So earlier today I was walking from my dorm on campus to Bank of America in order to pick up some cash. Along the way, before I got to Bruce B. Downs, an entire convoy of the university’s golf carts came by carrying a lot of equipment. At the time, I did not think anything of it. They were just doing their job as far as I was concerned. Not much happened until the trip back, where I walked on the other side of the road. What I saw was this dead rat, well not completely dead. It was still twitching its whiskers a wee bit. What makes this image more painful is the fact that it was being eaten from the inside out by ants who decided to use it as their lunch (I apologize to anyone eating while reading this).
But perhaps more important than how this situation occurred is what exactly is occurring. As stated previously, the rat has now become ant food. Thinking along the lines of Nancy Tuana’s “Viscous Porosity”, this means that like the workers becoming plastic due to inhaling PVC dust, the ants have become part rat due to eating it. However, this can be taken further (Tuana 200). The most likely case is that the rat was hit by one of the golf carts, who killed the animal without ever realizing that they had done so. In the process, the rat must have inhaled the fumes from the golf carts and came into contact with the rubber on the wheels. So at the very least, by the time of death, the rat was now part Carbon Monoxide and part rubber. Later, when the ants came along, not only did the rat become part ant, but the ants absorbed everything that the rat had. So now we have ants that are part rat, CO, and rubber, which is odd to say the least.
But let us now take into account how the rat was treated upon death, or better yet was not treated. Many people believe in a humanist mindset; that humans are by default superior to all other living creatures. By the same token, animals more closely related to humans via evolution are superior to other creatures. This is what leads humans to adore fellow primates, such as gorillas, and in some cases to borderline worship some of them, such as Harambe (God rest his soul). The problem here is that whenever humans create a categorical system, something will always go wrong, such as the castas system discussed by Earle. While not truly scientific, the castas system was just as important to the colonial Spaniards as an evolutionary tree is to modern humans. And if people eventually sat down and realized the problems of the castas system for dividing up humans into categories, the same problem arises by dividing all animals. Every species evolved at the same time. Each one took different paths to reach their current position. Each animal is just as complex. Think about it, humans have 46 chromosomes, yet potatoes, a plant, have 48, dogs have 72, and the black mulberry has 308(“Morus nigra (black mulberry)). Allow me to repeat that, a plant has as many different chromosomes as 6.7 different humans. Yet according to a humanist perspective, humans are still the dominant species.
At the same time, there are exceptions to the rule – animals that humans place on a pedestal due to their usefulness. Dogs, for example, are more revered in many cultures than jackals, despite both being in the same genus Lupus. Why is this? Well, dogs are scientifically classified as either Canis familiaris or Canis lupus familiaris. The difference is whether or not you are what is considered a “lumper” or a “splitter” in Biology, which is it’s own conversation. Regardless, it shows that we cannot even agree on the categorization system we set up and made the rules for. Dogs are domesticated wolves (Canis lupus lupus), and are trained to perform a variety of functions, such as hunting, guarding, or being a companion. Jackals (Canis adustus, C. aureus, and C. mesomelas) on the other hand simply kill prey when they are weakened. Think of a vulture in the form of a dog.
But what would happen if your pet dog died? After crying all the tears in your body, you would probably bury it, or cremate it. Some would go the epic route and give it a Viking funeral. This rat exists just the same. So, if you see this rat on USF Pine Drive near the entrance to the school, give it the respect it deserves.
Earle, Rebecca. “The Pleasures of Taxonomy: Casta Paintings, Classification, and Colonialism”. William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 73, July 2016. Web.
“Morus nigra (black mulberry)” Cabi.com. CABI, 2017. Web.
Tuana, Nancy. “Viscous Porosity: Witnessing Katrina”. N.p., n.d. Web.