A Parable about the Power of the Collective

Handsome tuxedo cat with striking eyes surveying world from his treeIndoors, Ted was an affectionate, loving house cat;  fastidious in his black and white tuxedo, with a sweet disposition.

An avid outdoorsman, Ted was also a mighty hunter.  Frequently, within 5 minutes of being let outside, he would have caught a mouse or bird.  He was the scourge of the small animal kingdom.  When he ventured outdoors, all the creatures who could fly or climb would ascend to high branches and hurl curses at him.

One evening, during nesting season, I stepped out to enjoy the evening, and heard a chorus of scolding robins, and their “chirp! chirp! chirp!” alarm calls.   On the lawn, a semicircle of 10 robins faced the bushes, where they had a cat cornered.

Of course it was Ted who was surrounded, and when he ventured onto the lawn, the robins hopped toward him aggressively, squawking, causing him to slink back into the shrubbery.  He tried to sneak out of a gap at the side of the shrubbery, but the robins met him there, backing him into the bushes.  He tried a different escape, but the robins had him surrounded there too!

I walked closer to where Ted was cornered.  When he saw me, he meowed the most pathetic cry I had ever heard from him outside of the vet’s office. “Aowwww!” he cried, “Helllp meeee!”

I rescued the mighty hunter, picking him up and carrying him away into the house.  The band of robins broke up and went about their business, now that the threat to their families was gone.

These robins taught me something about collective action.  Normally easy prey of a big tom cat, they banded together, and were aggressive rather than reactive.  These birds easily got the hunter to back down and even cower!

Even though each of these birds was less than a tenth the size of my cat, they were able to immobilize and control him.

Pay attention, humans!  Do you fear a threat which is bigger and more powerful than you?  Can you collect a like-minded flock to keep this threat at bay?

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