Szczurolap (The Rat Exterminator)

Warning: this video contains visually disturbing scenes.

Szczurolap (The Rat Catcher) is a 1986 documentary about the one of the few remaining rat exterminators in Poland.

The film begins with a scientist describing an experiment where a rat is shown to drown in a matter of 15 minutes when left alone. Another rat which was rescued by way of a plank but later returned to the water survives for 15 hours. The point is that a rat given hope will have the will to live.

In the rest of the film we follow the exterminator in his task at exterminating the entire population on a rat-infested farm. He describes how he needs to be patient. By using poison he could kill off perhaps only three-quarters of the population, leaving the stronger and smarter rats to survive and passing on their genes (and knowledge) to the next generation . But by waiting and gaining their trust he can exterminate a far higher percentage from the beginning. So much so that he will feed the rats, other rats will continue to eat his poison ladened or by hardening their stomaches with plaster, even when rats are dying around in front them all the while he stands there watching. The remaining rats are shot with an air rifle. The last surviving rat – the boss – is then literally lured out with bait on fishing hook then killed by smashing it against the wall.

The film ends with the exterminator revealing to his listeners that his real job is that of watchmaking.

The narration, while about rat extermination, is really a philosophical meditation of sorts. Very little information about this film exists in English. I highly recommend it. But it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

On the id, superego and ego

There are conditions and your reaction to these conditions. The conditions are 1) what you want to do, 2) what your society wants you to do, and 3) what you decide to do and do in response to your desires and society. Freud called your desires id, societal pressures superego and your decisions ego. There should a balance for all of these. Otherwise there are problems.

Another way to put this is that the id is the internal world, the superego the external world, and the ego view and interaction of the internal and external worlds.

Id, ego, superego

Life is complicated. There are so many things we need to tend to. And Sigmund Freud understood this in simpler (or more complex) terms.

In talking of the psyche of people used the terms id, ego and superego. Basically, the id is what you want (your desires, wants and needs). The superego is what is expected and demanded of you from society. And the ego is what you do when taking into consideration of the superego (pressures from society and culture) and the id (your personal urges). These three need to be balanced for a person’s well-being.

What has Periscope taught me?

I love Periscope. In my opinion it is the next thing in social media (SM). It is different to other SM because there is real-time interaction on a large scale. No other SM is like this. It is possible to interact with a couple of hundred people simultaneously in Periscope. Unlike other mediums the interaction is delayed, after the fact.

Anyway, one important thing Periscope has taught me is how to deal with trolls. Not only are trolls annoying to me but also to my viewers. I had not realised until using Periscope that others (my viewers) are equally annoyed with them. Up until then I had always thought of the viewers as a collective. But by understanding that each viewer is an individual with separate thoughts and feelings to what they are seeing (my scope) I realised that the troll is no longer what my viewers thought but that they are the extreme minority, perhaps an individual without a clue as to what proper social means.

At some level it has much to with, or the lack of, empathy. By being able to “put yourself into someone else’s shoes” we can empathise – know what another person feels or is feeling. The anonymity of the sign – the username – gives trolls the power to do what they feel without consequence.

Sigmund Freud broke this down to what, I think, are nice (and still relevant) categories. He called these the superego, id and ego. The superego is what society wants you to do. The id is what you really want to do. The ego is what you do in the face of conflict between your superego and id. So in Peri-land (or Scope-land) we are told to be civil to each other (don’t do or say unto others what you do not want done to you). But your id tells you to be selfish and that if people and their feelings do not exist this is what I would do. But after thinking about it your ego tells you that being nasty will have consequences because people have feelings, even though you do not want to acknowledge it.

In the end, it is all about whether you want to see others as lifeless but moving objects, or as having the same kinds of feelings as yourself. This acknowledgement is not easy because ultimately we have no direct access to other people’s thoughts and feelings. We can only guess at them through experience and inference. This is also what perhaps what The Buddha had meant by suffering.

Adam Phillips on happiness, pain, satisfaction, and attainable ideals

What Adam Phillips, a psychotherapist and writer, says in this interview is, in my opinion, excellent and very close to Buddhist thinking.

The link between the environment and war

Did you know that 40% of world’s civil or internal wars in the last half century have been fought over for natural resources?

Today is International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. We should remember the (illogical) reasons why we are fighting in the first place. Then, may be, we will put down our weapons and make peace instead.