E.O Wilson, the renowned sociobiologist has spent a life time looking at, and, studying ants and of course other things. In his work he has extrapolated from his findings to apply them to the workings of the human species. That probably answers the question “what’s an ant got to do with it?” I could mention my Great Aunt Lid who came over from Ireland when she was 17, by herself, on a boat with 10 dollars in her pocket in 1917, but in so doing I would not be talking about anything that I wanted to. So I will leave that for another time.
Back to Wilson. In his recent musings and reflections (see interview with him in the Atlantic, November, 2011 and the article “The Evolution of Eusociality”, Nature, August, 2010 with Martin A. Nowak and Corina E. Tarnita) he notes that ants and humans share a unique and common trait which is that we are likely both genetically spring-loaded for what he calls eusociality and both species demonstrate such types of positive and pro-social cooperative beahviours both within and without of our natural and constructed groups where natural selection favours such responses. Obviously under conditions of stress and where survival is paramount then the focus is just that –survival- and that is where struggle and competitiveness arises.
His theory of “eusociality” adds to the notion that we are neurologically “hard wired to connect”. (see Tom Hanks portrayal of a castaway in the movie by that name and his creation of his own personal Wilson).
Wilson (not the volleyball) suggests strongly, despite his 82 years of age, or maybe because of it, that we also possess a social gene. He also benchmarks the evidence of this social gene back to the time when Homo Erectus (and also Woman Erectus) set up camps and campsites with what I would assume were campfires. Around this circle formation the men and women realized that cooperation and the division of tasks lead to more sustainable development. In addition it probably lead to a library of camp songs such as “Up in the Air, We’re Junior Birdsman” and others of that ilk.
Now, what does all of this have to do with anarchists? They always get a bad rap. And with all the noise about Occupy this and Occupy that what has been suggested is that this has been fomented by anarchists and such like. I felt it important to remind people of the fine work done by two leading thinkers Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin and Mikhail Bukunin. The Coles note version of their theories is that we can (human kind) can take care of ourselves. Therefore we need to move away (an) from traditional order (archos) towards a state where our natural inclination to offer and provide Mutual Aid is allowed to flourish . This is what distinguishes us a species which is that when we are able to operate from our best selves in the groups that we find ourselves in we are able to and do offer aid to others and work together.
This then ( as you can see) is the connection that closes the circle regarding what some old guy (Wilson that is) musing about ants crawling around the place (he was in Mozambique at the time) said, what some anarchists said and what one finds that lies in the power of the circles. It might be suggested that we are hard wired, have a social gene for working together and for building and living in peace.
Oh….just found a picture of my Great Aunt Lid.