Metaphors of happy ant laborers work to make the same of human bodies
AN illusion and allusion I’ve seen repeated in corporate as well as public service branding, on billboards, placards, and GIFs, is that of ants, usually black: labouring together, to lift that sugar cube, build that allegorical insect town, keep a supposedly egalitarian system humming along — and those ants are, with their tapered waists and smiling faces, templates as well as intended reflections of the people who work for that public service body, that corporation, that enterprise. While certain members of the species homo sapiens may think nothing of squashing them in our daily wake, these ants rush around in their worker hats, shaking hands, building projects, getting shit done. They are anthropomorphised stand-ins for human workers, diligently cooperating to achieve society’s aims, addressing our infrastructural concerns with occasional banter over water coolers or sugar lumps. These metaphors gloss over ruptures and inequalities within late capitalism, and while our bodies know viscerally, with tangible and tragic consequences, the exoskeletal baggage, let’s sketch an imaginary in which the hierarchical structure of ant societies helps reflect back more honest human realities.