Of Rats and Men

Humans don’t generally have a high opinion of rats, but maybe these rodents don’t deserve the bum rap they get. I recently saw a documentary on animal intelligence that showed how smart they are. Among other things, rats learned how to drive little ratmobiles, steering them toward a food reward. They quickly became pretty good drivers, at least as good as most of the human ones I encounter around the beltway these days. Once rat sized cell phones become available, that may change.

We shouldn’t be surprised at how smart they are. Rats share 69% of their genome with humans. Or to put it another way, humans are 69% rat. (That’s just physically. Mentally, maybe a bit more.) Just for comparison, chimpanzees share 99% with humans, dogs 82% and cats 90%. This may explain why there’s so much monkey business involved in human affairs, as well as why cat lovers are smart enough not to tie themselves down with a dog. (Some readers may take offense at this. Before you send nasty emails take the time to really get loaded for bear by reading my blogs “Happiness is Doglessness” and “Of Dogs and Doormats.”)

James Cagney was often imitated with a line he never spoke, “you dirty rat.” In the film “Taxi” he did say “you dirty yellow bellied rat” which is close enough. Cagney was right in labeling the animal that helped spread bubonic plague as dirty, but until the advent of modern bathing practices most human weren’t any cleaner. Even today, 69% are at least as dirty as rats. Q-anon types of the 14th century did as much to spread the plague as the rats did by disseminating a conspiracy theory that cats were sent by the Devil as companions for witches. The people, being just as smart as current day MAGA supporters, proceeded to decimate the cat population. That gave the rats free rein.

For that, maybe those ignorant superstitious types of the Dark Ages can be excused. Inexcusable are their modern day MAGA anti-vax, anti-mask counterparts who, intentionally, keep themselves as much in the dark about science as their distant ancestors were.

Even more inexcusable are the ones who should know better. Even the well educated are scurrying around carefree thinking they are safe without boosters or masks while the virus continues to thrive and mutate, it’s huge prevalence falsified by a dearth of testing and reporting. Thanks to these human mutation factories, who are playing the role of rats in our plague, Covid may yet get virulent enough to surpass the black plague in per capita fatalities.

Yellow bellied is another matter. Rats are cunning and sneaky, but cowards they are not. Do not corner a rat in a dark alley or you will will quickly see why.

Recently, scientists announced the results of an experiment designed to shed light on some genetic neurologic and psychiatric disorders. They implanted human brain cells into rat embryos. The cells took hold, grew and functioned in the rat brains. Since health insurance companies don’t pay for psychiatric treatment of humans, this research will be applied to creating new treatments for mentally ill rats.

An unexpected outcome of the study was a new race of highly aggressive rat drivers.

While rats are busy becoming more human, we, at the same time, are getting rattier. Quite a while ago there was a study done on rats to measure the effects of overpopulation on behavior. The rats predictably got more nasty and aggressive and resorted to anti-social behavior in the face of crowded conditions, food and water shortages, etc. During my lifetime, world population has quadrupled from 2 billion to 8 billion and keeps going up. Meanwhile, Earth is becoming less capable of accommodating all these unwashed bodies. The conditions brought about by a combination of climate change, serial pandemics and uncontrolled population growth are acting on our 69% of rat genes to bring out the rat in all of us. It makes you wonder what would happen if rat cells were implanted in humans.

There are ethical questions involved in this kind of research, but I don’t see a lot of conflict in it. Judging from my observations of our species, adding human traits to rats will probably just make the rats more ratty. Adding rat cells to human brains? Who knows, but I’m sure cheese manufacturers would gladly subsidize the experiments.

You may think implanting rat cells in human brains is the stuff of science fiction. You’re wrong. Even though, unlike the vast majority of Americans, you have been paying attention to the January 6 Commission findings, you probably are not aware of one interesting piece of evidence the committee has decided not to reveal.

We all know that Donald Trump’s parents were beside themselves in trying to deal with him as a child. They eventually sent him to reform school where, as is usually the case, he became more adept in behaving badly. No one could figure out how one kid could be such a dirty rat, but a credible source (who must remain anonymous since the investigation is ongoing) informed me that, included in the mess of classified documents taken from Mar-a-lago, is an obscure medical record.

It reveals that when Trump flunked out of reform school, his parents were offered a huge sum by a rogue scientist to include little Donald in his studies. The Trumps figured it couldn’t make Donald any worse, and as we know, huge sums have always been attractive to the Trump family. The scientist (who later became Trump’s personal physician and pronounced him the healthiest person in all humanity, having, no doubt, carefully and personally examined all eight billion of us) was injecting rat brain cells into human brains. He went further with some subjects even than he did with Donald.

That explains Mitch McConnell’s unrepentant underhandedness and incomprehensible speech, the Supreme Court’s determination to accelerate the rate of human reproduction to match that of rodents and Vladimir Putin’s physiognomy.

It may also explain the affinity between Trump and Putin. They are more than just friends. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, they are brothers in a new and rapidly reproducing human-rat hybrid sub-species. Don and Vlad’s fellow experimental subjects and their offspring are crawling out of the world’s dumpsters to deliver the kind of leadership any rat, human or rodent, would approve of.

Like it or not, dirty or not, the rats are taking control. Just accept it. Oh, and while you’re at it, would you kindly pass the cheese tray.

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