Posted by: Bob McMichael | December 28, 2009

Ant Trouble

“Men continually compete with one another for honour and dignity, which ants and bees do not; and that leads men, but not those other animals, to envy and hatred and finally war.” –Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan.

Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes

First of all, bees and ants are not animals, they’re insects. Hello? Surely most people, including men, knew that in the 17th Century. Secondly, how do you explain the fact that when I sat on a red ant hill in second grade to impress my classmates the ants invaded my Sears Toughskin jeans and left hundreds of souvenir welts on my ass? If that’s not war I don’t know what is.

ant war

Your typical ant, ready for war

But seriously, Hobbes (1588-1679) did have a good point. I’m certainly not equipped to take him on in any convincing way, nor would I want to. In fact, I think he might have been a bit too generous in his assessment of the reasons men go to war. After all, he lived in a time (lucky man) when cell phones did not exist (read my post, “WTF? Over”).

I came across the great philosopher and political theorist while trying to find a reference in Wikipedia for “the body politic,” which I thought was attributed to John of Salisbury (1120-1180). I remember reading a selection from Salisbury’s Policraticus in college, in which he analogized civil society to the body of a man. The upshot of the selection – at least for me – was that the feet, which represented the peasants, were both the most important and the most abused elements of the body politic because they bear the weight of the entire endeavor. (The analogy apparently originates from – where else – the Rig-Veda, written in Sanskrit in the Second Millenium B.C.)


My feet, getting a well-deserved break

In any case, I got on this thread while waiting for the dogs to come in from their wee-hours piss in the backyard. I sat on the sofa and looked down at my feet and really looked at them. Or more precisely, they made me look at them, at their shape, at the different configurations of toes in each foot (my right foot features two essentially webbed toes), at their lack of symmetry and fairly small size (I’m an 8.5 US). While looking at my feet I recalled much that they carried me through, particularly over rough terrain for long hours while hunting. Sure, they were protected by sensible footwear, but without those feet I would not have seen most of the things which comprise my best memories. Those memories, in turn, tell me I have had a good life, they prove it to me even when I’m pissed or depressed. Which is – some would say – nearly always.

The dogs finished their duties, reappeared at the frosty door, and I returned to bed with a totally random thought: I wondered if we had licked the ant problem on the kitchen counter.

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