The bleating of the lambs

July 30th, 2012, Published in Articles: Energize


I will at once admit that I have never been closer to a woolly ovine than the time Scrooge and I embarked on a carded lambswool venture (Bah Bah Black Sheep, or BBBS, although the wool was mostly off-white). As your erudite readers might appreciate, this entailed more pitfalls than profits and we soon abandoned the venture. However, reflecting on this episode the other day during a blackout brought me to ponder, mindful of my woeful ignorance of pastoral practices, the topical question of whether there were  similarities between lambs and participants in the electricity industry.

Sheep (the more mature form of lambs) are conformist creatures, one understands, not as a matter of principle, but of necessity, much like electricity customers. One usually encounters them in flocks, fleeced or about to be, bleating loudly about one thing or another, the difference being that a lamb bleats when it is distressed or when it gambols about in meadows or wherever lambs are to be found. It bleats when others bleat; it even bleats when there is nothing to bleat about.

A lamb will bleat, so I am reliably informed,  when it perceives something that resembles a wolf, and bleats again with relief upon discovering that it is probably no more than a mangy jackal, much like electricity users do when they find that the tariff increase is considerably less than originally bandied about. But even mangy jackals are not nice; they have large, yellow, dirty teeth and have been known to feast on many an unwary lamb, causing more bleating amongst the ones that think they have escaped the evil intruder.

I am not suggesting of course, Sir, that electricity users actually bleat. Instead, they write long tirades the press, which invariably get edited to make them readable, obliterating the point they were trying to make.  Learned scholars pontificate this way or that, reminiscent of pictures that I once saw in the Illustrated London News of lambs being shorn. What a bloody mess. One only has to peruse the local broadsheets to appreciate that there is so much ignorance about that one may be forgiven for thinking that not only lambs bleat.

Certainly the great rams of the industry are never heard to bleat or seen to frolic about in lush meadows full of succulent grass. But they do allow – at considerable expense, I believe – some of the ewes and the lambs to do so. Rams do not  bleat, as long as they get their share, of course. What is a trillion here or there, anyway? And did not the great sheepherder himself placate the servile flock by assuring them that increases in the length of grass would be cropped so that the lambs might not be lost? So there is no reason to bleat.

I also believe, Sir, that when lambs bleat, it drives everything else from their minds (if lambs can be said to have minds, of course). They all mill about, crying “Bah-bah” or whatever, forgetting that it is time to move on to new pastures because the present one is about grazed out or taken over by weeds. So they start bleating, as if that would put fodder in the manger or power stations on the grid. They blather so long and so loud that the opportunity to find a good alternative passes them by. Next they are left eking out an existence on a rubbish tip, causing more bleating.

So when the sun sets, there is a further cacophony of bleating. Who forgot the way home? Who closed the gate? Or worse, who did not close the gate so that the lambs are now scattered wide and far?

Is is time to encourage the more timid members of the flock to make a choice as they come to a fork in the path? And who says home is this way? So the wolves and the jackals have a royal time when darkness descends. And the bleating does not stop.

Lambs bleat when the prospect of ewe’s milk is in the offing. That does not happen very often, of course, because the shepherd assiduously milks the ewes every evening. But sometimes he leaves a few drops for the lambs and bleating of contentment never stops. When he forgets, the lambs bleat loudly and butt their mothers’ shrivelled udders, a performance the shepherd simply ignores, so inured to the bleating has he become. And he does not repair the fences either, and that bleating, too, he chooses to ignore.

If the barriers are down or the grass in the meadow gets too long, it attracts all kinds of unwelcome visitors, anything from bovine to caprine, the latter very good at breaking through fences and foraging on some of the lusher vegetation, as their annual reports regularly boast. Goats do no bleat – they just grab what they can and get away with it. And that, of course, gives the lambs another reason to bleat.

I think this amply illustrates, Sir, some interesting parallels between lambs and the participants in the industry.  But there is one chilling aspect which I have not touched upon and which I leave for your erudite readers to explore. That is when the lambs stop bleating. If the silence of the lambs descends, Sir, it is probably time to abandon sheepherding and become self-sufficient.

But until that happens, Sir, I remain your most humble and obedient servant
Jacob Marley

Related Articles

  • South African Government COVID-19 Corona Virus Resource Portal
  • Ministerial determinations propose 13813 MW of new-build by IPPs, none by Eskom
  • Crunch time for South Africa’s national nuclear company, Necsa
  • Dealing with the elephant in the room that is Eskom…
  • Interview with Minerals & Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe