Forget the Matrix. It is the Hive that has you!
Ah, the idealization of bees. What a simple life they live; born with a purpose etched into their very fabric of being, a bee never questions its lot in life (well, not unless it’s a Disney bee, but that’s a whole different breed). It simple does what it does, devoting its life to the hive and never questioning what it is that it was meant to do.
But when it comes right down to it, it is hard to be a bee. For one it’s a short life. The lifespan of the average honey bee is only 28-35 days. That’s it. That is the lifespan of a worker honey bee. From the time the adult bee emerges from its larval cocoon a bee has roughly a month to live, and what does it do with its life? It collects nectar which is turned into honey or pollen which is then turned into bee pollen or royal jelly. The honey is collected to see the hive through the winter; the bee pollen and royal jelly is to feed the young bees that will soon be taking over the jobs of the current crop of workers.
From an individual perspective the bee doesn’t do much with its life at all. But from the hive’s perspective, the life of each individual bee is incredibly important with each bee’s role as a worker vitally important to maintain the life of the hive, and there is nothing that is seemingly more of an anathema to today’s humans than the thought that they might be living the life of a bee; working for the greater good of some larger group purpose and without the benefit of developing an individual identity or having a life to show for all of the hard work that they do.
There have been science fiction movies made about hive mentalities; horror stories where a person is absorbed into a larger consciousness and looses their independence and individuality, becoming a mindless automaton with no thought in their head except to conform to the expectations of their society.
There is just one problem. We are already there, and most people don’t see it as a horror story at all. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we have the illusion of freedom and independence and individuality; lots of choices of things to buy and entertainments to pursue and even of religions to follow; but just try doing something outside of the accepted parameters and see just how far you get before you are removed from the hive, or at least banished to the fringes where you don’t have the opportunity to take part in the active life of the community.
But even the thought of a society that has relegated us all to the status of worker bees; locked into our lives and expected to work tirelessly as productive members of society until we drop and are replaced with others; even that is not the true horror. The true horror is that we’ve chosen this. No, we haven’t just chosen it. We’ve created it. We wanted it.
We wanted it so badly that we willingly established rules and regulations and political procedures to keep it in place; we’ve created an education system that encourages young people to give up their individuality and creativity in exchange for economically productive jobs that they detest but that will pay the bills. We’ve encouraged a society where productivity and usefulness is measured by one’s paycheck and one’s purchasing power.
It would be different if, instead of a hive mentality, we had chosen instead to establish a system of community; a society where each individual is accepted and valued for their uniqueness and their contribution to the richness and diversity of the whole. In that sort of a society working for the good of the whole is not something to be feared; it is not something that will strip you of your energy and your individuality and leave you lying all alone in the mud when your economic usefulness to the society is at an end. Instead it will encourage and promote individuality and creativity as the building blocks of a truly productive society; one that values all of its members for what they bring to the table, regardless of how large or small of a role they play.
Then again, just because we’ve lived in the hive does not mean that we have to die there. Maybe it’s time for the bees to leave the square boxes of hives and designated Queens that have been provided for them by societal expectations and to establish the kind of thriving bee community that would make Disney proud.