Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/212

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ments, and devoted to the community alone. To attempt, without the existence of such an order, to introduce the social arrangements of the ant—i. e., communism—among mankind is as futile and as irrational as the endeavor to fly without wings: the very primary conditions for success are wanting.

It may not be amiss to examine a little further in the same direction. Among men there is a great diversity both in intellect and in energy. The more highly-endowed individual, if he does not leave his children in a better position, materially speaking, is likely to transmit to them his own personal superiority. In this manner the theoretical equality assumed as one of the bases of communism is in practice annihilated. Among ants nothing of this kind can prevail. The workers and the fighters are sexless. If any individual is superior to its fellows in strength or in intelligence—and we have every reason to believe that such must be the case—it has no posterity to whom its acquisitions could be bequeathed or its personal superiority handed down. Hence the formation of an aristocracy is impossible, and whatever benefit may result from the labors of such an exceptional individual flows to the entire community. In the converse manner the formation of a pariah, a criminal, or a pauper class, is frustrated, and the public is not burdened with useless or dangerous existences.

It is indisputable that this arrangement, joined to the brief term of insect-life, must greatly retard the progress of the ant in civilization. It has been remarked that were human life longer our development in knowledge and in the arts would be much more rapid. Take our present condition: by the time a man has completed his education, general and special—has fully developed his own mental faculties and mastered the position of the subject he has selected—he will be rarely less than five-and-twenty years of age. By the time he is fifty, as a rule, his power of origination begins to decline, and the remainder of his life is spent more in completing and rounding off the work of his younger days than in making fresh inroads into the unknown. Did our full vigor of intellect extend over a century, instead of over a fourth of that duration, we should undoubtedly effect much more. On the other hand, a shortening of our time of activity would have a powerfully retarding effect on the career of discovery and invention. Can we, then, wonder if the short-lived ant and bee sometimes appear to us stationary in their civilization? But this very brevity of the career of each individual acts decidedly in favor of the preservation of social equality. If either ant or man is disposed to rise or to fall, then the shorter the time during which such rise or fall is possible the better will the uniform level of society be preserved. To prevent misunderstanding we must remark that castes with a corresponding difference of duties, and, according to some authorities, with a diversity of honor also, do occur in the ant-hill; but within each caste all are on an exactly equal footing.