Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Sometimes we need those moments of pure loneliness. Just locking ourselves in our bedrooms and do whatever we want or nothing at all, away from indiscreet glances. Alone with ourselves. Or almost. Because who knows who else is hiding with us. Spiders, millipedes, silverfishes, flies, midges,… not to talk about mosquitoes!
There are very good hygienical reasons to keep some of these unwanted visitors away from our homes, but a fact remains: no matter how clean and well-supervised your place is, they will always find a way to crawl, fly or scamper in. Whether you want it or not, we live with these creatures and our houses are part of their ecosystems.
If you have developed some sort of moral sensitivity toward animals in general, I have a warning for you: insects are animals too. So a question arises, however of little importance it might sound: is it ok to crush, electrocute, poison to death or simply evict our tiny “flatmates”?
Many of these species are noxious, like mosquitoes, some are the symptom of scarce cleanliness, like cockroaches, others are just very annoying, like flies. There is however one reason I can’t take seriously: disgust.
I can’t understand how certain people find the eight hairy legs of a spider more revolting than swimming with unshaved human beings. You never risk to swallow the hairs of a spider by chance!
Another explanation for disgust might be the great anatomical difference between insects and human animals. One could picture insects as sorts of aliens or monstrous creatures. But again, why be disgusted by such differences? Just mind your own business and the millipede will do the same! Isn’t it wonderful that there is such diversity of shape, color and function even in the otherwise very boring environments of your home sweet home?
Perhaps, other people believe that they could be crawled over by one of these animals, or bitten by a venomous spider. However, how probable is that to happen? I mean, you are thousands of times bigger than a silverfish! Chances are that you inadvertently stomp on him without even noticing, not that he has any interest in getting any closer to you. The same with spiders – whose venom is innocuous in most cases anyways.
Imagination seems to play a very important role in disgust. We imagine that certain things might be too different to be understood, based on their exterior appearances, but it would require little effort to appreciate the industriousness of the spider in building her spectacular web, while we tidy up our place.
We imagine that certain things are much more dangerous than what they truly are, and we could’ve felt much less fear and disgust simply by asking ourselves “What could possibly happen? What is truly at stake and what is just a fanciful exaggeration of our mind?”. Sometimes we are scared by something, and we forget we are thousands of times bigger, more numerous or powerful. We could even forget that the object of our fear might have much better reasons to be scared of us.
Disgust is often thought of as a feeling one can’t change at one’s will. It is almost like distaste. But the disgust we feel toward insects, other animals or other human beings is of a different kind than the distaste we have toward unappealing food. It is almost entirely based on our imagination. And guess what? We can control our imagination and, through it, we can influence how we feel disgust. We could even stop being disgusted, if we retain it not to be rational of us: so great is the power of our minds.
Three days ago it was the international day against homophobia and transphobia. If it is possible for us to stop being scared or disgusted by creatures with more than a pair of legs and more than a pair of eyes, I do believe that, one day, we could even stop being disgusted by our fellow human beings.