Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em. And little fleas have lesser fleas and so, ad infinitum.” So goes The Siphonaptera and continues: “And the great fleas, themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on; While these again have greater still... and greater still, and so on.” The popular children’s version of the verse is based on the wit and wisdom of the satirist Jonathan Swift whose barbed words skewered and continue to prick the pomposity of those who assume positions of great power.

Pretty much wherever you are in the spectrum of humanity you will have fleas to feed upon your blood and the more insignificant the flea, the greater their number and the more voracious their appetite. It’s a cycle repeated since the dawn of time, since dinosaurs stalked the land, and Richard Attenborough was a young man. As John Hammond, in Jurassic Park he recreated ancient life on earth from the blood of the terrible lizards preserved in the stomachs of mosquitoes – themselves really just another kind of flea –suspended forever in amber.

Evolution is often imagined to only produce improvement, but it’s not quite so simple as that. Heritable traits also include parasitic instincts as well as evolutionary dead ends. We may ourselves be nearing the bottom of a hereditary cul-de-sac right now; certainly the sum total of current human development seems to be directed anywhere but towards progress. The nasty biting buggers in the Middle East are bad enough, but we ignore the nibblers among our own numbers at our peril.

There is a growing belief that human evolution can occur over much shorter timescales than previously supposed; possibly within a few generations when it concerns the development of the brain. And evolutionary psychologists suggest a plausible genetic basis for morality. Given that the ultimate success of all genetic mutations depends on their survival and reproduction rates, rather than on any universal sense of right or wrong, it’s a short logical hop to conclude that a moral compass which concludes that ‘work is for mugs’ is on track to conquer the world. If the British welfare system is anything to go by it’s a valid theory.

Fortunately – and fortunately is how I see it – as the underclasses out-breed the working masses they will soon get to a critical volume whereupon all the productivity in the world will be incapable of feeding them and as quickly as they rose up they will become extinct, leaving only the dwindling few with a work ethic to repopulate the planet. In millennia to come the strange Age of the Human Parasites, when Doleysaurs stalked the land, will be mere history and only the scattered, fossilised remains of KFC Bargain Buckets will attest to their former ubiquity.

Look... it's like a tiny Chav, in aspic!

But what goes around, comes around as they say and as Swift’s original words attest: “The vermin only teaze and pinch, their foes superior by an inch. So, naturalists observe, a flea has smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em… And so proceed ad infinitum.” In a future world we may never see the like of dear Dickie Attenborough again but pray that there is also no future John Hammond to recreate the dominant human life form of the twenty-first century from an amber-preserved bed bug.

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