Anty-Existentialism

Since the World Cup started a few weeks ago, I have been spending more time at home in my apartment than I usually do. During the group stage, if I didn’t go out to a bar to watch the games, this would involve staying on my couch in front of the TV from 6pm-2am in order to experience as much as possible of the most-sacred quadrennial spectacle. Staying in my apartment for this amount of time means that I am eating and cooking in my kitchen more than usual, and this brings issues. It’s June/July, so it’s hot outside. I am also not the tidiest or most careful of people, particularly when living alone. Add this to the fact that I live on the ground floor of an old building, and it is no surprise that every year I have problems with ants. As I explained, I am home more this year so it is a bit worse than I remember. I make something in my kitchen, constantly turning to see what is happening in the game, drop a piece of something on the floor, forget about it, and come back an hour later to see a few dozen ants working away on taking it back to the colony. So I spray them with whatever disinfectant spray substance I have handy, and then try and eliminate their trail back to wherever they got into the kitchen in the first place.

In old buildings like this, you can never be really free of these creatures, so it is a process that repeats itself again and again. It’s not even like I have a big problem with the little guys: they are the tiny little ones, and are actually quite cute. It is the swarming that is disgusting, and I can only assume we are psychologically inclined to find such masses of insects horrifying. Anyway, a few days into the World Cup I realised that I had to try and develop some sort of ecosystem with them, some sort of balance that was fair and just. I can’t handle the swarming, so just like a country under martial law, gatherings of more than three or four individuals were banned. A lone traveller I happened to see on the ground was perfectly safe: he had free passage throughout the land. Further, they had to have their boundaries: the floor was ok, but any trespassing on any of my tables, chairs or kitchen surfaces was punishable by instant retribution. So yes, two main rules: no gatherings, and stay away from my stuff. I liked to think of myself as some kind of pre-2011 Arab dictator.

I was happy, the rules were in place, and I now had a specific code on which I could fall back on my interactions with my houseguests. It was self-defeating of course, as the lone travellers are simply scouts looking for food, and will return to the colony and get everyone else if they find any. This happened a lot, because I don’t pick up after myself most of the time. So I would enter my living room and spy something on the floor covered in ants, and safely with the knowledge that they had broken our Covenant, I would massacre each and every last one. I didn’t like doing it, I don’t get any enjoyment out of killing these things. I honestly don’t think these little drones can feel much pain to be honest, so I don’t think they suffer too much in the process. But it is Life after all, and as much of a hippy as it makes me sound: life is pretty special. My regime started getting to me late one night, where half asleep I went to go to the bathroom, and on my way back I spied a few (not more than twenty) ants working together on whatever mess I had left from them a few hours before. I just wanted to go back to sleep: I didn’t want to have to take a multitude of lives just because I had happened to walk in while they were there. And hopefully they would be finished by the time I woke up the next day. So I was prepared to let them work away.

But then I thought of the countless number of ants I had murdered the previous day. How fair was it to their memory that I should allow this little group to live, simply because I am tired and want a clear conscious in order to fall back to sleep quicker. It wasn’t fair at all, so in the name of the ants I had killed previously (more than likely close relatives of these ones), I wiped this group out too. I didn’t want to, but I had to. There were rules, there was a system. Such is the lot of the just, stoic dictator. This incident stayed with me, and the next day I decided I didn’t want to have to deal with the ant infestation for a while, so I went to the supermarket to buy some sort of pesticide that would give me at least a few weeks peace from the little critters. I saw a spray that looked good, and then saw that it cost €7. I then saw the advertisements around the shop that during the coming weekend, there would be 25% off all “household cleaning products”, and the pesticide was included in this. Cleverly, I put the spray back on the shelf with the intent to wait a few days until the discount was available. When I got back to my apartment it suddenly occurred to me that I had decided not to commit mass genocide for the sake of saving €2. I looked around at the invisible hoards probably creeping below the floorboards, thinking that the only reason they will see another day is because I am a cheap bastard.

This started a bit of an existential crisis in me: who was I to be making such decisions? What was the point of it all, if some lazy dirty idiot is just going to kill you and your family just because you broke his imaginary rules? And he even kills you when he doesn’t want to, just to be fair to the ones he killed for imaginary crimes days before? What was the point in anything? I then of course started applying the questions to religion, politics and the legal system in general, for that is the type of person I am. In the end, I realised the biggest problem I had with the whole process was that I didn’t want the responsibility for handing out death sentences to dozens of little creatures each day. I therefore resolved to be more careful. To pick up after myself, to sweep the floor, to wipe down surfaces. I can’t control the existence of the ants, but I can control how tempting my habitat is to them. So now the apartment is cleaner, fresher, and I haven’t seen a swarm in over a week. I don’t do it for them, however, I do it so that I don’t have to kill them. I’m trying not to see myself as their god now, but it’s difficult.

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