The Ant Farm Allegory      by     Ruth Utnage

Let us say we have an ant farm for study and observation. Our job is to discover how ants become as diligent and cohesive as they are, why exactly. We can observe what they do all day every day. We can even use science to detect possible communication structures, perhaps vibration, that will help us in our understanding.

Through this process we understand which ant is most important, sleeping patterns, eating habits, mating, and even observe social interactions. We can know everything there is to know about ant culture. Whole fields of science can engage with this farm and present cutting edge research on why the ant hill is the epitome of cultural perfection and why. Then someone challenges one small piece and the science of ants is borne.

But let us say we become an ant in this ant farm. Will we learn more? We are what’s known as a worker ant, by birth and body shape, the lowest rung on the caste system created by human scientific observation. But in the ant world, in our communications the worker ant is not a worker ant at all, we are (in our allegorical ant reality) gatherer emperors, the most revered of the ants because we provide life sustaining nourishment, the position of “Queen” is not a revered position at all, the Queen does not give orders or feel entitled to spaces or possess knowledge that is superior to that of the rest of the ant colony, she is in no way “in charge”. In fact, she is quite secondary to her eggs.

We, as ants have our own language, our own counting system, we define our world on our terms and through our lens as immersed in this world, at times subjected to the gods who appear magnanimous and otherworldly sometimes providing food and sugar, other times administering torture.

In this allegory we see a new perspective, one based on immersion, not observations. We gain insights when we participate and become like as opposed to viewing carefully. While we cannot become ants we can become prisoners.

Research on prisoner behavior and recidivism is deeply flawed and egregiously touted as science. Well science is only science until other science emerges with new information.

Well, science, allow me to introduce new information, you’re wrong about prisoners and I can prove it. The allegory is simple and could certainly use more depth, but its enough to symbolize my point.

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, then by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.” (“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire )