Morality


For one would like to imagine that the bee is unaware of the tragedy of its brief, cruel destiny; that it derives same joy from its visit to the flowers in the dew of the dawn, from its homeward return, drunk with its booty, to the bustling, smiling fragrant atmosphere of its palace of honey and pollen.

I refer to their absolute devotion to the public good, their incredible renouncement of any individual existence or personal advantage or anything that remotely resembles selfishness; to their complete abnegation, their ceaseless self-sacrifice to the safety of the state. In our community they would be regarded as heroes or saints. They cannot escape the blind accomplishment of their task; for what would happen to the worker who refused to work or to the soldier who would not fight? He would be at once expelled, and would perish miserably outside, if he was not immediately executed and devoured by his fellow-citizens.

If someone observed us, as obscurely as we observe the termites, what would he think of the morality that governs ourselves? And how wrong he would go in his interpretations!

The first contact was naturally disastrous for the wretched larviform insects, and their whole destiny became trans- formed. They had to renounce the light of the sun; huddled together, they had strenuously to dig themselves in underground, throw up earthworks and walls; they were forced to organise their life in the dark- ness, to build fortresses, stores; to cultivate subterranean gardens, and ensure their supply of food by a kind of living alchemy; they had to invent shock and missile weapons, to maintain garrisons, to provide for the heating, ventilation and humidity that were indispensable to their existence, to multiply indefinitely so that invincible masses should oppose a solid front to the invader; they had, above all, to yield to compulsion, to learn discipline and self-sacrifice-which are the mothers of all the virtues-in a word, out of a wretchedness without parallel they had to create the marvels that we have seen.