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Musth is a period in which adult elephants experience “testosterone overload,” inducing extreme levels of agitation, violent tendencies and rogue behavior. During musth, elephants discharge a thick tar-like substance called temporin, a warning sign that the elephant may charge in a dangerous frenzy with no apparent provocation at all.
For male moose and elk, this testo-explosion is called “rut,” during which the animals fight with each other.
And that urge to fight is simply uncontrollable. Elephants will charge almost anyone or anything in a seemingly mindless state of enraged fury. Moose in rut go head-to-head with each other (literally) in an attempt to demonstrate who is the superior male.
It’s a macho-fest of the animal world, where “kill or be killed” is replaced with “kill and impress the girls!”
The etymology of musth is very apropos. The word derives from the Persian “mast” meaning “intoxicated.” When raging in a manic killing craze, an animal exhibits the same level of judgment one might expect from someone who has ingested a dozen glasses of rum and coke (minus the coke).
Oddly enough, “mast” also means “to rejoice.” Whether this implies the joy of being drunk or the joy of killing other animals, I can’t say, but those in musth do seem to get a “kick” of out it.
Rut comes from old French “ruit” and the Latin “rutigum” meaning “a bellowing.”
Not surprisingly, vocalization patterns change during musth and rut. The animals can be heard roaring in true macho fashion, noises similar to what you might hear in a sports bar during Super Bowl.
Whereas animals in rut fight for attention, humans seem to do it just for fun.
With ISIS rebels overrunning Iraq, the regressive hawks in Washington D.C. are dripping with political temporin at the chance to send in troops and kill more people. The air is thick in musth and rut as the war drums start beating to the rhetorical chants that we need to protect our children from invading hordes of Syrian rebels, rogue elephants and sex-crazed moose.
It’s easy to yell for war when you’re not the one on the front lines. As Herbert Hoover said, “Old men declare war, but it is the youth that must fight and die.”
At some point, you would think sane minds would prevail. After more than a decade of “preemptive military intervention” in Iraq, nearly 4,500 American soldiers have been killed. A recent academic study by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Washington revealed that nearly 500,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.
In addition, more than 100,000 American soldiers have been wounded in battle. When you include those returning home with post-traumatic stress disorders, brain injuries, diseases and other long-term health problems, the total is over 400,000.
I suppose sane minds were drowned out by that musthy boast, “Mission accomplished! Now let’s all go read My Pet Goat!”
The elephant in the room might be ignored by most, but the smell of military temporin is unmistakable. It’s the 34th Ferengi Rule of Acquisition — “War is good for business.”
When Bush and Cheney led (from a very safe distance) the nation into this epic battle for democracy, the American taxpayer was told (by Cheney in an interview one week before the invasion began) that “the war would cost about $80 billion.”
Today’s estimates of the direct and indirect costs range between $2.2 and $2.7 trillion. When you add the costs for the Afghanistan “incursion” and the long-term costs (medical treatment of wounded veterans, repair of depleted forces and supplies), the cost is more like $5 to $6 trillion.
Despite countless lives lost for no rational reason, the chance at spending another trillion dollars is too much to resist for some people. Political careers and capitalistic profits are carved on the tombstones of the victims of greed.
With lucrative military contracts promising to fill the political troughs, Washington’s elephants and moose are eager to “mission accomplish” us into another decade of shock and awe, with shocking impacts to American lives and economy and awesome profits for the herds of testosterone filled egos.
Let the musth begin!