Rough on Rats

August 10, 2018

Very few people claim to be a fan of rats. If you google ‘rats’ you will very quickly find the search return is largely dominated by companies offering to catch or kill these ‘vermin’. Yet, there is every possibility that rats have a lot to teach us about happiness and thriving.

If we think back to the last industrial revolution, rats are really the unofficial mascot for thriving in times of disruption and change. As humans were struggling to cope with crowding, poor sanitation and new ways of organising themselves socially, the rats were flourishing.

Like anyone doing well, rats became the target of a campaign to bring them down. A controversial new study reported in National Geographic paints rats as the scapegoat for the Bubonic Plague. Rats became the perfect little villains and since the 14th century, they have been synonymous with The Black Death.

It turns out that the plague may have, in fact, been carried by lice and mites on humans. Rats, it seems, just carried the blame.


Here is the thing… Rats. Don’t. Care.

Banksy, the anonymous street art phenomenon, is famous for the glorification of rats. He urges us to think more deeply about how we have constructed their place, and in turn, how we construct our own identities. He says:

“They exist without permission. They are hated, hunted and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant, and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.”

It turns out rats are ideal for any of us who might be wasting energy caring what other people think. A need to be liked, according to psychologists, can be the cause of great misery when it conflicts with our need to be authentic and to do things in our unique way.

If we do things that we don’t want to do, but that may be expected – it breeds resentment.

If we don’t do things we want to do, because of what others might think – it breeds regret.

Rats…well, they just breed rats – which seems like a much better use of time. Wink.


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