The Problem with Prejudice

A rat moved into our ceiling and discovered there wasn’t much on the menu. So, it ate what there was – our alarm cables. Living in an area that is so prolific in wildlife, we have become so conscious of the terrible consequences of using pesticides. For instance, rat poison kills owls who eat the rat carcass. A conversation with friends resulted in the humane removal of the culprit, without endangering any other creatures.

A few days later, a different looking bird showed up for seeds and fruit just beyond our patio. Upon closer inspection we discovered that the newcomer didn’t chirp – it squeaks. An adorable variation of the field mouse, with a single racing stripe down its back. I sat on the step near to where it was eating and tried to explain that its life was in danger because Peter had declared war on rodents following the alarm incident.

The creature listened intently as it filled its adorable cheeks with seeds. I thought the matter was settled, but the next day, he invited a friend. Of course, it didn’t take long for Peter to notice them too, and he also had a little conversation with the mouse, which was not as polite as my attempt.

A stressful few days ensued with the mouse and his mate showing up daily to visit, Peter freaking out, and me pleading their innocence. Eventually, I managed to extract a begrudging one week grace period for my little friends – a week in which to persuade them to relocate peacefully.

The week ticked by at an alarming rate. My pleas to both parties fell on deaf ears. At last, I turned to Google and gathered evidence like there was no tomorrow, because for two little mice there likely wouldn’t be! Armed with very convincing facts about the habits, habitats and culinary preferences of my little buddies, I opened fresh negotiations for a permanent reprieve.

It’s a long story, but I won and my very cute little visitors scurry on over from their home beneath a huge old tree near the road, for their daily snack and our (much happier) chats. The birds don’t mind the mice in the least and they eat happily side by side, with neither of them trying to chase the other away.

The plight of the one-stripe mice illustrates the problem with prejudice perfectly. Painting them with the same brush as their destructive aunty’s uncle’s sister’s mother, the black rat, was grossly unfair, and almost resulted in disaster. How often don’t we judge someone by their colour, friends, culture, religion…? The list is endless, but to varying┬ádegrees the consequences are almost always negative.

It’s hard to really get to know someone using Google – it involves risk and the intentional gifts of time and attention. But, either way, you win, because you can make an informed choice of whether someone is a friend or a rat. Both exist and both have an equal right to. But, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer the damage a rat can do, but nor should you risk overlooking an amazing friend, because you made the mistake of calling them a rodent. There is a difference – not all rodents are rats.

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