Leave It to Beavers

by Charles Lyell on July 5, 2011

 “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice, and motivated by pride and vanity.”  –  Dale Carnegie

Many North American cities can trace their roots back to European peer-approval and esteem addicts who fed their dopamine habit by wearing expensive top hats made out of beaver pelts. A few centuries ago, grown and seemingly intelligent men invested small fortunes in silly headgear that conveyed the wearers’ professions, wealth, social status, and willingness to wear dead beavers on their heads. More pointedly, their hats revealed how crippled our recent ancestors’ development was.

The European males’ shared addiction resulted in a huge demand for beaver pelts that was met by companies backed by venture capitalists. Acquiring and transporting millions of beaver skins changed history by creating strategic alliances between traders and Native Americans, instigating hostilities and wars between governments, and transforming isolated trading posts into economic centers.

Processing the beaver pelts polluted waterways and destroyed peoples’ health. Decades of lunacy provided handfuls of financiers with windfall profits, brought untold grief to the families of tens of thousands of killed or maimed soldiers and seamen, and resulted in the wholesale slaughter of countless beavers.

Speaking of madness, Lewis Caroll’s character, the Hatter, was inspired by the hat makers whose minds were melted by the mercury used to make beaver-fur hats. Was Mr. Caroll taking a shot at the mad hat wearers who didn’t give a damn about the death and destruction they caused, as long as they got to prance around in the dead beaver caps that revealed a debilitating brain disease that continues to afflict our species to this very day?


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