A Surfeit of Simple

bee swarm

In one of Bill McKibben’s environmental speeches on climate change (he’s the co-founder of 350.org) he describes the sophisticated behavior of bees gathering pollen. They calculate the distance they must travel weighed down by precisely as much pollen as they can carry. They navigate many miles and return to a specific hive–and not just a specific hive–but to the very slot from which they departed. Really a miracle of nature, but with a wrinkle. A beekeeper demonstrated for McKibben. He turned the hive so that the entrance slot no longer faced the original direction. The bees stacked up, one on the other, trying to enter the hive in the exact position where the slot should have been, but of course, there was no entrance. Bill and the beekeeper watched in amazement until they could stand it no longer and finally flipped the hive back to its original position so that they bees could flow in.

Yesterday, the Republicans stood in stony silence as the government shut down. As political bees, they seem adept enough at the usual boiler room politics: gerrymandering, fundraising, giving uncomfortably long and pointless speeches, but their single-minded instincts at crucial times do them a disservice. Not just them and their political futures, but, of course, the entire country.

Worse than children, who, after all, are wildly adaptable and after a few failures, will alter course and survive. No, our current crop of Republicans embody the relentless, yet simple hive mind of the worker bee–but, alas, without the work ethic. There’s a kind of zombie efficiency to their destructive behavior. One suspects, deep down, they know they are the walking dead, and simply don’t care. They have been sent to Washington to drown the government and, to that extent, they have succeeded. They are also starving children, slashing 800,000 people from pay rolls, and pushing the country to the edge of another financial crisis.

Worse than worker bees, really. They are bullies who will mindlessly stack up, one on the other, uttering the same banalities to a desperate public. They will surely lose elections over this, but maybe they don’t care in the end? Either way, they are more than a few degrees off from home.

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