I like the way you've been using the word "trepidation" lately.
Yes, that's a sensible attitude. I just like the way you've chosen to express it. It probably wouldn't have occurred to me.Well it's an intellectual minefield online added to another factor it's best I caveat the odd post where I'm not 100%
I've seen two instances of you using it (including this last one).Though for you to mark it means I might have overused it. I think twice or even three times in the space of a week maybe, lol.
Ah, well, I don't know; it seemed fairly obvious to me to be honest. But thanks.By the way, I thought it rather astute of you to pick up on my arguably subtle meaning in the politics thread. I realize you skillfully toed the line of partiality and was not at all favouring my position yet to clock the meaning was rather good.
I'm not sure about that. In addition to the fact that I don't know much about politics, I don't even think I'm especially good at any sort of debate — except perhaps debates about grammar, where you can often support your argument with relatively objective evidence.I think you'd do quite well in political debate
When Chairman Mao’s communists took power in China in late 1949, the country was in the grip of a medical crisis. Infectious diseases, from cholera to plague to malaria, were running rife. If Mao’s goal of rapidly transforming the country from a largely agrarian nation only a few decades out of feudalism into a modern industrial powerhouse were to be met, something would have to be done.
Some of the solutions were obvious and sensible—mass vaccination programs, improved sanitation, that sort of thing. The problems started when Mao decided to focus on blaming animals for the country’s woes.
Mosquitoes spread malaria, rats spread plague; that much was pretty undeniable. And so a nationwide plan to reduce their numbers was hatched. Unfortunately, Mao didn’t stop there. If it had just been a Two Pests campaign, then things might have worked out okay. But Mao decided (without bothering to do anything like, you know, ask experts their opinion or anything) to add in two other species, as well. Flies were to be wiped out, on the grounds that flies are annoying. And the fourth pest? Sparrows.
The problem with sparrows, the thinking went, was that they ate grain. A single sparrow could eat as much as 4.5 kilograms of grain every single year—grain that could be used instead to feed the people of China. They did the math and determined that 60,000 extra people could be fed for every million sparrows that were eliminated. Who could argue with that?
The Four Pests campaign began in 1958, and it was a remarkable effort. A countrywide poster campaign demanded that every citizen, from the youngest to the oldest, do their duty and kill the shit out of as many animals as possible. “Birds,” it was declared, “are public animals of capitalism.” The people were armed with everything from flyswatters to rifles, with schoolchildren being trained in how to shoot down as many sparrows as possible. Jubilant sparrow-hating crowds took to the streets waving flags as they joined battle with the birds. Sparrows’ nests were destroyed and their eggs smashed, while citizens banging pots and pans would drive them from trees so they could never rest until, exhausted, they fell dead from the sky. In Shanghai alone, it was estimated that almost 200,000 sparrows died on the first day of hostilities. “No warrior shall be withdrawn,” the People’s Daily wrote, “until the battle is won.”
The battle was, indeed, won. In terms of achieving its stated goals, it was a triumph—an overwhelming victory for humanity against the forces of small animals. In total, the Four Pests campaign is estimated to have killed 1.5 billion rats, 11 million kilograms of mosquitoes, 100 million kilograms of flies...and a billion sparrows.
Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent what the problem with this was: those billion sparrows hadn’t just been eating grain. They’d also been eating insects. In particular, they ate locusts.
Suddenly freed from the constraints of a billion predators keeping their numbers down, the locusts of China celebrated like it was New Year every day. Unlike sparrows—who’d eat a bit of grain here and there—the locusts tore through the crops of China in vast, relentless devouring clouds. In 1959, an actual expert (ornithologist Tso-hsin Cheng, who had been trying to warn people how bad an idea this all was) was finally listened to, and sparrows were replaced on the list of official pests-we-want-to-kill by bedbugs. But by then it was too late; you can’t just replace a billion sparrows on a whim once you’ve wiped them out.