Right up there with, “long-story-short” (which is usually followed by the longest story you’ve ever heard) and “I’ll have your check ready as soon as I get back from vacation,” one of my least favorite phrases in the English language is, “the world is over-populated.”
I’ve always been fascinated and bothered by that phrase.
We listen to it and just let it roll off, as if it’s just another dark platitude. But if you examine what that phrase actually suggests, it is nothing short of sinister. Hear me out …
The very thought that there are too many of something – anything – suggests that some of it must go, and that it doesn’t really matter which of it goes. Just something must go.
Extrapolate that out to shirts. If you say, “there are too many shirts in this closet,” you will start getting rid of shirts. But you will only get rid of the ones you like the least. The ones you like the most will obviously stay. So, there’s a pecking order; a highearchy of shirts (if you will) in your closet. And that T-shirt from 1997, that no longer makes your arms look good or makes you belly look tight, is heading off to the great unknown. Because there were just too many in there. Had to cull.
Now extrapolate that out to living things. Too many plants. Too many chickens. Too many puppies. Too many cats. We cull them by favorites as well. Each one of those things, that is about to be gotten rid of, is fighting for its place at the table, whether it knows it or not. And we’ll get rid of the ugly puppies before we get rid of the cute ones. We’ll definitely get rid of the mean ones.
But we will make determinations on which puppies or cats or chickens or plants get to stay, and which ones have to go, based on something. Because, you know…we have too many of them.
Now, extrapolate that out in humans. And once you make that logical leap, you are faced with absolute horror.
Once you just say, “there are too many of us here,” then you have to take the next logical step. And that step is making a determination of who stays and who goes. And that’s the moment you discover you’re actually a Nazi.
You see, the Nazis went all the way to the logical conclusion of that ultimate question: who should stay and who should go? Hence, “The final solution.” They minced no words. They didn’t equivocate. They didn’t flinch. They simply asserted that some people should be on earth and some shouldn’t. They decided which ones should not be. And they carried out the “culling” as systematically as we get rid of old T-shirts. And it was grotesque on a scale unmatched in human history.
But it started with a simple question; an innocent question…should we all be here?
As we race into our homes and stock up on basic needs, to weather this current virus, I’m watching humanity run the gamut of emotions and actions. But one thing stands out above all: we instinctively try to save ourselves and our loved ones. We instinctively try to save others. Something deep inside us knows we are all valuable.
We know people are going to die during this. And yes, we accept certain realities and certain risks when it comes to life. No, I don’t believe those who are comparing death rates of other illnesses and activities (such as driving cars, etc) to this virus, are cold-hearted Nazis just willing to let people die. I don’t believe they’re willing to sacrifice life for money or the economy or whatever.
The truth is, we know there is death involved, here. And we’re all trying to process it in our own way. And we do have to weigh the future and fabric of our very society against the risk of death. We do this all the time, in almost everything we attempt. We weigh the decision of getting on that plane and flying to our family’s house for Christmas against the very real possibility that the plane might crash. We weigh kissing that date goodnight against the possibility that she has Mono and just doesn’t know it yet.
We weigh risks and benefits all the time. That is not the same thing as determining that a large percentage of people need to go away.
The truth about whether or not there are too many of us on the planet bubbles up in our collective psyche when we are faced with a global crisis such as this. And our first human reaction, that comes from deep in our core, is that nobody is here by accident. We know that everyone is someone’s mother or daughter or father or son. And we know that it all matters – that everyone matters. And when one of them dies, someone, somewhere grieves.
There is a certain beauty in how humans react to life-threatening crises. Our inner beliefs pour out of us incautiously. And in many ways, our the best in us comes out. And we realize that we’re all something sacred; something divine, in a way. And where it’s ways to dismiss a person’s value when they’re safe and sound, it’s much harder to do so when they are in imminent danger.
We don’t just let them die without a fight. We don’t just allow the “herd” to be thinned. We don’t even let nature take its course and kill off who it wants to kill off. We say we believe in natural selection – survival of the fittest – but we do not practice that theory in any way, shape or form. We fight for the weakest. And I find that telling.
When I was a kid, our family dog had a littler of puppies. There were 9 of them, but she set one aside to die – the runt. 10-year-old me wouldn’t accept it. I kept laying the pup next to her so it could nurse, but she kept throwing it off to the side, in favor of the 8 healthy ones.
I couldn’t watch the puppy die. So I got a baby bottle and filled it with milk and tried to nurse the pup myself. But it was so weak and near death it wouldn’t nurse. As it was fighting for air and fading away, I tried blowing in its snout to et it to breathe. Through my tears, I tried pressing on its small sternum with a finger, to get its heart to start beating again. But it was no use. The pup died in my hand after a day of drastic measures.
My dog never grieved that puppy. She tended to the ones left alive. But that day taught me the difference between animal instinct and human instinct.
And so, whenever I hear someone say, “the world is overpopulated,” I bristle.
Because that means they’ve decided some puppies need to be placed to the side.
But we’re seeing, through this crisis, that nobody really believes that. Not when it counts.
I support myself and my family through this blog. If you’d like to become a daily subscriber, click here and become a Patron: