[this text is in process of assembly l.e. 04.08.09]
and Terrain Predators
Take a garden of children of any size. Add something
that mimics children while exponentially acquiring the survival
and connectivity assets formerly required by those children. Within
an short time, the entirety of their organismal
and cognitive terrain will be compromised. Shortly thereafter
the remaining biological terrains will be reduced to broken copies
of dead transports.
The result is an exploding game of diversity-erasure.
Existing ecologies, (be they emotional, physical, or relational)
suffer the convulsive extinctions of anciently conserved relational
and co-operative symmetry in favor of the reproduction of mimetic
invaders. ’Structure crushes content’ becomes first
the trend, then the rule, then the outcome. We may observe that structure is aggressive-divisive, and content is passive-unitive.
The precedence of the mimetic elements begins at a
crawl but gains velocity, control and significance of effect in
scalar leaps of soon-to-be-absurd amplitude. The schema of outcomes
follows our statistical models of the kinetics
of death as they relate to sterilization in cellular biology.
Mimicry and emulation are emergent behavioral characteristics
of living systems in general, and in the animalian-scale
of biological reality they exist in truly infinite form, purpose,
and expression. These terms can be deployed deceptively because
they can be fairly easily expanded to point toward ‘everything
at once’, and I suggest that this feature is a clue that they
are not merely metaphors, but perhaps necessary precursors to the
formation of any metaphor or concept at all.
In the inward gardens of imaginal relation, knowledge
and human communication there exist something analagous to organisms, except they are modes of activating human cognition. These ‘processes’ utilize
mimicry in ways that would make what we observe in the physical
world of organisms appear to be extremely primitive in comparison. Because we
cannot easily or clearly examine the terrains within ourselves and
our communities where these invisible ‘animals’ are
evolving, we have no language to discuss this adequately. In the
past 25 years, some beginnings have been forged — such as
the somewhat newly-established explorations of terrain related to mimetics.
Examples of imicry and emulation are apparent at every
scale and in every terrain of the biosphere’s tree of Life.
Our own representational sentience may well exist primarily due
to the evolution in our species of new ways to express the biocognitive
drive to emulate.
Terrain predators, especially those utilizing
mimetic (masquerading) strategies are a fact of organismal reality.
We would not desire to eradicate terrain predators from
a biosphere — or even decide they are ‘bad’. What
we might more profitably pursue are new ways of deeply understanding
the circumstances and politics of mimicry in general. We need to
understand, for example, what the triggers and sources of mimetic
predation are. But in the human cogniscium there arise virulent misconceptions which lead us continuously into catastrophic activity — at this late stage of the human experiment, the costs of such activity can no longer be reasonably born — the survival of many species, including our own, is on the table now.
Perhaps more serious than any other matter facing
our species is a single threat for which we have as yet
no common name: it is the threat of terrain predators in
the garden of human sentience. It is a fairly simple matter
to demonstrate how nearly the entire encyclopedia of atrocity our
species has begotten and visited upon each other could proceed from
little more than a misapprehension of a feature of knowledge.
It is my hope to briefly sketch this feature, and thus render it
visible, and accessible to our concerted attention.
I believe that a sort of accident left us permanently
vulnerable to a side-effect of the toys we employed during our tumultuous
rise to the representational cognition we experience as human awareness.
The particular vector has to do with mimicry, and particularly with
the establishment of hierarchies of fictional credentialing and
The problems we’re facing in our lives, families, cultures
and communities have a lot to do with the desire of something like
a predator for absolute domination over a particular set of evolutionary
terrains and transports: those that most fundamentally serve our
ability to achieve and experience human unity, as well as unity
with our counterparts of many scales in and around the living world
we inhabit. It’s not actually a real predator, but
effectively it’s more real than any predator possibly could
be. If we are empowered to agree, this clear understanding comprises
an active key to resolution.
This ‘predator’ is really a ‘very shiny’
broken aspect of something we’d have never believed ourselves
to possess... a sentient connectivity so beyond our modern comprehension
that no picture or story could emit even a photon of the star there
The Brown-Headed cowbird, Molothrus
ater was my first direct encounter with terrain-predation
in a vehicle so overt that I wasn’t able to overlook its significance
as I had during other encounters. Observing the research of a documentary
filmmaker, I watched a bizarre tableau unfold before my eyes in
which a single species of bird was essentially attacking and occupying
the crucial reproductive terrain of other smaller bird species
— songbirds. It accomplished this feat with a simple application
of mimicry that leads to extremely complex results.
These birds attack the nesting-resource of songbird
couples (the single and only intimately held resource of any bird
pair, or bird species) by laying their eggs amongst the natives.
From what I understood, 1 cowbird egg per nest was the common strategy
adopted by the invaders.
So in a clutch of 2 to 5 eggs, one gigantic egg would
dominate. The birds afflicted do not appear to notice — or
at least not in any way that allows them to act in their own interest.
Some few species are actually able to fend off the threat in various
Other species, however, in some studies and locations,
were found to be 80-90% afflicted with cowbird nest-predation. In
a short number of mating seasons, that’s equivalent with extinction.
Compared to their chosen prey-species, the cowbirds
are robust giants. This allows them to option every possible
resource in their active quest for greater reproductive terrain
dominion. The interloper and its children are exceptionally
large in comparison with the adults and hatchlings in the nests
they invade. When the virile young cowbirds hatch, they often manage
to kick native hatchlings out of the nest. This is only a secondary
strategy however, because the cowbird chick is commonly 3-10 times
the size of its victim-siblings.
Often the single cowbird chick exceeds the mass of
the entire family of birds it has compromised, and thus it easily
manages to gain most or all of the feeding-attention from the afflicted
nesting pair — exhausting them with its ever-increasing and
vastly oversized (at the scale of the songbirds) appetite.
In many cases some or all of the native hatchlings,
literally buried beneath the mass of the invader-sibling,
either suffocate or starve.
There is simply no way for them to reach 6 times their
body-length — past the invasive mimic —
to get food or attention from their parents.
The common outcome is that all the natives in the
nest perish, and the cowbird rises from small pile of dead chicks,
to mate, and dramatically expand the process.
Other outcomes do sometimes obtain. Some nestlings
are successful, in spite of the invasion. Some species or individual
pairs may re-nest. Since at least the late 1980’s, there have
been some attempts at lethal intervention by ‘conservation
interests’ with varying degrees of ‘success’.
But the problem doesn’t start with cowbirds. The cowbirds
are not naturally this prevalent or predatory. The real problem
starts somewhere in human activity...probably with the extermination
of the buffalo who were the chosen symbionts of these birds, and
the radical disruptive alteration of very fabric of the animalian
For the songbirds, the source of the problem is of
little consequence. Some of the afflicted species could actually
face extinction from this single threat alone. The loss of the songbird
chicks is of no minor consequence. Certainly the pain and effort
endured by the afflicted mating pairs will encumber them with many
vectors of harm that will result in local and distributed attrition
as well as a rather ugly moment-to-moment struggle, where their
energy is invested in total opposition to their organismal goals.
This is a cruel reward from any perspective, but at
the end of the season — instead of a vast cornucopia of new
songbird mating-hopefuls... very few will emerge from the
vast effort and struggle of the afflicted pairs and their nests.
What will emerge instead is a huge population
of thriving cowbirds — which soon must find new nests
to invade and dominate.
In even a very small sample of mating seasons the
result is a deadly loss in the diversity of the species of birds
— a loss that can and in some dimensions does proceed exponentially
through phases that ever-more explosively result in the extermination
of anciently conserved bio-relation and biocognitive diversity.
But perhaps a worse result is more obvious: the terrain
of the nest has been lost in a storm of conquest. The terrain
which is the primal goal of all of avian activity is become a deadly
battleground. With this upheaval the ‘meaning’ of ‘child’
has utterly changed. The outcomes of the normal actions of parents
and children are co-opted against that which they together strive
for, and the masquerading beneficiary gains explosive new options
of dominance, terrain control, transports of reproduction, and general
In other words, the predator wins. Fast. Moreover,
it instantly changes every significant activity, relationship and
outcome in those creatures it afflicts — such that their own
activity magnifies the prowess, purpose, and power of the predator
— in every possible dimension.
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