Survival is the name of the game

Survival depends more on self-help and mutual tolerance

Khalid Saleem June 04, 2018
The writer is former ambassador of Pakistan and ex-assistant secretary general of OIC

The world is full of mugs: take your pick! Just one example: that of the ones in which one can conveniently sip a beverage. What drew one’s attention to this useful receptacle was the delectable variety of catchwords that one finds inscribed on some that sell in souvenir markets. One that was extremely apt and amusing ran like this: “The rat-race is over; the rats won!” How well put and how apt; given the state of the hapless world man is condemned to live in today!

Rats — of more genres than one — were always ahead of the pack in any case. The strength of rats lies in the fact that there are so many of them and that they all stick together. The name of the game is survival. The rats have it in their genes and excel in it. At the end of the game, there will always be more rats than one started with. Goodness knows how long the rat race (the rather limp pun intended) has managed to survive against fearful odds.

If survival is the name of the game, then there exist other species that are capable of beating the rats at their own game. One refers to the world of insects that is all pervasive. The insects have outnumbered and/or out-lived any or all other species on earth put together. They have also shown a remarkable ability to overcome adversity. Take the example of the lowly cockroach. It is reputed to have survived some 300 million years and emerged none the worse for wear. When the dinosaurs made their appearance on the face of the earth, the cockroach was there to welcome them. When the gigantic meteorite (or whatever) struck the earth to signal the demise of dinosaurs, the cockroach was around to wave good-bye. Now that is survival at its best!

Humankind, of course, figure nowhere on the high survival ladder. Given the ‘policies’ the world’s ‘great’ leaders are adopting, it is moot whether or not the world as we know it will survive their machinations for any extended length of time. Let us face it: man appears hell-bent on destroying himself and his own. Rather than learn from history, man appears to be increasingly intent on repeating past mistakes.

Ants appear to be in a favourable position to outdo all other species in numbers as well as diversification. A Reuters report on the subject of ants, some years ago, had put out a study that was called, tongue in cheek, as ‘ant-thology’. This study given out by the American Museum of Natural History, one was informed, constituted the first complete database of the world’s eleven thousand known species of ants. Mind-boggling, is it not? Scholars, one was also informed, claim that the said study would ‘help’ science and environment. In what manner, one cannot say!

The study in question also brought to light some interesting facts; among them a) ants are the most common life form on earth; b) though tiny, their combined weight is greater than that of the combined weight of all humans. Interesting food for thought that!

The impact on science and environment aside, what lessons is man drawing from insect behaviour? Are we trying to assimilate, for instance, some of their positive qualities that may have ensured their survival over the centuries? Their tendency to form cohesive, self-generating colonies for one! Or, then, their endearing habit of minding their own business and not treading on one another’s toes for another.

The moral is that humankind need to learn from such species as have not only survived but have actually prospered in the process. This is as opposed to other species that have fallen by the wayside, unlamented and unsung. Survival depends less on brute strength and subterfuge and more on self-help and mutual tolerance.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2018.

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