PAT NEAL: Quarantine chronicles: The herd

  • Wednesday, April 15, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

THERE’S A LOT of talk these days about the “herd.” This is in reference to herd immunity, the theory that if enough of a human population was infected with or vaccinated for the new coronavirus, then a majority of the herd would be immune from the disease.

However irrelevant, this Darwinian theory may be in a country where testing for the disease is largely unavailable to the general population and a vaccine has yet to be formulated, it has become the basis for the argument that the country should get back to normal as soon as possible.

Humans are herd animals. They share a common belief with other herd animals that gathering together increases their odds of survival because chances are that predation and accidents will only happen to the other herd members.

That premise can be observed in a herd of elk. They are often nervous and fearful from being stalked by cougars. When the calves are born, they are sheltered from predators in the center of the herd. Once the calves are weened, they are on their own.

When elk feed, their heads are down. That is when they are the most vulnerable.

That is why adult elk are often observed barging in closely between two calves. The adult elk use the most vulnerable as a shield against predation.

That characteristic of the herd mentality is readily observable in the human herd these days. We believe nothing bad can happen to us because it hasn’t happened to us yet, just the others.

People who work in essential industries are the most vulnerable. They are often paid the least. They have to show up anyway to keep society functioning.

Meanwhile, the rest of the herd gets bored. They want life to return to normal, now. They want to go fishing because everyone else is doing it. Because they think the pandemic is a hoax and efforts to deal with it are socialism.

Maybe they are right. Are efforts to control the coronavirus evidence of government control of our lives and a creeping socialism that is sending our country down the slippery slope to a communist regime?

Perhaps we could look at other examples of government interference in our personal and professional lives to observe a pattern of insidious socialism in our society.

Today is April 15. That marks the traditional opening of fire season. Loggers and other woodsmen are required to have firefighting tools and water tanks on the job. Sometimes loggers are even required to build fire trails around their logging operations so there is a better chance of stopping it if a fire happens to start.

Outdoor burning is restricted during fire season, or even outlawed altogether as the woods dry out. With good reason. The government agencies get stuck with the massive human and financial costs of fighting forest fires. Maybe that’s why they want to stop the woods from burning.

Is that socialism? Or is it just common sense?

Now people are disagreeing with government efforts to control the coronavirus, such as the stay-at-home order and the suspension of fishing season. Both of which I support.

Now, before I am accused of going soft on the government, please remember I write this as an out-of-work fishing guide. Like many people who are out of work, I am broke.

But I know one thing. There is not a fish you can catch on this Earth that is worth catching this virus and giving it to others.

Stay home. Be patient. We will fish again.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal[email protected].

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