CONVERSATIONS

TERMITES, ME AND THEE

 

 

     MY SISTER WROTE:

 

 

"The only correlation between us and "in the beginning" and forward is that by today's standards just about everyone is "middle-class" and thereby not among the elite.  Even middle-class now closely follows lower-class by actual "worth".  The standard of living now only appears to speak "wealth".  Not really, though, since most people live on credit not what they can actually afford.  It was with the advent of credit cards that the changes started. Even then, credit cards weren't passed off lightly.  Banks did not beg you have have one, you begged the bank for one and if you were lucky you got one with a $250 credit limit."

 

     AND I REPLIED:

 

Consider the lily. There are no uberlilies.  Lilies do not march to war.

 

Ants, bees, and termites, all have a warrior class, a royal queen, and many workers that definitely toil.

 

Humans, too, exist within a class structure.  We have evolved into the most intelligent species on earth, so our class structure is more elaborate.  But to simplify it for purposes of discussion, we can identify three classes of humans. 

 

Some of us are stronger, larger and more aggressive, well suited to comprise the warrior class.  Some of us are more intelligent and can claim leadership -- the uberclass, or upper class if you will.   Falling between these extremes are those we call workers and the middle class.   

 

Attacks and threats to our survival come from other beings that also wish to survive, and we proudly proclaim title to being the fittest.  Insects engage in attacks upon prey, predators, and unaffiliated species that don't smell right.  So do humans.  Insects, humans and other animals go to war to establish and defend territory. Some humans seek to establish dominance over other humans.

 

We establish rights, duties, and responsibilities which are assigned differently to our various classes. Our ability to act on our own, without restraints imposed by an inborn social order, leads to strife not seen amongst insects, which do not think of ignoring their assignments. Only humans can conceive of class warfare.  

This talk about classes and warfare is necessary for understanding how our danger to ourselves and the whole planet has increased, thanks to the advances made possible by civilization. As a whole, humans have made changes to life on earth that other forms of life cannot match. We dismiss the behavior of insects as mindless, sometimes quoting religious documents which note that we have been given dominion over the other creatures. (These documents also warn that "the meek shall inherit the earth.")  The social organization of humans, evolving through thousands of years of interaction, has developed ever improving technology. Thus our arguments involve ever increasing damage, both to ourselves and our co-inhabitants.  We are not mindless, but we have not become more mindful.

 

     SHE ALSO WROTE:

 

 

"I am not sure there is a way out of the mess this country is in.  It is a well known fact that countries have their place in the "sun" and then comes the "sunset" and another country takes over.  It has happened throughout the ages.  Rise, shine, over the cliff , decline and decay.  It appears that this is what is happening and with the type of leadership we have, the type of thinking that is prevalent in the upcoming generation (each generation has had a little less to offer) and now here we are.  Chances are good that perhaps not entirely in our lifetime or, perhaps so, that America will have had her day in the sun and some other country will take up the banner of the world leadership and at least for a few decades will be the kingpin, until they too will have become decayed enough and history will repeat itself.  Our "wealth" of civilization as you call it is just about all spent out by the looks of things."

 

     AND I REPLIED:

 

It may be that our country is over the cliff.  (I have a sudden mental image of the road runner escaping dire consequences!)  And we can both recall Kennedy:  "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."  Now what I hear, again and again, in conversations with people is the question: "But what can we do?" 

 

In times past, this question was answered: work harder; give up your life in military service.  The farther back you go, the more importance was placed upon patriotism, nationalism, people coming together in time of need.  There were barn raisings, neighbors pitching in to help neighbors, a sense of communal purpose.  This was fine so as long as people could believe that individual efforts would have a positive effect.  And as long as people could count on each other, which of course meant that they knew each other.

 

Freeways -- the very name meant something.  But now, wherever you go there is no somewhere else. More and more it all looks the same.  We have road rage. 

 

What communal purpose?

 

Communities are local. Our sense of community derives from an agricultural past where it found practical, everyday reasons for existing.  Advances in transportation and communication have dissolved borders and nations and a feeling of identity that was quite literally rooted. There is talk about opportunity, with the observation that opportunities are being squeezed out, possibilities diminished as we fill in the available space which, unlike population, does not increase.  The call now is for some sort of revival because, or so it seems, we will need it to get beyond our present impasse. 

 

Nations and many different cultures and civilizations are now, painfully, becoming one civilization. The US may fail along with other nations in a vast bankruptcy as the Ponzi scheme collapses, the Great Depression looking like a bake sale. But we are a world that exists through and beyond nations.  And this is the civilization to which I address my concerns, observations and hopes.  We are one planet of mostly suffering people.  The more who realize this and are willing to see beyond our accustomed dominions, the better chance we will have of surviving ourselves. It begins anywhere with anyone who will, for example, relinquish road rage.

 

Here’s a clue. Ask not what can you do for our world, but what can you stop doing? Our planet will support a finite number of people.