I grew up in rural Kansas. I didn’t just grow up in a small town, I grew up nine miles from the nearest small town. While we didn’t do much “real” farming, I did grow up surrounded by animals. There were dogs, cats, chickens, cows, the occasional bull, deer, coyotes, a peacock and a peahen for a while, rats, field mice, catfish, perch, snakes, lizards, all manner of birds, and a plethora of bugs. I do agree that most animals are not really capable of what I would call evil. After growing up with up to a hundred chickens at a time under my sister’s and my care, I do have to say that chickens are one of the best contenders to being an exception.
Chickens are mean, brutal, sadistic creatures. They will attack one another; not only for food, territory, and breeding rights, but just because they can. Put enough chickens together with unlimited food and water and you will still find dead birds every morning from them pecking one another to death. They don’t just attack each other either, they will attack anything they think they can get away with. With roosters, this can include their caretakers. The term “pecking order” comes from what passes for chicken social structure. They have a line from strongest to weakest that is reinforced by the stronger birds pecking the weaker birds. The weakest are then pecked by every chicken above them until they die from the hundreds of little wounds. Chickens who are handled caringly and lovingly enough by humans can be taught to leave these patterns, and they are capable of caring for their young to a degree, but in a natural state chickens seem to wish to destroy anything that is not themselves or their progeny.
There are people who are like chickens; people who hate others purely for not being themselves. They run around looking for anyone they can peck at just for the sake of pecking. They might fight to the death to protect their own children, but could care less about the man starving down the street as long as it doesn’t bring down their property values. Some places become human chicken coops, with people like this milling around teaching the ones around them to fear everything and thus hate everything. Enough people seeing the world through a chicken’s eyes creates a hell on earth wherever they gather.
It is said that one man asked as he was dying if he could see hell before going to heaven. In hell he saw a great feast that no one could eat because they had huge spoons tied to their arms so they couldn’t feed themselves. In heaven he saw the same scene, but they were feeding one another. Chicken minded people are what can make a heaven into a hell.
No one wants to live in a hellish environment, but there are few who are willing to do what it takes to bring change in the other direction. These people are heros. They spread hope and love in the face of fear and hate. They teach people that their environment can become better, and they don’t need to just hurt everyone they can before anyone has the opportunity to hurt them. Heros can turn a hell on earth into a paradise.
Many of the greatest heroes of legend don’t just turn their own environment into a paradise, after they fix their own land they descend into another hell to protect those there. Those are the greatest heroes.
(Reposted from 4/4/2012)