Tom Lehrer: Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

I just discovered the delightful pianist and satirist, Tom Lehrer, via Roderick Long’s blog. A mathematician (BA magna cum laude from Harvard, a phi beta kappa, and teaching stints at MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley, although he never finished his doctorate), Lehrer was employed at Los Alamos and the National Security Agency and then lectured widely in political science and musical theater. There are dozens of great pieces of his posted on youtube, on everything from Werner von Braun to World War III. To my ears, Lehrer sounds a bit like Danny Kaye (another of  my favorites) –  for the politically savvy.

The lyrics of this song, “Poisoning Pigeons In the Park,” perfectly capture the macabre sangfroid toward cruelty and wanton destruction that the corporate-state tries to inculcate in the population.

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A Plague of Locusts: A True Tale from Argentina…..

Reading the history of these regions, I came across this early example of the futility of trying to fend off nature…

No other part of the world has in recent years suffered from such a
plague of locusts as the agricultural districts of Argentina
. They come from the north in clouds that sometimes darken the sun. Some of the swarms have been estimated to be sixty miles long and from twelve to fifteen miles wide. Fields which in the morning stand high with
waving corn, are by evening only comparable to ploughed or burnt lands. Even the roots are eaten up.

In 1907 the Argentine Government organized a bureau for the destruction of locusts, and in 1908 $4,500,000 was placed by Congress at the disposal of this commission. An organized service, embracing thousands of men, is in readiness at any moment to send a force to
any place where danger is reported. Railway trains have been repeatedly stopped, and literally many tons of them have had to be taken off the track. A fine of $100 is imposed upon any settler
failing to report the presence of locust swarms or hopper eggs on his land. Various means are adopted by the land-owner to save what he can from the voracious insects. Men, women and children mount their horses and drive flocks of sheep to and fro over the ground to kill them. A squatter with whom I stayed got his laborers to gallop a troop of mares furiously around his garden to keep them from settling there. All, however, seemed useless. About midsummer the locust lays its eggs under an inch or two of soil. Each female will drop from thirty to fifty eggs, all at the same time, in a mass resembling a head of wheat. As many as 50,000 eggs have been counted in a space
less than three and a half feet square.

During my sojourn in Entre Rios, the province where this insect seems to come in greatest numbers, a law was passed that every man over the age of fourteen years, whether native or foreigner, rich or poor, was compelled to dig out and carry to Government depots, four pounds
weight of locusts’ eggs.
It was supposed that this energetic measure would lessen their numbers. Many tons were collected and burnt, but, I assure the reader, no appreciable difference whatever was made in their legions. The young jumpers came, eating all before them, and
their numbers seemed infinite. Men dug trenches, kindled fires, and burned millions of them. Ditches two yards wide and deep and two hundred feet long were completely filled up by these living waves.
But all efforts were unavailing–the earth remained covered.

“Through Five Republics on Horse-back: Being an Account of Many Wanderings in South America,” G. Whitfield Ray, 1915

My Comment

An apt metaphor for most government intervention..
Efforts to tackle our own plague of locusts are just as futile..

Sometimes nature must take its course…and right now, nature demands that a season of fat be followed by a season of lean..