To be or not to be (is that the question?)

So, imagine a community – let’s call it a colony – where your role is very clearly defined and well understood by all. There’s some comfort in that. Your leader is a woman (always has been and always will be) who makes the rules alone – this is not a democracy (never has been and never will be), so let’s call it a benevolent dictatorship. Over recent months the colony has grown in size – and to the leader – feels vibrant and healthy. There’s a real buzz about the place, she thinks.

Your role is determined by your sex – no surprise there – but probably not in the way you’d expect. Men have a pretty good time of it – they don’t do much other than fornicate – but evolution has dealt them a cruel hand as their life expectancy has shrunk in line with their contribution to the colony. They don’t develop any meaningful relationships and they dream of a liaison with their leader but even then, there’s a tragic aftermath.

Women do all of the work – no surprise there – but, perversely, they have elevated social standing as a result. They are constantly busy – cleaning, provisioning, looking after the young and of course, the leader. Although life in the colony is good, provisioning takes them well beyond the boundaries of the colony and this process has become increasingly hazardous.

With the colony’s population approaching 20,000 – the effective maximum –  the leader knows that it will soon be time for her to anoint her successor and leave to start a new colony. She’ll only leave when things are stable and there are sufficient supplies to keep them sustained in the event of bad weather or some other discontinuity. And then, disaster strikes. A member of the colony becomes infected with a virus for which there is no known cure. The disease spreads like wildfire. The authorities, once notified (a legal obligation), determine that the colony must be completely destroyed – by fire – to avoid the risk of contagion. The process takes a matter of hours.

Welcome to the world of the honeybee. A social structure that’s been in place for tens of thousands of years, seeing off all manner of predators, surviving Ice Ages – surviving pretty much everything until now. Mankind – yes, us – is the main threat to this invaluable species whose pollination activities keep things growing and we owe it to them to stop destroying their habitat and food sources as well as poisoning them with insecticides. It is only in recent years that bees have become increasingly prone to a growing number of new diseases – nobody knows why.

Honeybees produce wax, honey and venom and are the only insect species to provide us with a food source. Not only that, but bees can also teach us a series of important “life lessons”. These include:

  • Men are the problem
  • Women are the antidote
  • Female leaders are the way to go
  • Benevolent dictatorships are the only effective form of government

It’s clear that everything we do to change the environment can have a potentially negative impact – even if that is not obvious at the outset. Let’s hope we haven’t left it too late to rectify our mistakes. To bee or not to bee – that IS the question.

Brexit stage left (pursued by a bear)… or Hotel California…

So, I joined this small, gated-community with only a few other residents – mainly couples of a certain age, looking for a quiet life and with similar aspirations and financial standing. Over the years the community expanded, not only putting strain on the infrastructure but changing the direction of our community. Families with children arrived and pressure was exerted on the management committee to enlarge the swimming pool and construct a play area. Some of the families needed to be subsidised and our annual fees increased as a result. The medical facilities were over-stretched and service levels dropped. My wife and I decided that enough was enough and approached the management committee with a (kind of) ultimatum – some things have to change or we will leave. By now there were 27 members of that committee so getting round them all – let alone getting them to agree – was like herding fleas. Suffice it to say that I didn’t get very far but I put a brave face on it and told my wife I’d got some important concessions – the continued expansion of the community would be limited to 100% a year and we would be given preferential treatment for towel allocation at the pool. She was having none of it. I went back to the committee and told them that we had reluctantly decided to leave and asked what the process was for so doing. I was told that our decision was a very unexpected and disappointing outcome (“unexpected”?) and that the leaving process was outlined in a paragraph on page 350 of the community rule book. It said, “You’ve got 2 weeks to get out”. “2 weeks?”, I said, “that’s crazy. How did you come up with 2 weeks? And what’s the process anyway? We’ve invested in a lot of this infrastructure and we’d like to continue using the restaurant (one of the community’s original features that we liked)”. Of course, came the reply, but then you’ll have continue paying the subscriptions and if you have a pool where you’re going, our existing members will have the right to use it. And you need to negotiate your exit with each of the committee separately. That will take 2 months to start with, I said, and they don’t all agree in any case. It’s your fault, came the reply, it was your decision to leave…….So, I said slowly, it’s our fault the community became something that we didn’t want to be a part of and then it’s also our fault that that same community never made proper arrangements for members to leave?

Welcome to Brexit. An overcrowded ship with no lifeboats, where you can check out and but never leave. It’s interesting that the latest piece of EU legislation, GDPR (can’t remember what it stands for) includes “the right to be forgotten” as a key premise. That’s all we want, if it’s good enough for people, then what about countries?