Wednesday, April 25, 2012


   You've heard of commensalism, no matter how vaguely.
   It was born in 1874 , about the time some natural historians/ naturalists re-birthed themselves as biologists ----- so it is very much part of the sacred dogma in the Church of Biology.

   I'll define it this way (hopefully in a way that most biologists would approve): you are peacefully eating your dinner and minding your own business, and I come up and start eating your food, without as much as a 'by your leave' or 'I beg your pardon' - and if I neither pay you or shot you after I finish eating, then I am a commensal and I practice commensalism.
   Ugh ! Sounds pretty attractive, doesn't it ?
   Wait, wait , it gets worse ---- in this definition, albeit unofficially, all commensals are weak and tiny and stupid while their forgiving hosts are big and strong and smart.
   And kind, very kind.
   Is this stuff real or what ? Are biologists drinking their own koolaid or what ?
   Well ,if you view reality from a top of an Ivory Tower like a sort of Professorial Harry Lime, all lifeforms beneath you are nothing but dots, and yes you can view commensality (the other word) in this severely deranged fashion.
   Commensality, both the word and the concept, are thousands of years old - which is to say, thousands of years older that the 1874 neologism of commensalism.
   Today's concept of commensalism remains perhaps the best prism we have, into the soul of 19th century Social Darwinism, Eugenics and that biologist manque chappie, A. Hitler.
   It's mean, it's heartless and it's totally inaccurate.
   Commensality can be mean and heartless too.
   If it is closed commensality, it means only your kinda people ever get invited to dine with you on $16 orange juice --- if the rest have no food and starve, that's tough --- am  I supposed to be my Chadian sister's keeper?
   Ie, the caste system as practiced in India or at any golf and country club here, is closed commensality.
   Canada's food aid policy under the heartless Harper's conservative party is closed commensality too - the only food aid he intends to voluntarily give out, is to nations that do not really need it.
   Jesus - no word if he was ever a biologist , or a conservative , and I sure hope not - practiced open commensality.
   You remember - Him inviting civic servants (tax collectors) and HOs ( ladies of that oh so fertile crescent) to break communion with him - the nerve !
   Global commensality - my 2012 neologism - is different yet again, yet strangely related to Jesus and  to the biologists.
   Like Jesus's vision, it is very open - only open, this time, to all life on the planet.
   Not an open invite commensality though - more like "we're all stuck in this together, get over it, suck it up, adapt" type of globally-open commensality.
   Like the biologists' vision, it still involves the very big and the very small in commensal relationships.
   Yes, some of  the small do still sponge off the big - but in turn all of the big sponge off all the small.
   More accurately, most of the very small could survive very well if the big never existed --- but all the big would die in months if none of the very small ceased to exist.
   So, global commensality is this blog's name ---- and its game.
   Modernity - the science of humanity in the 150 years between the Reform Act of 1832 and the Diversity legislation of the early 1980s  - saw all life other than AWGs as mere dots, in Harry Lime's sense of that word.
   Man - and I do mean man not woman - viewed reality from the top of a horn of ivory, as in a dream.
   Man was a sky god, above and outside Nature.
   Think of modernist science as limit-DENIERS, and you won't go far wrong.
   By contrast, our post-modern world increasingly accepts humanity is embedded fully into nature at the ground level, with this planet our only lifeboat - and with us depending on all other life for our continued survival.
   This blog is on the side of this new science and these new scientists.....

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