A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial
thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing,
abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.
Parable of the Baffled Hosers
We recently told our daughter about lemmings. She's eight years old, pretty hip, and previews all issues of EGR before they get sent out. So we figured she could probably handle it. We told her how, when the population density builds up to a certain point, these cute little rodents commit mass suicide by stampeding off cliffs into the ocean. Moreover, we pointed out that this unique animal custom is often invoked as a metaphor for certain human behaviors that would be hard to explain on the basis of self interest alone. Or something like that. She said: "Wow! Weird!"
Soon afterward, in one of those serendipity-meets-synchronicity turns of events, we happened across a news item that said the whole lemming thing was utter bullshit. It seems a bunch of white-frocked researchers went over to Lemmingland and did everything they could to get the buggers to go over the edge. "Here boy! Look! Nice carrot!" Or whatever it is that lemmings like to eat. Eskimo pies for all we know, but that's not important. What is important is they wouldn't take the fabled flying leap.
It was as if their moms had said to them when young: "Suppose little Johnny Lemming flung himself over a cliff. Would you follow suit just to be 'cool'?" And Junior had said what we all have said -- for which of us has not been through this drill? -- "No Mom, not me!"
Bottom line: lemmings appear not to be jumpers. According to the field reports, the subjects just looked at the guys in the lab coats as if they'd gone completely barking mad.
So the whole lemming death-wish notion is just another myth, and nobody knows for sure where it got started. Big deal. But here's the interesting part. Walt Disney Studios had, like the rest of us, heard this as gospel truth, and in making one of its heart-warming family-oriented True Life Adventures in the 1950s, wanted to show the sort of Mondo-Cane mammalian practices that would enable Dad to remark after the matinee: "How about them lemmings, son? Isn't that just too fucking funny?"
To achieve this laudable goal, it seems that Disney rounded up about ten million of these miniature arctic beavers and -- what else? -- with multiple cameras rolling to capture all t