Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wastrels (Satire) by Giles Watson

by Giles Watson

An extract from an encyclopaedia, intended for use in schools, written by the descendents of cockroaches.

WASTRELS (n.): Anthropoid apes of supposedly superior intelligence who, despite their grotesquely fleshy appearance and hideously uncouth manners, dominated the ecology of Planet Earth for at least three millennia, before precipitating their own destruction. Ancient records reveal that the Wastrels were fond of employing abstract nouns for the virtues, ironically derived from their own common names (see manliess, humanity.)

Despite their pretensions to civilisation, the Wastrels were essentially parasitic creatures, but unlike other, more benign parasites such as flukes, leeches, tapeworms, fleas and ticks, Wastrels did little to ensure the continued survival of their host organisms, and thereby orchestrated their own eventual starvation and extinction. In addition to the toxic effects of the Wastrel population explosion, which eventually reduced large tracts of the previously verdant Earth to desert, these creatures were sufficiently intelligent – and sufficiently unwise – to synthesise a range of toxic chemicals and radioactive isotopes which resulted in the demise of those organisms upon which the Wastrels ultimately depended: most particularly, the pollinators of the plants which formed the basis of the Wastrel diet. Fortunately, a few of the more highly developed organisms – namely, we cockroaches - developed a certain degree of immunity to these toxins.

Wastrels were paradoxical creatures. They were not incapable of introspection, and some individuals (see artists, poets, scientists) even appeared to foresee the inevitable fate awaiting their species, but lacked the power or the initiative to avert it. Others (see politicians, civil servants, bankers, oil magnates, economists, capitalists) resolutely ignored the danger signs even when they were glaringly obvious to all other species on the planet. Wastrels also had an unprepossessing habit of despising those creatures most like themselves (see rats, crows, pigeons, and, of course, cockroaches), and shot or stomped on these whenever they got the chance, never once listening to their advice. Some Wastrels refined this monstrous form of hypocrisy into an organised system of cross-species eradication (see Rentokil).

Fortunately, the ascendancy of the Wastrels was arrested by their own fatal flaw: a scenario dimly foreseen by some of their poets (see tragedy). Many of the Wastrels poisoned themselves en masse (see McDonalds), and others bred so prolifically that they choked to death without seeming to notice it was happening (see cities), or got squashed beneath vehicles designed to save them the trouble of moving about on their own (somewhat deficient) limbs. A billion or two of them perished in famines caused by the irresponsible habits of a few million others (see above). Some radical Wastrelontologists have suggested that the remaining Wastrels wiped each other out in a series of destructive conflicts, unparalleled in any other species (except perhaps the ants), supposedly inspired by territorial and ideological motives, but actually driven by greed (see wars). However, this claim is hotly contested by the revisionist school of Wastrelontologists, who argue that even the Wastrels could not possibly have been so stupid.

The ultimate irony is that the Wastrels developed their own intellectual inebriant which effectively numbed their response to the intolerable conditions they were creating, by promising an afterlife which would represent an improvement on earthly existence (see religion). Entire religious systems were developed with the sole purpose of making the Wastrels acquiesce in their own self-destruction. This was achieved by: (a) convincing the Wastrels that they were superior to and more important than all other species; (b) convincing different groups of Wastrels that they worshipped the one true deity (always perversely imagined as a sort of spiritual version of the glabrous-skinned, chitin-stripped anthropoid ape), so that they could be ranged against each other in battle; (c) focussing their attention on an afterlife, so that little or no attention was paid to the deteriorating condition of the real world, and (d) celebrating all of these pernicious errors as virtues (see manliness, humanity, etc.) Accordingly, the vast majority of Wastrels marched blindly into oblivion, convinced that they were destined for a better world, blissfully unaware that it was their own actions which had transformed the real world into the living hell which triggered their longing for an afterlife in the first place.

Readers could be forgiven for concluding that this constitutes a happy ending to the story, were it not for the fact that the Wastrels took 95% of the Earth’s more advanced species with them in the process.

Author bio:

Giles has been writing poetry and taking photographs for as long as he can remember, but more recently began painting and drawing in order to illustrate his own work. Giles also writes prose essays on natural history and mediaeval visual culture, is an avid walker and amateur naturalist, and has a keen interest in theatre. He has taught English, History, Drama, Sociology and Film. He is currently working on the libretto for a musical of his own. His photography can be viewed at his Flickr stream.