'You dirty rat…'(Cagney voice)

The Chinese calendar is a curiosity for most of us non-Chinese people. This year is the Year of the Rat. Personally that means as much to me as pronouncing it the Year of the Tin Can, but in the spirit of cultural sensitivity I felt compelled to find out more, but not too much more - Wikipedia more - more Lite.

The Rat holds the position of being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs. Rats are, supposedly, leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat's natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust.

Behind the smiles and charm, rats can be terribly obstinate and controlling, insisting on having things their way no matter what the cost. These people tend to have immense control of their emotions, which they may use as a tool to manipulate and exploit others, both emotionally and mentally. Rats are masters of mind games and can be very dangerous, calculative and downright cruel if the need arises. Quick-tempered and aggressive, they will not think twice about exacting revenge on those that hurt them in any way. Rats need to learn to relax sometimes, as they can be quite obsessed with detail, intolerant and strict, demanding order, obedience, and perfection.

Rats consider others before themselves, at least sometimes, and avoid forcing their ideas onto others. Rats are fair in their dealings and expect the same from others in return, and can be deeply affronted if they feel they have been deceived or that their trust has been abused. Sometimes they set their targets too high, whether in relation to their friends or in their career. But as the years pass, they will become more idealistic and tolerant. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats can find true happiness.

According to tradition, Rats often carry heavy karma and at some point in life may face an identity crisis or some kind of feeling of guilt. Rats are said to often have to work very long and hard for everything they may earn or have in life. However, a Rat born during the day is said to have things a bit easier than those who are born at night. Traditionally, Rats born during the night may face extreme hardships and suffering throughout life. Rats in general should guard themselves against hedonism, as it may lead to self-destruction. Gambling, alcohol and drugs tend to be great temptations to Rat natives.

Traditionally, Rats should avoid Horses, but they can usually find their best friends and love interests in Monkeys, Dragons, and Oxen. (No mention of cats or traps)

Professions include espionage, psychiatry, psychology, writing, politics, law, engineering, accounting, detective work, acting, and pathology.

I'm afraid I'm with Prof RIchared Dawkins on zodiacs and astrology. While it is an interesting diversion I'm afraid that dividing all of humanity into twelve stereotypes is as absurd as judging them on the basis of nationality or religion: all Brits are dull, pale, heavy drinking cigarette smokers or all jews are greedy. While I am certain there are, indeed dull, pale, drunken chainsmoking poms I don't think it serves any useful purpose to view any group with membership numbers of two or more as typified by banal characteristics.

Yesterday was Waitangi Day here in New Zealand, our 'national day' commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the document that agreed the terms of British Colonisation of New Zealand with Maori. It is a controversial day and represents the divisions in our society as much as it does the ties that bind. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it was the government produced propaganda that promoted the concepts of New Zealand-ness. For example, light entertainer Pio Terei, suggested that a typifying expression of New Zealandish is the acknowledgment of another, an acquaintance, with the subtle tilt of ones head - raising chin and eyebrows in recognition is all it takes to identify yourself as a kiwi - even when one is in London. I think if you were walking down Oxford Street on a busy shopping day no one would even notice your existence and, if you did make eye contact and perform the gesture, it would seem like an act of aggression or a threat. It is the sort of restrained display that is deployed in aggressive macho environments - to acknowledge another without opening one's self up in any way that might indicate either weakness or threat - a very male characteristic, or very Maori, or very gangsterish - can you see the limited value of stereotypes?

Fascinating that a recommended profession for people born in the year of the Rat is espionage. I wonder if there is a clandestine night class at the local community college on the subject?


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