Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ant Plagues and Hannah Montana...

I'm reading E.O. Wilson's book The Creation where he compares humanity to a plague of fire ants in 1670 Hispaniola. Basically, the ant destroyed biodiversity and humans mourned it...but then Man proceeded to do the exact same thing in North America. Interesting.

SO this got me thinking...are we an ant plague? Well, to the perspective of the wolf or bison, yes, we are an invasive species. They must curse the boats that brought us, but the difference is that we built the boats. We're smart. But I'm not a wolf or a bison so why do I care? I should be cheering! "Yes! We beat the dodo bird! We're winning!"

And the short answer always comes back to Hannah Montana and Steve Jobs. See, they are the leaders of the plague. They are dictating the rules of engagement. And I am stubborn. I don't like being told what to do. If I want your opinion, like with Farley Mowat, then I'll ask your opinion. So in this case Steve Jobs is pioneering the plague, the invasion, the destruction of biodiversity by heralding an age of microchips and copper filament and fiber optics. And I say simply, "Who are you to tell me what to do? The ants will follow you to whatever Valhalla awaits but I'm not following anyone. Give me Nat King Cole sheet music and a can of beans. You're dismissed."
It's a mixture of stubborness and yes, I do identify with the wolf more than the iPad. That's my nature. Either way, these plagues are pretty much unstoppable, especially when the wolf has no defense. Humans fought the ant plagues with chemicals that did as much harm and we didn't stop the plague. The ant range basically stopped where it got too cold. They went from places where they were in balance with their habitat to Hispaniola, then Florida, then Georgia, then from North Carolina to the middle of Texas in like 200 years. Wilson predicts complete coverage of North America in another 100 years especially with the climate getting warmer. The fire ant outweighs humanity and we can't stop it. It only needed a little help crossing the oceans and they took it from there.

I'm not rooting for the ant but I see it represents the inevitability of the plague. It's not a matter of free will. It's the mob mentality and right now the mob is fully in Steve Jobs's corner and the push is strong with no concern for the consequences. (Not to sound conspiratorial, but maybe we think the consequences are only the ones Apple advertises) Our methods are more complicated than the fire ant, but the philosophy is the same: It's about conquest of regions and assimilation of members.
As a philosopher, someone who investigates root causes, fundamental motives, this doesn't work for me at all. The concept of being assimilated into a world where Hannah Montana is entertainment director and Steve Jobs is the pope of communication is unappealing. I'll take a deserted beach and a dead puffer fish any day. But I do understand that for a plague to work, for a region to be conquered, everyone has to be pulling for the same goal. The fire ant is probably a model for Apple Corp. because it succeeds. It is insidious and driven to conquer and so it does. That's what haunts me about Apple Corp. I see it assimilating people before they really had a chance to question what they were adopting. That's the power of marketing.
I'd say this is the learning curve for a new species but the ant is as old as time and they don't care about the wolf either.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.