My neighbor’s house has attracted a colony of bees. They have slipped in through a crack in the stucco and built a hive inside the wall. People generally dislike bees, so the owner hired an exterminator to rid her of the unwanted guests.
The exterminator sprayed some sort of poison into the crack. Many bees died trying to get to the hive. But not all of the bees died. Bees learn.
Not the individual bees, of course. Individually, they are incapable of thinking. Like the Borg of Sci-Fi fame, they respond to signals from the collective mind. The collective has instructed the remaining bees to avoid the deadly entrance. But they are still expected to return to the hive. The collective just hasn’t figured out how yet, so all the bees are piling on top of each other, clinging to the wall above their old entrance.
Resistance may be futile, but so is the effort to return home when a stucco wall is in the way. Still, they come and wait dutifully for further instructions.
If bees could think, they would probably think the voice in their head was the voice of God. They might even think their God had their best interests in mind. And in a way, they would be correct. The queen, who is actually the wizard behind the curtain – the real mind behind the collective – does have the best intentions for all of bee-dom. It is protecting the species, but not necessarily any individual bee. If some die, they are just collateral damage in the ongoing struggle for the survival of the species.
Fortunately for bees, they can’t think, so they aren’t troubled by such thoughts. They don’t have “free will” like humans do. People can think, but most don’t. And that may be fortunate for the human species.
There are lessons to be learned here, both political and religious.
Political leaders think like queen bees. They send people off to war in much the same way as the queen sends her worker bees off on sometimes suicidal missions. The individuals don’t matter. They may die for the “greater good” – something that is defined by those who are in charge. Since we humans don’t have the benefit of a collective mind, our leaders have to persuade us to follow as good soldiers, either for nationalistic or religious reasons. And most comply, convinced that the mission has some importance even if we don’t actually understand what the importance is.
Religions teach that God cares about each of us individually, and most accept that concept without question. So, if bad things happen it must be part of God’s plan – something beyond our comprehension, but surely for our own good.
Politicians should not act as if they are gods.