The Minefield Metaphor

Throughout the pandemic, the above photo has been shared, often with text relating to the minefields of WW2 or Vietnam or wherever, pointing out that the soldier is carrying the donkey not out of compassion but out of necessity, as otherwise the donkey might set off mines. This is then compared to the behavior of humans during the pandemic and why it matters. I’m here to set the record straight after doing a bit of research into it.

For one, the photo itself is actually related to a wonderful tale of an Algerian soldier and his unit helping and befriending this donkey, and it became a part of their unit. It was entirely out of compassion, and there is no mine field in this photo or tale.

Secondly, soldiers in a minefield would not be so spread out. They would try to follow one another on the safe path, at a good enough distance so as to minimize casualties. Getting a donkey to walk in single file is actually fairly simple, so that would not be a problem.

Thirdly, the metaphor dehumanizes people, and that’s never a good thing.

So where does that leave us, just holding an ass? (no I will not apologize for that pun).


The metaphor doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. But if you use the minefield and just make it all people, it works quite well. Imagine a situation in which a well educated force is slowly clearing the danger of mines surrounding innocent people, all while an uneducated bunch of people scream about freedom while running wild over the field in between them. Yes, they are likely to trigger a mine, and yes, it will kill more than just them. This is why when danger is present, it is not only logical but ethically required that we either remove their ability to fuck things up for everyone or ban them from the field until it is cleared. And this is also why it is entirely ok to refer to them as brain dead dipshits, because honestly, who does that?

What’s your take? Have you accidentally shared the donkey story as I have? And do you think we can stick to the simpler example of people being stupid?