The bedbug: To accept him is to be free


Insects are so often featured characters in children’s stories because they, like children, appear to adults as simultaneously fragile and invincible. Though most of us prefer the children to the insects, we recognize in both a tendency toward chaos. We want to control that chaos, but are often overcome by it in the process. We sometimes say about the insects that if they would only let us be, their existence would not vex us. That is, if they didn’t insist on reminding us of their existence, we wouldn’t insist on destroying them. This is the logic of xenophobia. In the classic essay “Men versus Insects,” Bertrand Russell wrote that if humans beings, in their rage against each other, invoke the aid of the insects and microorganisms, it is likely the insects will be the “sole ultimate victors”. He was writing in 1933 about the somewhat new idea of using bugs as weapons of mass destruction. Yet we don’t really need a war zone to see how humans use bugs against each other to satisfy their daily fears. Just go to any public place in New York City today and yell, “Bedbug.” Indeed, the ones who will be damaged the least, the sole ultimate victors, are the bedbugs themselves. “Perhaps,” writes Russell, “from a cosmic point of view, this is not to be regretted, but as a human being, I cannot help heaving a sigh for my own species.”

more from Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set here.