The absence of politics…?

The associative mind works in mysterious ways. At least, mine does. The New York Times has an amazing article today called Bacteria Thrive in Inner Elbow; No Harm Done about, as the title suggests, the countless bacteria that live in and on our bodies. It turns out humans are really individual ‘superorganisms’. What caught my associative attention was the following (emphasis mine):

Since humans depend on their microbiome for various essential services, including digestion, a person should really be considered a superorganism, microbiologists assert, consisting of his or her own cells and those of all the commensal bacteria. The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, meaning that if cells could vote, people would be a minority in their own body.

Fortunately, nobody gets to vote here. And that is exactly what set my mind off. Bacteria and humans share a common society, if you will, and both parties benefit from this coexistence. There are no codified rules or policy governing the life of the individual superorganism called man. And over the course of ages this has evolved into something that really works well for all parties concerned.

This made me wonder if we do not sometimes overpoliticize certain social issues within our human macrosocieties. Can we leave certain issues of, for instance, cohabitation to the population itself to sort out in a free market kind of way? Or will this inevitably lead to violence and grief (even if there were no populist politicians to stir up the flames) as seems to be the case right now in South-Africa? And, after all, bacteria wage war too.

Well, a naieve mind can dream, can’t it? Anyway, I thought the article on its own was interesting enough to mention here. And maybe some knowledgeable readers can surprise and enlighten us with comments about politics in nature?

Afterthougt: Alternatively, does it really matter if there are politics or not? Aren’t we, somewhere deep down, inexorably governed by the ruthless laws of nature regardless of all the nice ideologies and institutions we invent to prevent ourselves, periodically, from killing each other?

«La nature a fait l’homme heureux et bon, mais la société le déprave et le rend misérable.»

Quote taken from Le Mythe du bon sauvage

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About Guy La Roche

Dutch translator and subtitler living in Brittany with his three cats. Has also lived in the Flemish part of Belgium. Speaks English rather fluently and in a former life used to have a decent command of Spanish. Knows swear words in German and Russian. Not quite francophone yet, but slowly getting there. Vaguely centrist observer of the world around him, extremely naive and, sometimes, rather proud of it. Writes Venale Pecus.

One thought on “The absence of politics…?

  1. Yeah, these questions are good, and there are deep answers somewhere. But I don’t think the bacteria are that crucial. Our own body cells are already a superorganism, where almost all cells stop reproducing, based on the ‘promise’ that the few cells that DO reproduce will make copies of the non-reproducing cells. The bacteria are just a little quirk of the same phenomenon.

    But a non-political society resembling our bodies would not be nice! It would be a slave-state that continuously sacrifices its citizens for the ‘greater good’.

    I guess the question is, why do we consider a single body as such an important, individual unit, while the ethical value of a cell is only that of the body it is part of, and while a society has not much more value or rights than the collection of bodies that it is made of.

    Perhaps it is just an accident, in the sense that the communicating unit happens to be closely related to a single body.