Biology is a wonderful teacher, if we paused long enough to honour her.
These are some of the relationships that occur in biology.
Commensalism – the relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits from the other organism with out affecting it. We might see this is whales and barnacles. Or the remora fish, it eats the left overs from the shark and hitches a ride…at zero cost to the shark. This is a win/neutral situation.
Mutualism – is where both organisms benefit. This is a win/win situation.
Amensalism – a relationship where one organism is harmed while the other is unaffected. Penicillin is an example of amensalism – where the penicillin bacteria grows/lives by killing other bacteria. This is a lose/neutral situation.
Parasitism – this is a relationship where one benefits while the other is harmed. This is win/lose situation.
In human affairs, as biological organisms, with the inclusion of consciousness, we would perhaps like to consider that we operate through the systems of either commensalism and/or mutualism.
We know, so very sadly, that this is not the case.
Our systems are designed to be parasitic or amensal. Through knowledge asymmetries (higher or lower opportunity for education, social engagement, interpersonal skill, cultural values, place of birth, situation of birth, colour of skin etc..), I might win while you lose. This type of relationship is built into our financial systems, our legal systems, the masculine/feminine divide, racism….
Parasitism and amensalism is an offshoot of our power-over, competitive, scarcity based, win-lose history. Human consciousness in its immature form.
What I know from reading the news is that this type of behaviour in relationship has reached its zenith. The world has no stomach for the dominant win-lose game. For the Abbotts, Newmans and Netanyahu’s of the world. For greedy corporates who see no reason why rape and pillage, and building profit on a platform of prostitution (where humans sell their souls for bread) is wrong. For bullies and thugs and sharks dressed in panda suits.
As research has now shown it only takes 3.5% of the population of a nation to NON-violently demonstrate to topple any regime. Any regime. Non violently. There are some very nervous thugs and bullies out there, arming themselves with more big boys toys, desperately clinging to the last vestiges of power.
I was reminded this morning of a wonderful word from the world of chemistry. The role of the adjuvant. I was first introduced to this word through reading R.Buckminster Fuller’s Critical Path. Kiyoshi Kuromiya was Bucky’s adjuvant in the writing of this remarkable book.
Adjuvant is from the Latin adjuvare, to help. To aid.
My world is filled with amazing people who each morning choose to do the work of the brave, to engage with the biggest issues, to continue, against all odds and the slings and arrows that are constantly thrown at them…to return to the coal face.
If I can be an adjuvant to them, a true aid, then this is a role worth the painful path to get here. This is an act of service that has value.
But like all people who walk the path of the good, the true and the beautiful, we must beware of the parasites and amensils. Given half a chance, they will suck you dry and spit you out. And most likely have little care, or even a level of awareness of the act of human dessication that they perpetrate.