Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Ants vs Humans (2)

To my big surprise, part 1 of this blog is #5 of my most-read blogs, with 668 views. Some days ago, I got new inspiration, following articles on human suffering and on wounded ants. The study on injured ants got a lot of media attention (eg, GuardianNYT, VK). The Dutch interview on human suffering with Belgian psychiatrist Dirk de Wachter probably did not.

De Wachter claims that today’s society has created the illusion that the inevitable human suffering is no longer around. “That’s why psychiatrists are so busy. People no longer bear life’s inconveniences. They call it a disease while it is society that is problematic. They visit the doctor and tell under medical confidentiality: “I am smiling on Facebook but feel terrible, give me a pill.”

De Wachter’s main thesis in his books is that people must dare to be unhappy. It’s impossible to be happy all the time and the inevitable human suffering will knock on your door (eg, ageing, broken heart, children act against our wishes, sickness). The egocentrism in today’s society made matters worse as it’s difficult to find meaning / purpose in life when you’re alone. De Wachter: “The purpose of life appears in the asking eyes of a fellow human.”

I think, feel and believe that the issues highlighted by Dirk de Wachter result from urbanisation. This is also where the ants-humans comparison kicks in: newborn ants fly out in the summer. I have witnessed this phenomenon several times in my garden. On a warm day, hundreds of ants leave the colony to establish a new colony. Ant colonies seem restricted in size.

As noticed in my earlier blogs on urbanisation, human colonies have only expanded in time and in size: from tribes, villages, towns, cities to megacities with populations over 10 million people. FT, 2015: “by 2050, 6.5bn people, two-thirds of all humanity, will live and work in cities. In 1950 fewer than one billion did so.” Also see the 2014 UN urbanisation report.

The Dutch article on ants taking care of injured ants, mentions some other bizarre ant behaviour: ants biting off the wings of lice and then herding and milking these lice (Science Daily), ants building a living raft to survive floods (Georgia Tech), ants hunting for ants from different ant colonies to use them as slaves (BBC, 2009 studyWiki). Bizarre is not my 1st thought.

Ant behaviour mirrors human behaviour except for something crucial like maximum colony size. Through urbanisation, a vital human quality in these ever-increasing human “colonies” gets lost: caring for others. Egocentrism and human suffering (e.g., rejection) fill its vacuum.

Crowded human colonies also invoke anger and fear, both individually and in aggregate. Nationalism may thus also be an inevitable human response, similar to suffering.
As mentioned in earlier blogs, I think, feel and believe that “helping other people” is our main human purpose. Until this article on wounded ants, it never occurred to me that this is what ants also do: helping other ants.

This town ain’t big enough for both of us (1974) by Sparks

artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

This town ain’t big enough for both of us

And it ain’t me who’s gonna leave


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