Now I’ve found a good use for moose in these times, I got to thinking about reindeer. Of course, they always have a purpose and their world hasn’t been much affected by the crisis so far. But there are some companies that use their reindeer as part of their tourist business – for example, the meet-the-friendly-reindeer-farm, or sledding-with-reindeer-winter-wonderland activities. Like all tourist businesses they’ve lost their customers, so there are a few reindeer up here facing unemployment. I have the perfect solution.
First we have to remember and understand that Sweden’s goal in fighting Covid-19 is to reach some kind of mass, or ‘herd’, immunity, whereby there are enough people who have been infected that the virus stops spreading. We are far from this goal at present – we have to get many more people ill before we reach the required 60% – but the maestro of the moment, chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (otherwise known as, ‘the monkey’) is keen for Sweden to get going with this. So he needs the population to co-operate; they must understand their role in achieving ‘herd’ immunity.
This is where the reindeer come in. They are, after all, first and foremost herd animals. They know a thing or two about being a herd, it’s their special subject. So – let’s bring people to the reindeer to learn how to be a herd. This will have two benefits – better ‘herd’ behaviour by the population, and a continuing tourist business in Kiruna.
So what might a ‘herd’ course include?
First, people would have to learn how to follow their leader, the primary principle of herd behaviour. In the case of reindeer that’s usually a female, but as this is not the case in our society we could adjust that.
Once they’d got the hang of following the lead reindeer around the corral, they’d then have to learn how to behave when threatened. The herd reacts as a whole to threats, and its usual response is to run very fast in circles in an anti-clockwise direction. This will be bewildering at first for the course members, but with practice they’ll get it. The result will be that they will be so dizzy and confused that they won’t be able to think, which is perfect.
Finally, they will need to learn not to think ahead, and not to imagine their own demise. A reindeer doesn’t know when it’s being led to the slaughter, which is why the herd can be managed. Course members will need to practice the art of living in the present so that they don’t start thinking where all this might lead.
As with ‘herd’ immunity, knowledge of herd behaviour can be spread through people, who, coming back from their week of living as a herd, can teach what they have learnt to their friends. There might be a few problems practising the anti-clockwise circling in an urban environment, but if this is scaled down to just a few people it should be possible to do this in someone’s living room. There could be ‘herd living’ study circles, in the honoured Swedish tradition, and the government could encourage people by awarding certificates to people once they’ve reached the required standard.