|Lemming (Public Domain)|
The metaphor of lemmings “marching” en masse to certain death in the sea is, for the most part, a mythological one.
They, like the rest of us, are simply hardwired for survival. When overpopulation threatens their well-being, (big) bunches of them decide to move on to greener pastures. Since lemmings multiply quite rapidly, this happens quite often.
During the course of this migration, a body of water sometimes gets in the way. Lemmings can swim, and in the urgency of the moment may choose to test their aquatic abilities to the max. This works out well for some; others drown.
This sad-but-true syndrome leads onlookers to believe that lemmings are practitioners of mass suicide. Actually, they are practitioners of self-preservation; it’s just that some are simply not up to the task.
Nevertheless, the tall tales and jokes persist – perpetuated (of course) by Disney, and even by Apple. In order to make it appear as though lemmings were deliberately jumping to a certain death, Disney’s White Wilderness staffers launched the critters “off the cliff using a turntable.”
Stereotypes tend to be deadly, especially when launched against such humble creatures as lemmings.
Copyright August 25, 2014 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved