I’ve been living with an Ant. I’m both fascinated and repulsed by it, as I am by any group mind. (I’m not what you’d call a “joiner”.)
One Ant? Singular, capital? Well, yes, in the sense that a group mind is one mind. I read somewhere that an ant hill – colony? hive? – is roughly the same size and shape as an octopus. And after living with this Ant for a couple weeks, I can say it certainly moves like an octopus. It probes outward from a crevice, groping blindly at my kitchen with its tentacular pathways.
An Ant is made up of smell trails and idiotic force at least as much as it is made up of bugs. The individual ants are more like blood cells, forever circulating from the maw to the limb and back. It’s like a conveyor belt at baggage claim trying to slurp tourists out of the taxi queue.
I clean away the bugs and the smell trails, and the Ant recedes for a while. But should I leave anything delicious about (food, dirty dishes, cat fuel pellets), the Ant penetrates my zone and begins its beam search.
If you threaten a single small-“a” ant, it acts scared. Throws up little wiggly arms and runs for its life. Too, a single ant can become infected with the Cordyceps fungus, which will alter its behavior, forcing it to a death grip on a leaf and exploding out of its head to infect other ants. The Ant itself will isolate these toxic cells, carrying them to far-off graveyards so as not to further the parasite. There is an essential tension between the goals of the Ant and the reflexes of the ant.
Humans are ant-like, of course. We are the primates that build hives. We form teams that can act as one; superorganisms. In the same way that we self-regulate and strive, for survival, for growth, these hive minds have their own self-interest. These thoughtforms are transcribed through our behaviors and our imitative urge. Each of us has a Culture behind their mind in the same way that each ant has an Ant. These cultures move us about for reasons we rarely see. We often don’t even realize we’re being operated in such a way: the cement trails laid by other humans give us all the cues we need.
I think I’m doing my own actions for my own reasons, according to the short- and long-term goals I set for myself, but obviously that’s a lie. My options are limited, my opportunities defined, by the city around me . The earth is bound by invisible nets of territory. The topology is marred by all-too-visible walls and wires. The toxic egregores of capital absorb any free belief they can snout, reroute it into their feedlots. I am a single soul circumnavigating a system of cells.
Egregores (memeplexes, ideologies) grow atop culture like Cordyceps . They alter the behavior, not the biology, of their hosts. Except for the ones that get you killed.
Compare to the current environment of stochastic terrorism , the so-called “lone wolf” attacks that happen with increasing frequency and uncanny rhythm. The perpetrators, to be clear, are consistently white nationalists and other hate groups. They’re egged on by a feedback loop of media attention and scripted violence. Chans and vlogs propagate exotoxic ideologies , which grow strong on our frustrations. The cognitive dissonance of our smogged-out concrete hell world, the Culture of capitalist austerity, is food for this mind parasite, but it always outgrows its host body. It must spread.
The spores get in your brain and eventually you go shoot a bunch of people and you gain “honor” in the eyes of your fellow zombies and you don’t have to live in the basement any more. Whether dead or imprisoned, you get your footnote in history. You had some measurable effect on the world, using the only skills you ever developed: pointing and clicking. It’s a ritual of immortality that requires human sacrifice and your signature on a document of allegiance. It’s the dumbest magic ever. It’s a murder chain letter.
While these dickless Dark Lords broadcast their petty Horcruxes, the actual rulers of the world are pulling the control files and liquidating unwanted assets. The military, the fossil-fuel industry and the techno-techno priests agree that climate collapse is inevitable and they’re re-prioritizing accordingly. They will sacrifice humanity itself, cut the throat of the whole biosphere, to satisfy the ancient insane egregores astride their minds. They literally can’t see any other way. They have no belief left free.
We are not all so lost. The Archons enslave humans through dissonance, through alienation and isolation and misunderstanding. Capital and Patriarchy and Empire sever any connections to other sources of power and install their own programs in your head. Every habit, every addiction, every social game is another scripted behavior in their idiotic mundicide. But they are not the only intelligences on the planet.
Did you know that ants farm mushrooms and herd aphids? That they teach each other, that they can form rafts and bridges by holding on to each other? The seething drones belie a deeper intelligence. I mean, they form totalitarian societies that wage war and make slaves, I’m not apologizing for ant empire. But they are strangely familiar in their alien way.
The reason that Cordyceps doesn’t kill all the ants in the world? There’s yet another fungus, a hyperparasite, that attacks the mushroom’s stalk right as it bursts out of the ant’s head.The ants have an invisible ally. In turn, they quarantine the infected bodies. Graveyards to the ants, convenient food courts to the hyperparasite.
Ants, mushrooms, rivers, trees. There are other beings in our heads than the ones we have built. The spirits of ancient times are not dead but dormant. In this apocalypse, we must find our allies.
We are not alone on this planet, trapped with the abusive spirits of human malevolence. We are surrounded by powerful entities. We have just forgotten, or neglected, those relationships.
When we remember our essential connections, to the weeds in the alley and the storms in the sky, we are integrated. We “co-here”. There is a slimy, spooky, astounding world out there that doesn’t give a shit about humanity, that we are yet a part of, and that is inherently a part of us. We are not alone in this fight, to cast off the yoke of false belief and enforced drudgery and wanton death. The entirety of life is on our side.
Don’t get trapped in the mind field. Find the other Others.
Thanks for reading,
###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter about normal things that everyone worries about. Feel free to forward it, or share it, but please don’t try to spread it using telegenic violence. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .
If you have thoughts, questions, or criticism, just respond to this email. Or, contact me securely at email@example.com
If you’re seeing this for the first time, make sure to sign up for more cyberpunk weirdness in your inbox every week.
If you want your regular life back again, you can unsubscribe. I can’t guarantee that will help. But you can try it