I love jam sandwiches in the Summer. I love them all the time, and mostly on white bread and with lots of butter, but the reason that I mention the Summer is that it always brings the wasps. I like to eat outside, to eat jam sandwiches outside in the Summer, even though the Summer brings the wasps. Maybe wasps are hungry too, but these are my sandwiches and wasps represent an attack on my right to eat them (the sandwiches, not the wasps) that I find unacceptable.
Well, in desperate attempts to chase them away, we all used to try and swat them with tea towels, or wave them away with our bare hands. Waving wasps away with your hands is dangerous, because a waved away wasp is an angry animal and will sting like hell. The sound of a human stung by a wasp is not easily forgotten, at least not by a human. A wasp has nothing to gain from its sting apart from some kind of closure or revenge, a kind of knee jerking self defence, but we have a lot to lose, mostly time clutching a wasp sting to try and stop it hurting that could be spent eating more sandwiches with our beloved jam inside.
So a wasp wants jam, and it’s tiny brain cannot tell itself that to want jam is unfair on us humans, and that stinging us in pursuit of this aim is unacceptable. A brain telling itself to think differently, or not at all, that would be something. Indeed, even humans with their big, hugely developed brains have trouble with this kind of self diagnosis, and some say only people who shave their heads and chant and wear robes have ever managed it.
A wasp is a small animal, and a sandwich can maybe fit a hundred wasps laid out like sardines across its sticky surface. One or two of these tiny animals going after one whole sandwich seems a waste of a good sandwich. To eat a whole sandwich would take a hundred wasps a hundred years, or something like that.
So this was what happened. A small amount of jam was put on a plate, a small amount that a large human would not miss, but a whole army of wasps could feast on. Really, it was only a small amount of jam. Once one wasp spotted it, they all followed like sheep and guzzled on what must have seemed to them an embarrassment of riches, but to a human would be merely a tiny smear, something to be casually wiped off in the washing up. Hardly any jam at all in human terms. We ate our sandwiches in relative peace.
Everyone was happy. Wasps probably can’t experience true happiness, but they need food and getting it is probably as close to happiness as a wasp gets. I don’t think stinging people makes them happy.
Of course, we could have gone after the wasps, found their nest, killed them all with a bucket of boiling water. But the kind of peace one eats one’s sandwiches in after such an action is a fragile peace, because there is always another nest, and the fear of more wasps makes us resentful that our partial victory will be undone, and that perhaps the wasp beats the human when it comes to survival in a world of jam.