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SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016
Ant fills a hole with its whole body.
I don't use the word "amazing" and "great" very often. It's amazing, I know, but with a great vocabulary like mine, there's usually a great many options for words that you can use. But I have to say: Ants, they're great! And yes, they're amazing.

Growing up, and going to Elementary school, you're guaranteed to get made fun of at some point in your life. There's very few who have never been the butt of a joke. Maybe you were the fat kid, or the dorky kid. Maybe you ate glue, or smelled bad. In my case, I was a boy with the name Alishah. The only equalizer in all of this was that we all got made fun of at some point - but the fact still remained, we were all very cruel.

And little has changed, I've found. There's fewer people who eat glue, that's for sure - but there's strong evidence in this world (particularly if you pay any attention to Global affairs, politics, or even the Olympics) that we humans seldom get along. In fact, the sad truth of it is, whenever we do get along, someone has to go ahead and point out how great it is that we're able to get along - which says without saying, that the norm is quite the contrary - otherwise there would be no need to remark anything.

It seems to me that the only time humans ever unify, the only time we set aside our differences, is in Hollywood movies. And Hollywood itself knows this whole "getting along" thing is a little far fetched itself, so it's only ever reserved for one specific circumstance: fighting aliens, or rogue robots. And even in those scenarios, we often find ourselves in two circumstances: i) We're all united, because somehow we're all American, as in Starship Troopers. ii) Despite a united humanity, there are still some of us who will help out the rogue robots (see: The Matrix).

But ants? Ants, now they get along. Not only do they get along, but they're all about the comradery. Giving oneself up for the greater good. There is no I in team. That's ants.

In 2007 a popular article floated around the world, and the internet, when humans discovered how selfless ants can bee. Pictures of ants running to find food, with the ones finding pot holes immediately filling up the hole with their own bodies. That's what I call taking one for the team. If you missed out on this great story, be sure to read Living plugs: smooth ant journey.

But now, I've found out - ants consider themselves much more than hole-fillers. Humans came up with a great number of ideas when it came to crossing various precipices: hanging bridges made of vines, which later became rope and wooden planks, then later steel cables with wooden planks, eventually just steel girders. We went so far as to even creating University courses and giving people degrees just so they can help us cross canyons. Ants though - ants decided, why use wood or steel, when you can use yourself?

And so now we are finding that not only are ants willing to throw their bodies over a hole, so the team can run without pause (compare this to Sir Walter Raleigh, who only sacrificed his overcoat so the Queen could cross a puddle - sure it's romantic, but ladies, wouldn't you prefer a man to toss his entire self over that puddle so you can - quite literally - walk all over him?) but they're also willing to let themselves be used as make-shift bridges. The idea is simple, yet bold: Don't bring equipment, just bring yourselves (and a lot of friends)!

But then, maybe there's something to us humans. We brought rope and wood, because we felt: "Hey, let's get everyone across this chasm. I'm tired of always stepping on Joey! He's such a good kid! Let's come up with a way that we can all cross, without some of us plummeting to our death when arms get tired." But any idea for comradery was immediately crushed when we did cross that chasm with our rope and wood bridge, just to kill the people on the other side of the chasm.

The fact is, ants get along in a way we humans will never understand. We consider ourselves the most intelligent creatures on Earth. Moreover, we'll kill each other to prove that the people living on this land mass, are smarter than the people living on that land mass - and as we build our bridge, we watch those silly little ants building their own bridge out of themselves. Being the smart creatures we are, we immediately assume that any other creature of intelligence must therefore be like us. So we call them Army Ants, convinced their building bridges purely to wage war. Meanwhile, the ants on both land masses are working together building a very long ant-bridge, so they can move around freely - and likely, without Passports.

I wish there was some lesson to be learned from all this, but I'm convinced any lesson here would just be lost on us. The ants don't need the lesson. They already get it. And we humans are only able to look at them, and smile at their silly Engineering. Eventually we get bored, and then we step on their sand-houses, and watch them frantically scurry around to reconstruct their house - just so that we can crush it again, passing the time while we await instructions on which human house to crush next.
Thanks ants. Thants.



Beautifully written but, unfortunately, factually incorrect. While there is some suggestion that ants might cooperate with each other more than humans. The truth is that ants are as territorial as humans when it comes to super-colonies. One super-colony of ants will hate another super-colony of ants. In one recent study I read they concluded: "We found that while ants from the same supercolony do not fight, clashes between ants from different supercolonies occur commonly along territorial borders."

Plus what about the fact that in a few colonies after the queen ant dies the entire ant colony follows in lead? So the death of one important figure should result in the self-massacre of an entire family? Surely, if a soldier-ant died the colony wouldn't follow suit.

Not to mention humans have hospitals, soup kitchens, and support those with special needs. I'm not aware of ant colonies that let injured ants "take it easy."
REPLIES: alishahnovin



Replying to Alamir:
I don't deny the obvious sensationalism and exaggeration of what I've written. However, to address the points you brought up:

1) Hate is an emotion, and as intelligent humans, we've decided that it is only we humans who can truly feel.

2) The article you cited makes it clear that it's regarding territorial ants - who are defending their territories. This may not be the ants building a bridge from both sides of the chasm, as I wrote, as the ants are protected their own interests and borders. Far different than we've seen with humans, who are notorious for entering another's land, uninvited. Interesting though, that both humans and ants have border disputes though.

3) When the queen dies, and all others follow - you are mixing the nature of ants with the personification of ants. The queen dying represents the decay of the colony, and I don't mean this as social decay. Colonies - of any species - follows a life cycle. The death of the queen ant marks the end of the ant colony life cycle. As all ants have the ultimate purpose of maintaining the queen - who is responsible for the birth of next cycle of ant - when the queen dies, the ants have lost their purpose, and gradually die themselves. This is far different from a failing monarchy demanding its subject suicide.

4) Humans have hospitals, soup kitchens, and support those with special needs - meanwhile people are sick, people are hungry, and people with special needs go unsupported. Why is that? Is it for a lack of funding, a lack of desire to help? Are there too many who suffer perhaps? Or could it be that the societal system of humans allows for some to live better and better lives, constantly improve their own private ecosystem, while comfortably ignoring those who may be in more need? Humans need hospitals, soup kitchens, etc, because humans have made them a requirement. We're not all bad, but we're definitely not all good. And unfortunately, there's a lot more in column B - or rather, there's very few who are in column A, who could do as much as those in column B could do.

Ants don't need hospitals - they are selfless, and build to support and maintain the colony. If an ant is sick, it dies off (in fact, it will secret a chemical that the other ants will detect, and then carry the dying ant away, so that surrounding ants do not die as well). Perhaps a little cruel - for the ant to be carried off, where it will die alone.

But then, ants don't feel, and so it won't realize it's sad.

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