A cautionary tale




"The sky is falling!" cried Chicken Little.  


In the story, the chicken simply reacts. In fact, it goes totally berserk, running around proclaiming a doomsday scenario without ever stopping for a reality check. At no time does Chicken Little investigate what triggered its response. Likely, fear of a cataclysmic disaster had already been deeply ingrained. If operating on ''red alert'' prior to the event in question -- and not just orange or yellow -- it was surely in panic mode long before an acorn landed on its little feathered head.  


As we all know, walking under a tree and being bopped by an acorn can be mistaken for a catastrophic event. Chickens are not alone in jumping to conclusions and foregone conclusions are not as rare as we might wish. Take for example the "bail-out" mania for getting certain financial institutions off the hook. A closer look at the plight of Chicken Little might inform this discussion vastly. 


A little chicken, innocently strolling around, is absolutely traumatized by the unexpected (although it might have been expected). Not to belabor the point, the chicken acted in a rather bird-brained manner in its response. Obviously, Chicken Little had no ability to imagine unintended consequences and just ran around trying to save itself. You could say that it went into a panic over nothing, or almost nothing, until its own hue and cry cranked up the rumor mill, scattering havoc like chaff on the wind.  


And what did Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky do when they heard the news? Did they do a reality sky check before getting caught up in the panic? Did they look up? Regrettably they failed miserably on due diligence. They didn''t even try to see what interest group Chicken Little represented while creating such a flap. Certainly they didn''t question the chicken''s integrity or judgment. Neither one asked whether a chicken could really be expected to assess in a rational way anything outside its own purview, or even within it, for that matter. Instead they joined in the stampede and the scare scenario escalated.  


In a panic nobody can think straight. Light-headedness has the effect of ratcheting up the fear factor enormously. Over-reaction has dangerous consequences for some and benefits for others. Just ask an opportunist like Foxy Loxy. 


Some might want to blame the chicken for starting the panic that led to its own undoing but what about the roles of Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky? They were equally caught up in the frenzy. If we didn''t know better, we might suspect that a panic of epic proportions can be induced by almost anything and that perception is everything.  


If only cool heads had prevailed. Sadly, once the opportunists were alerted the end was near. Led by Foxy Loxy straight into his den, the birds never, never came out again. 


Elizabeth McCullough Simpson, Columbus 




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