Why They Fight

Is it just animal nature to fight?  After reading a whole book called Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive  by biologist, Mark Winston (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2014) about how bees as a superorganism exemplify cooperation and communication, I find my newly acquired feral hive dragging bees out the door and throwing them off the porch to their death.

I am deeply distressed.  Especially if I have caused this behavior by trying to combine a weak colony with the stronger hive. Have I misread some clear signs, causing them stress, leading to this aggressive behavior? Usually combining hives is quite successful with the paper trick.

I think back to both of these hive’s recent string of events.  They were quietly minding their own business, having finally found a home in a human dwelling.  Suddenly, they were cut out of their home, plopped in a box with some of their hard won honeycomb. Perhaps they had a queen, or perhaps the queen was lost.  Now they are refugees, temporarily living in a backyard, until they are given to a new owner, arriving at her home on a blustery, rainy night, under the cover of darkness, disoriented and reduced to a small box with 10 frames.

My friend Sarah tells me I’ve done all I can.  Now it’s up to the bees to sort it out.  Of course, this is always the case.  We humans intervene and try to “keep” bees, but in the end, they keep us.  They teach us. Take us into their mysterious, unknown, feral places which we cannot fathom.  And perhaps we learn about them…but mostly we learn about ourselves.

What I learn about myself is that I hate violence and death. My first instinct is to save them. Stop them. Intervene.  But it is futile.

I remember that video called Why We Fight, a Eugene Jarecki documentary, first screened at the Sundance Festival in January of 2005. It examined the 50 year military industrial complex of this country, the U.S.A. and how endless wars continue to fuel our economic system.  I don’t remember much of the details anymore.  It’s been over ten years since I’ve seen it. But what I was left with was the haunting question of whether there is something in the human psyche that drives us to violent and bloody wars, against our better judgement.  Can Love or good religion overcome that urge?

Today, I also heard on the news that we are living in one of the greatest migrations of human beings, due to wars, religious and political violence, economic injustice.  The numbers of displaced people, on the move from those things that rip their lives apart, is staggering.  The U.N. reports over 45 million on the move, more than half of them are children. This doesn’t even include internally displaced persons.  Endless wars—conflict and persecution— are destroying people, cultures, countries. Will the human race survive without killing one another completely? Why do we as humans continue to fight when it clearly is destabilizing?  Why do we fight when, practically speaking, it creates huge headaches for all of us, a mess of society, and generational trauma?

Meanwhile, my bees fight.  And I stand by helplessly, pondering how much we are alike—-humans and bees.  And I hope and pray that we learn before it’s too late, that we must lay our weapons down, because it is in our best interests to cooperate and create a sustainable future for our elders and our children. Believe me, I’m self interested enough to want to live in that world.

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