It’s scary thing, a swarm. We think of swarms as dangerous, invasive and anarchic. The reality is that when creatures swarm they do so for good reason.
So it turns out the migrant crisis, and possibly our reaction to it, may well be instinctive. Our top politician thinks of migrants as a swarm. Our Foreign Secretary goes as far as labelling those desperate thousands in Calais as marauding.
But to get back to the entamology, describing migrants as a swarm isn’t as derogatory as it first appears. Swarms occur in flying insects such as bees and locusts when there’s an emergency. That emergency is always the result of need. The overcrowded hive; a lack of food; the need to mate successfully. Swarms are about survival. All those folk fleeing North Africa are just doing what comes naturally. They’re doing pretty much what we’d all do, given the circumstances. We all have to eat. We all need shelter. We’ll all do whatever it takes to protect and nurture our families. Since we first stood up and were able to fashion a spear we’ve migrated away from adversity.
Another entamological metaphor you hear a lot these days is ‘the hive mind’. Here’s a definition.
“A notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence.”
In reality you wouldn’t actually find a hive mind in a hive. Bees don’t share opinions. Locusts don’t reach a consensus. If the hive mind exists then it abides only in human society. It’s held together by the perception of threat or advantage woven into simplistic headlines, editorials and populist polemic. It’s counter-instictive.
Being the hopeless optimist I am, human instinct speaks to me in more positive language. Most people I encounter are good to each other instinctively. They respond compassionately to one anothers needs and misfortunes. They share. They help. And more often than not those positive instincts beget positive outcomes. Lives are saved and made better. Conflicts are resolved. The greater good prevails.
Naive and sentimental? Perhaps, but building higher fences in France; fining hauliers, landlords and employers of migrants; deporting and repatriating. If these are the responses dictated by the hive mind then the hive mind needs its head examined.