Do we really need an Animal Kingdom? Or Ant Queendoms.. at least?

17 08 2011

Let me start by disambiguating the title of this article, I do not mean this in the same way I might say “Do we need a Carbon Tax”. I am quite fond of animals, certainly some more than others and I like all animals if the distance between us/wind direction/probability of them eating me is contained appropriately.

I go to thinking recently about ants. Proverbs admonishes us to “go to the ant, you sluggard!”, though is less specific about what one should do once there. When I go to ants, I find myself wasting inordinate amounts of time just watching the little buggers and wasting even more time. Yes, I am happy to admit it, going to ants makes me MORE of a sluggard.

Ants have a Queen. It’s a fairly straightforward feudal system with one obese, constantly egg-laying, queen and thousands of serf-like ants whose job it is to basically get anything edible, carry away tiny ant poo-poo, feed the young ants, answer emails to the colony, provide good PR for the colony to keep up profiles for the economic outlook and some to make sure that all ants are paying the appropriate levels of tax. Ok, maybe I need a little bit more time with David Attenborough before writing articles like this.

What if ants discovered other forms of government? Would it work for them? What if some group of ants worked fast enough to spend a few spare minutes, ok, years, to learn German, get a hold of The Communist Manifesto by Komrade Karl himself (and maybe a couple of hundred ant-friends to turn the pages for him)? Could they rise up against the bourgeoise and demand smoko breaks, leave loading and sensible grey clothing?

Would it work? Could we see each ant with self-determination in a matrix of worker-friendly general groovy feeling towards each other translate into a place where all ants could feel respected rather than expoited. Well, the first problem I could foresee is that someone has to have the baby ants or the experiment is far to short-lived to ever catch on in the insect world. I really don’t mean to be sexist here.. well, actually, yes I do because the female ants have got to do it, really. In the Ant Queendom, the Queen’s job isn’t really that crash hot. Hell, she’s more Catholic than pure monarchy in the procreative sense. Never gets out in the sunlight, always coping with morning sickness, cravings for lamb chops and custard and  knows for damn sure she’s never getting into those ‘pre-pregnant’ jeans ever again.. Not with a bot-bot approximately 45 times larger than it was!!

No, the job of the boss, in this system at least, is not so much that of largesse  as ‘Large S’ (as in Sucks, with a capital s). I often say to people, the job above you always looks easier than it is!

The second problem is one of orienting goals. A decent communist society needs societal goals. Like maybe going to the moon or marching in large numbers with your feet high in the air or parading the fact that you have lots of very destructive penis-shaped objects that strike fear into other ant mounds (rather than generous amounts of material for budding ant-comedians!). What could be such a goal for ants? I guess colony-wide efforts into Ant-railways would be pretty cool. Making lots of comrade issue antboots might cut down a bit of chitin-damage on the delicate ant-footsies (they do have six, you know) but really, they need a loftier goal and it is here that ants have no chance in the sabre-rattling stakes of insect superpowers.. You see, as many humans in tropical environments are aware, you have ants and then you have white ants. A more lethal insect superpower you have never seen.

These little bastards EAT HOUSES. Human houses. Lots of them, all day every day. They are single-minded with their goal: to eat every bloody stick of wood in the entire world. Not bad. Not bad at all. No amount of black (or green or red with purple polka dot) ant propaganda painted in those deep dark tunnels is ever going to generate enthusiasm for a loftier goal for their civilisation, unless, of course, they took a shady little leaf out of the English playbook in Jardine’s era and encourage a healthy trade in addiction to flourish.

You see, early trade in the ‘orient’ as it was quirkily referred to, in the 18th Century was very much one-sided. the Chinese had cool stuff but thought that Eurotrash gear was, well, just that. Not to be dissuaded from sound principles of crude capitalism, the English did what any self-respecting supporter of capitalism of the time would do… it started drug dealing Opium. This led to the locals getting high and the Mandarins (not those small orange things, silly, the shortish, funny-collared things) to get higher and mightier. Consequently, the Mandarins lost, the English got Hong Kong (and free reign to continue drug dealing).

Now, what if those cunning ants were able to secure a product which termites could not resist, which would render them exponentially more dangerous to mankind and present a very useful bargaining tool? Well according to a reliable source (well, not so much a source as an advertising campaign from the Coca Cola company) we already have that product, a legal stimulant simply called ‘V’. Termites go WILD with it!

So our ant communities have a noble goal of V production, with a stated species-wide threat to unleash their powerful product on their Rogue-Ant cousins unless humankind can meet the demands of the more ethnically-coloured ant species. Maybe, ‘you give us food, flavoured beverages (except Budweiser.. or ANY American beer for that matter), tiny ant couches and teach us how to develop Premier League football competitions and enormous 42 millimetre televisions or we feed the white ants…..V!!!!!

This could work. Ants would no longer need to work doing much at all, once the stocks of (unused, unopened) V was plentiful enough. They could get fat and drunk and watch football and enjoy the fact that humans are working their tails off for ants while other ants are still munching on the houses they go to work to pay off.

Some amongst you might cynically suggest that this form of government is perhaps closer to the Cosa Nostra than it is to Utopia. To those same cynical people I might suggest that perhaps our ants not fiddle with their governments too much after all, since I seem to recall a country that has gone this route in a manner far too close to this allegory.

Just a thought *wink*.




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