The importance of being goats and cows
institutionalised by school textbooks that continue to idolise kings and conquerors. We, therefore, remain unaware of the role played by the scapegoats and sacred cows in our lives. We hardly ever notice the games they play even in closely watched political spectacles such as the long marches that are neither long nor marches.
I wonder if the long-marchers know that the famed long march of history was not an advance against the enemy but a retreat to safety. You may safely bet they don’t. Most of us, being scapegoats, are too diffident to stop bleating and, instead, boldly confront our respective sacred cows, ruminating calmly, ‘far from the madding crowd’, in their palaces and bunkers. Occasionally they spew fire and brimstone at unidentified political objects from their well-defended containers designed to hold ceremonies as well, such as presentation of surrender documents. General Douglas McArthur, being an American, commandeered a whole blooming battleship for this purpose. How wasteful.
But let’s begin from the beginning. If the Book of Genesis is any guide, the goats and cows were created a little earlier than man, on Day Six. Thus, the goats and cows were already there when man was born. Despite this primacy of sorts in favour of the goats and cows, it was ordained that man be ‘fruitful and multiply’ and have ‘dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle...’
While man has enthusiastically been fruitful and does furiously multiply, his dominion over the cattle is not what could be expected. There is good reason, though, for this unexpected turn of events. In the beginning man had a reason to be a bit diffident and shy of the company of other inhabitants of his first habitat. Nibbling at the forbidden fruit and clad in fig-leaf, man preferred to hide himself rather than saunter provocatively on a catwalk.
That diffidence grew into a self-effacing humility to such a degree that man came to attribute his own traits, good and bad, to various animals. This is reflected in the similes that are current even today: brave like a lion, strong like a bull, clever like a fox, innocent like a lamb, stupid like an ass, stubborn like a mule, and so on, down to deserter like a rat. Convinced of the borrowed nature of his traits, man came to see the other animals as role models.
What the animals think of us can, at best, be a matter of wishful speculation by us, except when kicked by an ass, chased by a dog, dislodged by a horse, or regarded con-