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  • Hunt Your Sacred Cows

    Taylor Pearson, Hunt Your Sacred Cows

    Hunt Your Sacred Cows: trend recognition for fun and profit

    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”
    – Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning Physicist

    I’ve gone deer hunting three times in my life. I am a very bad deer hunter. I usually listen to audiobooks and fall asleep in the deer stand. The only time I saw a deer was because the deer’s hoof stepped on a fallen branch that cracked very loudly and woke me up. I was so surprised that I jumped out of my chair, almost fell out of the tree, and scared the deer away long before I could even attempt to shoot it.

    If you’ve never been deer hunting, the kind I’m talking about entails waking up at four in the morning and crawling into a deer stand, usually a folding chair (like you see at high school baseball games) strapped to a tree thirty feet above the forest floor.

    You sit in the chair for four or five hours and turn on your spidey senses. If you hear a twig snap in the distance, you turn your head slowly, like the lone woman in a horror movie turning to see the serial killer with the kitchen knife behind her, and look intently into the woods in the hope of seeing a flash of movement that would indicate a deer.

    The most important skill in deer hunting is being an incredibly intent observer.
    Yet the difficulty of being an intent observer is magnified by how rarely your intense observation pays off.

    99% of the sounds that you do hear perched in the stand aren’t made by a deer. They might be the crack of a tree branch under the weight of a fresh snow, or a squirrel running through the brush. To have any chance at killing a deer, you must very slowly, scan the area from where each sound seems to jump. If it does happen to be a deer, the rewards are so large that even though you’re wrong 99 times out of a hundred, you still need to look.

    This isn’t an essay about hunting deer. It’s about hunting cows. Not your domesticated Angus or Hereford breed, but a breed of cow which shares more of the characteristics of a deer. This breed of cow rarely emerges from its hiding places in our minds and culture. It is almost impossible to see, even when in plain sight. It blends into the fabric of our world so seamlessly as to seem almost inseparable from reality.

    I am talking about the sacred cow.

    A sacred cow is any idea, custom, or institution that you (often unconsciously) hold to be above criticism. Sacred cows govern how most people live their lives, how they make all their day-to-day decisions from what time they get up, where they work to who their friends are. Yet, they are almost impossible for most people to see.

    The term sacred cow is a figurative reference to the elevated place of cows in Hinduism, so that’s as good a place to start our examination of sacred cows as anywhere. Amalendu Misra, a senior lecturer at the department of politics, philosophy and religion at Lancaster University, diagnosed the case of a Muslim man who was murdered near New Delhi by a lynch mob on suspicion of killing and eating a calf.

    The crowd didn’t think beyond what they considered an unquestionable truth: cows are sacred. Pound for pound, beef is the cheapest meat in India, cheaper than chicken, goat or lamb. They did not consider that most muslims eat beef for simple economic reasons not as a religious statement.
    This phenomenon is not relegated to Indian culture and actual sacred cows. It is true of any culture at any given moment in history.

    If you read history, sacred cows are usually the things you read which cause you to facepalm. 

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