. Others felt that it was simply wrong to look at the rats as a problem or treat them in that fashion. One of them even called the local SPCA, and one of their representatives paid a visit to the man and cautioned him strongly about eliminating the rats. "I can't force you to be humane," she said, "But I can and will issue a report about our conversation and let you know that we strongly disapprove of any proposed actions you may take without going through proper channels, and that it's contrary to SPCA rules and standards. I can almost guarantee you a citation from animal control."

Nevertheless, the man began his campaign against the rats.

First, he started by rat-proofing the premises. This involved a sealing off of any little crevice that might have allowed the rats ingress and egress, although he left one hole open for the rats to leave through for the first couple of weeks. As well as wanting to control his territory, he was also, at heart, still compassionate and wanted to let the rodents know that they were no longer welcome and that hanging around or continuing to attempt to break in was going to be that the more of them that left of their own accord, the less bloodshed there would need to be.

The second part, of course, involved trapping. You've maybe seen the old spring type traps. They work well, and the man found that they were best baited with peanut butter. The rats loved the taste and the smell, and its semi-solid nature stopped them from simply seizing bait like a solid piece of cheese and running off with it. Usually these traps would kill them off outright and the only job the man needed to do was remove the corpus, clean the trap, rebait and reset it (carefully...carefully..those springs are powerful enough to break a human finger easily). Obviously, he couldn't leave those traps anywhere a human might stumble on one.

So for these areas, he discovered glue traps, sold under names like `Gluey Louie' or 'Rat-A-Way'. He set these in places like the kitchen, where the rats liked to congregate to enjoy their nightly looting and destruction. They consisted of a piece of paper about the size of a floor tile, impregnated with industrial glue and likewise baited with peanut butter. The rats would walk on the glue to get to the peanut butter and become stuck fast.

Of course, this didn't kill them, so it was necessary for our friend to eliminate them himself. Some jobs you just can't hire out. He became surprisingly coldblooded in a way he hadn't thought himself capable of before, especially when he thought about his peaceful efforts to solve the conflict and show understanding for the rats, the way the rats had violated his home..and the sight of his child crying in pain in the emergency room after being attacked and bitten. His weapon of choice for rat bashing was a metal steelworkers hammer. It turned out to be the perfect tool for resolving his differences with the vermin.

The interesting thing, of course, was the psychology of the rats under fire. Having gotten used to the man's home, they had even become possessive about it and regarded it as theirs, a part of their rightful territory, as if they had always owned it. They refused to give up easily. Many of the rats were defiant to the end, baring teeth and attempting to be as frightening as possible. Their strategy was to use terror and fear to try to scare the man into inaction. They would invade his and the children's bedrooms, trying to frighten and intimidate them. A number of times the rats leapt down at him from inside the kitchen cabinets or from a wall space and tried to attack and bite him.

Others were more nuanced and made an effort to seem cute and peaceable, at least as long as anyone was looking. By their demeanor, they seemed to say `See, I'm just a cute furry animal. You like your house, and I like your house. We're all part of the same big house. Just because we're here doesn't mean that you have to worry about anything. Are you just too mean spirited and unwilling to share and compromise?'

Needless to say, by this point, the man's realization had come full circle. Finally seeing the rat's real agenda, he decided he wasn't interested in a good relationship with the enemy.

The man had finally learned, after bitter experience that once you start something like this, you have to keep going until the end or lose everything. War is war. Waver in the least and the problem gets worse. There's no accommodation with rats. And there's no room for debating once you decide that you're unable to live with them. You can't `feel their pain', waste time arguing over the rights of the rodents or whether you have the right to eliminate or drive out any that invade your territory.

Not if you want your house back vermin free.

So the man stayed resolute and continued on. He understood, at last, what the rats had realized long before him - that there was no option but victory. It was either him or the rats. And after many encounters, the rats finally were defeated. They were either dead or had decamped back to the fields.

The man's house is now peaceful, his wife and children are happy and healthy and the rats are gone, living out their rat lives back in the fields where they belong. They respect the man's home and no longer try and break in, and he's likewise content to leave them in peace, although he keeps a sharp eye out for droppings or any other signs in his home that the rats might be at it again.

And he's never felt a single bit of guilt about any of it.


Rosey said...

Nice. So this is a metaphor for the US? Or Israel? Or both? Or neither?

Anonymous said...

it's a metaphor for every situation in which you don't nip a problem in the bud. When you let any usurper go unchecked out of compassion or fear or whatever, you will eventually become overrun with usurpers. At that point YOU will be the one forced to leave. The usurpers have no compunctions about forcing you out. So compassion is always misplaced.

Freedom Fighter said...

Bingo, Rachel!

Black Sheep said...

Rats = Muslims. That's a no-brainer, and your parable is right on.

Rob said...

Be very careful not to paint any group with too broad a brush Black Sheep. It's a mistake.

Tantric Logic said...

This ought to be published in every newspaper in America. Excellent.