Tuesday, September 08, 2009

the rocket summer

so i was listening to this radiolab episode today, which is all about parasites, and they had an parasite expert who started talking about this parasitic wasp. the wasp uses cockroaches as a host. it stings them to stun them and then stings them in a very specific spot in their head, which basically zombifies them. they become living servants for these wasps. (please note that this summary here is probably somewhat inaccurate and for the full story you really should listen to the original discussion in what is a very entertaining episode of radiolab) the wasp then takes the cockroach and grabs onto its antennae to use as a steering mechanism (it does this with its mouth... or pincers or whatever it has in its general oral region), leads it over to a nice dirt patch lays some eggs under it and buries it alive. the eggs then hatch and burrow into the cockroach where they feast on its innards, being careful not to eat anything integral to its survival until they reach maturity at which point they burst out of the cockroach, shake off the viscera and fly away. the cockroach then dies.

now this got me thinking in my standard cynical anti-establishment mode. it seems to me that there's a parallel between these parasitic wasps—which i think, regardless of how you feel about cockroaches, may be one of the most heinous creatures on the planet—and the capitalistic/materialistic society we presently find ourselves in. granted, capitalism doesn't exactly lobotomize us, but what it does do is insidious in a way that's almost more evil than a direct stinger to the brain is. we're all trapped in this process that slowly brainwashes us. we're inundated from birth with carefully designed advertisements targeted at our exact demographic, whatever that happens to be at the time, to consume product A or use service B. we become used to consuming these products and services, cannot imagine life without them, even though in almost all cases these products and services only came to be recently—recently at least relative to the breadth of human existence. we recommend service B to friends and family—it makes life easier and it costs so little! we become fixated on these goods and services. they are a focal point in our lives. we begin to see them as not just the accoutrements that they are, but as the become increasingly important until they become our raison d'ĂȘtre. not only do we find ourselves buying them, but we're making them, we're selling them, advertising their existence to the newly born so that they can grow up and be enveloped by the same things.

the scary thing about consumerism is not that we consume so much, rather it's how much it consumes us.

this blog post was posted to blogger, written in gmail on a mac book pro (with intel inside!), powered by pacific power, connected to the internet via comcast, while sitting on a bed puchased via overstock.com, covered in sheets bought at fred meyer, and perched on a bedframe made from wood, screws, and nails, all summarily consumed from home depot. it will be posted on blogger in verdana, a typeface designed for microsoft. i'm sure there are dozens of other soulless, multinational corporations involved in this whole process—who made the sheets? the lightbulb lighting the room? mined the copper for the co-axial cable? we're all drowning in it.

/ / /

in other news, laurel's co-worker informed her that the space shuttle and ISS would be undocking and visible this evening. we watched for about 30 seconds, which was as long as we could see them, as the shuttle rocketed away from the space station at 18,000 mph. they were both remarkably bright objects for things that were relatively small and 220 miles away. it was cool. thanks NASA (also, thank you for my Memory foam mattress).


Claire said...

I'm not easily grossed out, but that wasp/cockroach bit is gross. I will now go have nightmares about the cockroaches in my kitchen going parasitic and doing the same to me.

It was good hanging out with you last weekend!

Flushy McBucketpants said...

the wasp cockroach thing is amazing.

thanks for coming! move to portland!

dad said...

If you don't like the wasp/cockroach relationship then you better not read about burying beetle. They make "sophie's choice" after almost every cycle of reproduction to make sure some of their offspring survive.

On the matter of the short coming's of capitalism -- I urge caution in equating capitalism with consumerism. They are related but not the same thing. We were a capitalist nation long before we were a consumer driven nation. And don't blame the concept entirely. There is something in our nature that drives us to seek more convenience, more stability, and more comfort. I believe it's part of the survival instinct. That doesn't preclude the notion that we can be induced to overconsume as we are in this time interval. But we're also learning that overconsumption leads to higher risk to our survival. The global population is just coming to terms with that notion so I think the pendulum will swing back to more responsible consumption and more equitable distribution of resources in your life time. I'll be returned to my original base atomic structure though.