The Curmudgeon


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Hubris and Nemesis

Some ninety years ago Lord Dunsany wrote a play called The Use of Man, in which a pursuer of the uneatable complains that he cannot see the purpose of crows, rabbits or mosquitoes, and pre-empts the modern British love of animals by advocating a general holocaust of badgers. That night, the gentleman's master of hounds is summoned to a beastly convocation which attempts to find the use of humanity. Things do not go well: the bear hates zoos, the mouse hates traps, and birds hate cages. Farm animals dislike being imprisoned, or else have had all spirit and intelligence bred out of them. The dog's obsequious worship of humanity does little to convince anyone, and the cat will not speak up because she is miffed that the mouse's testimony took precedence. Eventually one animal intervenes to reprieve humanity from extinction: the mosquito needs food.

Nearly a century on, it appears that humanity's saviour may have over-reached itself. Research into the mosquito's apparatus for detecting the next meal may ultimately lead to this illustrious family taking its place among the entomological casualties of the Anthropocene Extinction Event. It's to be hoped that this humbling experience will impart a useful lesson to all non-human animals about the perils of relying on an unsustainable diet.


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