Rats. The very name sends shivers down the spine. Well, mine anyway. I have always had a fascination about these creatures although I am not keen on them and had some pretty vivd nightmares back in my Youth Training Scheme Days, one in particular where I awoke screaming and shouting, wrongly believing there to be a posse of the rodents on my chest attempting to devour me. It is still as vivid in my mind as the look on my three fellow trainees faces; we shared a cramped, freezing room for which the landlord received an astronomical amount of money direct from the Goverment.
Anyway, I digress. Over the last few months a story has been brewing up in the media cauldron of TV news. It began with the attempt by local councils to change refuse collection to a fortnightly basis rather than the current weekly. A couple of months ago the features were on the new proposals and the fear that this would cause health problems, attract rats etc. Last week on the BBC, a gentleman from an area in which the new weekly collection had already started was interviewed and asked if he had noticed any problems. His response "Yes, there are more rats than there used to be".
Now, there are couple of points I need to make here. The first is that rats make people exaggerate. No one ever sees a small rat they are always "as big as a cat". Also, if there is more than two rats, this quickly becomes a pack. Leading on from this, it should be noted that rats live in highly organised communties of which all members can be traced back to the original pair of rats who founded their society. They are all related and no other visting rat will be tolerated, it will slaughtered on sight. There are circumstances in which an entire community will move, en masse. A cat weighs about 7lb, a big rat 1lb.
We know from history that rats were blamed for huge decreases in population due to disease which they were suspected of carrying so we have a right to be suspicious of them. What concerns me is why the media are focusing on this. Are they just scaring us or may the poor rat be used to spread a disease through the human population, decimating it and encouraging the survivors to be ultra green and clean. Most weeks I will see a rabbit with myxomatosis a viral disease which is carried by fleas and slowly kills them, their eyes swell up and they go blind. It is disgusting to see it, the rabbit was introduced by humans to the UK and then the disease was introduced, again by humans when they became a pest. Could a strange disease even be used as a new Bird Flu type scare.
I mentioned that rats were known to move en masse in certain circumstances. This would include buildings being demolished etc. Vibration. Now last weekend there was an earthquake (to give it it's full name). Could we see a large movement of rats, en masse, due to this. Are the media simply exploiting an already present deep rooted fear with us and why do they really want us all to be scared, all of the time. Is there constant unconscious reinforcement through celebrity ?
If for example, I watch say Ant and Dec on their celebrity jungle programme and see one of the contestants having to lie, buried in a box with live rats running all over me then surely this preys upon my already present fear in my unconcious. So, next time I see Ant and Dec or the celebrity contestant then surely this will re open my rat fear. But if I see them a few times my conscious mind will have forgotten the rat aspect but surely it will still trigger the unconcious fear, ie without me knowing. Is this not what Derren Brown is doing every week ? Is he not telling us something ?
In part 2, I will let you know about the rat community. I need to check some books, I am sure that there is a name for the en masse movement of rats but I cant recall it. Anyway, tomorrow will be the first of my news analysis.