Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hell Is Other People

 The problem of evil: 
Why unconditionally bad things
happen to unconditionally good people.
They never do.
(Jonathan Safran Foer)

Some of the most user-friendly expressions are military based, a field where people literally put their lives at risk, whether voluntarily or not.  Used sparingly, swearing is powerful and has been proven to increase pain tolerance. A few months ago I experienced a conglomerate of a cluster flocked snafu of a fubar.  Within the course of a week life turned upside down, unpleasant discoveries were made, losses were incurred and plans...well. There were plans?

After the initial period of healthy shock and disbelief, (stress hormones are neurotoxic and the brain protects itself by shutting down), it was time to assess the rubble.  Some things I could do nothing about. Accept and move on. Others could be resolved. Incubate a predator-alien hybrid and persist. Bring it. The most difficult to deal with were the situations that were caused by other people.

It was an unwelcome reminder of how selfish humanity can be. Be it entitlement, greed or the worst that my species has to offer, the indifference toward others, putting self-interests above the common good or causing usually unnecessary harm, whether directly or indirectly is a reality I still fail to comprehend.

The lack of empathy and indifference that permeates our global community is seemingly infinite. I experienced it in my own little microcosm and have been watching it unfold on a global scale.  Selfishness, brought on by the evolution of survival, but no longer balanced by empathy or altruism. Empathy, the omega factor, which supposedly sets us apart from other mammals.

While dealing with the fallout of my personal cluster flock, I noticed a wasp queen building her nest on a window frame.  Through the window I could watch her closely, observe her building skills, constructing papermache hexagons.

We think of wasps as pests, unlike bees they do not produce honey and are therefore not seen as a benefit that humans can exploit. However, wasps are not only pollinators, but useful pest controllers.  While adults feed on nectar, the young are fed insects.

For a few weeks, every time her future hive reached coin size, I would open the window and knock it off. I cleaned the area hoping that if the scent was gone, she would pick another location. A few days later, she was back.  Starting over. Rebuilding.  I even tried to relocate her, but she would fly off before I could scoop her up in a container.

As a nature geek, I know that the aggressiveness of a hive is directly influenced by the behavior of their queen. Calm queen, which she was, calm hive. It became our routine. Knock off the nest, watch her rebuild and start liking her in the process. I lived with the knowledge that I was responsible for not allowing her to do what nature meant her to. She only had one summer to accomplish it. Damn you, Ender Wiggin.

I knew that I would be away and by the time I returned, her aggressive soldiers would hatch, helping her expand the hive. With reluctance I terminated her gene pool. I am sorry my calm little wasp, you would have made a good queen, but I had to protect my self-interest.


  1. I saw a video clip of naturalist, David Attenborough responding to the question of whether he believed in god. Most people, he found, pointed to the beautiful things in nature to evoke the deity - butterflies, tigers, beautiful birds, as proof of god's creation. But David pointed out the worm that was boring it's way through the eyeball of a boy in Africa, blinding him. Is god responsible for this horror as well, he asks?

    I got stung by a wasp that had built it's nest on the lip of my garbage can. I didn't see it but sure as hell felt it! But as you say, the wasp did not attack me out of anger or retribution or greed - all of the reasons humans seem to find to justify their horror on other humans.

  2. I take a note from Jim Murdoch's perspective here, Antares. He writes in s recent comment: "‘it depends’. I think there are few things, if any, that you can slap a blanket ‘that’s wrong’ sticker on: you’re the last man on earth and the last woman (there’s always a last woman) just happens to be your sister – what do you do, start frantically studying cloning?"
    I can understand your need to be rid of the queen wasp, however calm, were she to survive, her armies might 'crush' you.

  3. @Robert, there is a famous quote by J.B.S Haldane: "The creator has an inordinate fondness for beetles".

    What sets humanity apart from other species, is that we have invaded every single territory available, quite destructive in the process.

    We stopped evolving a long time ago, we are not getting smarter or more inventive, those traits are being stifled.

    I'm overgeneralizing but most species, insects or otherwise only attack when they perceive a threat. I agree, we seem to be the only species capable of harming while being aware that we are causing harm.

  4. @Elisabeth, it does depend on the situation. If I were to be literal, possibly spend my last days researching cloning, while watching the human species go extinct.

    Ideally, I would be able to reach a compromise through communication, they don't sting, I share my fruit.

    However, when a threat is perceived we destroy before it gets worse and needs to be exterminated. Human nature.

  5. Bugs are a love hate animal for sure in my book. I think it is awesome that you enriched yourself with observing the wasp before killing it and it's entire community.

  6. Selfishness is one of my pet peeves.

  7. Sometimes we are Enders and sometimes we are Buggers.

  8. Sometimes it's hard to overlook one's need for survival, no matter what the cost to others might be.

    @ dbs: Ender's Game series is one of my all-time favorites.

  9. @Bluezy, and yet, they are so ubiquitous and biodiverse.

    @Sprite, I know my friend, I know. I abhor it too.

    @dbs, true, although lately it's more hegemony than buggers.

    @Nubian, thank you.
    Wait...are you saying it's not brilliant on other days? ;)

    @Vinny, basic survival is one thing, money and power another.

    Same here. Have you read Worthing Saga? It's interesting.

  10. I must admit, I have not. I was actually halfway through another Card book, Wyrms, right now. I'll have to give that a look next.

  11. Hell is other people. Or how we react to what they do. Your observations of selfishness and greed are spot on. I'm so sick of people that feel overly entitled. Or that they deserve a lifestyle that they haven't worked for. I'm sorry to hear you've experienced this first hand. Hopefully, something better will come out of it.

  12. Nature has to be managed but only in a considered way as you do here. If that queen was working her magic in another less threatening place would you have done what you did? Of course not.

    What's the alternative? Recognise we live in the garden of Eden then clear out all the humans to create a snake preservation area?

    Very thought provoking post AC.

  13. @Meg, too much of that at the moment, especially when watching world events unfold.

    Thank you, better? not necessarily, but certainly a learning experience.

    @Alistair, thank you for an equally thought provoking comment. Yes, managed within limits, which we have failed to set. Humans have a "mine" attitude.

    Good point, they call those wildlife preservation areas.;)

  14. Hmmm... nice thoughtful stuff Antares.

  15. Your blogs are always great, this one was brilliant and I have no doubt you will be blogging some more brilliant blogs in the future.

  16. @Vinny, think I read that some time ago. Recently read his empire series, interesting take on politics, but gets a little lost in the action.

    @Shanks, doc. Shometimes I shink about shtuff.;)

  17. Aaaaaaw, Nubian. I see you received the wine I sent you?

    Seriously though. THANK YOU.*awkward silence*

  18. One loves the book "Ender's Game."

    I hope you weather your troubles with equanimity and as they say in Ireland, "that you come out better on the other side."

  19. I've been experiencing an incredible bit of selfishness as you know and gnash my teeth and pull at my robes about it regularly.

    But then there was a wasp building a nest by my mother's garage, and we removed it. I'm allergic, you see. Love of myself superceded my love of nature.


  20. @Laoch, agreed. I'm grateful that "Ender's game" exists and is still being widely read.

    Thank you, equanimity is desirable.

    Better? Compared to what?

    @Katsidhe, unfortunately, yes. Hopefully things will improve.

    As would I if it turned ball size. We all have perfectly reasonable excuses and explanations as to why we need to destroy something.

  21. In this context better means that from your perspective you feel that things have improved in some fashion. This can mean that you have a better attitude towards it or even that the problem resolved itself in some favorable fashion.

  22. Laoch, I understand. My mildly facetious remark was lost without the tone of RL conversation.

    Generally speaking, since "better" is a matter of perception and in certain situations only reveals itself in hindsight, I often wonder whether an adjustment of attitude is no more than a means to justify or cope with "worse".

  23. In the end all we have is illusion, so you might as well have positive ones.

  24. Laoch, you're too funny.
    Still laughing.:)


  25. We don't seem to be getting any smarter, do we? And I imagine you have documentation to back up my hunch. I'm sorry for your rough patch, as they say, Mr. Fox's cluster cuss. I don't like the feeling of being disappointed by my fellow humans, I just don't like how it feels. It interferes with optimism, messes with trust and we do all need to keep wearing our brightest outlooks to keep moving forward. Around here, bugs are considered on a case-by-case basis Wasps, not as tenants. (and for some reason I have been writing your name with a hyphen in response to your comments...I just noticed. I will stop doing that.)

  26. Marylinn, unfortunately your "hunch" is right. Depending on how one defines intelligence, there is research that we may be heading the other way, while relying too much on modern technology.

    Thank you for your and Mr. Fox's kind words. Disappointing, but a valuable lesson to trust ones instincts.

    Case by case, yes. Small household spiders are quite welcome here. Took some convincing of significant other until she saw the number of mosquitoes that were caught by nature. Win.

    Hyphen or not, what's the difference? ;)


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