Monday, December 8, 2014

hungry deer: a parable

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they won't have to worry about an answer.
-Thomas Pynchon

The last few days I've been in Indiana, sorting through my storage unit. While there, I stayed with Pam and Jim, a couple my parents knew way back in the day, when I was a little kid. I haven't had a conversation with them since then, so it was interesting to catch up on the last 30 years.

Yesterday morning I was telling Pam that I'd like to have a garden someday. She said she'd had a garden, off and on, over the years, but that in recent years the deer had been especially bad, eating everything in the garden, plus all the flowers, plus bark off the trees. To which I replied, what the heck? That's weird behavior. Why would they be eating the bark? Pam said she had no idea. I pondered. Then I said: sounds like starving deer to me. She agreed that it did sound like the kind of thing that only starving deer would do. I pondered more. Why would the deer be starving? Well, the answer wasn't that hard to arrive at. The forests have been almost entirely cut down in that area. Housing developments have taken over like smallpox taking over a tribe. Predators of deer, besides humans, have been eliminated completely. And so, there you have it: too many deer and not enough food or shelter for the deer.

It struck me, how often the human question seems to be, "what's wrong with the deer?" Rather than, "what's wrong with the system as a whole, that the deer are driven to this behavior?"

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