Saving Diversity

As an inconsequential anecdote, what follows really isn’t post-grade material. Though hopefully Mr. Slim will overlook small indiscretions when naming his editorial board at the New York Times next year.

I was chatting recently with a cherubic lady on the topic of pets, when she piqued my interest in mentioning her related hobby. She said she collects and breeds tarantulas. My immediate reaction was to recall a person I knew from childhood who did the same. It was a black woman, as obese as she was fertile, who had named one of her multitudinous offspring tarantula. Pronounced in that instance as tar-an-TUL-a. Anyway, I quickly understood the woman before me to be describing an entirely different creature.

What does one call this business, arachnid husbandry? Whatever, I found it quite fascinating.

Enthused by my honest curiosity, she went on to describe the many varieties of tarantulas and their distinct behaviors and temperaments. As an example the rust-colored King Baboon digs holes and strikes furiously at any encroaching objects, including fingers. In contrast, the nonchalant Chaco Gold Knee will walk all over you as blithely as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

Some kinds of tarantulas are docile, some skittish, some arboreal, and some flick urticating hairs from their abdomen–I was told these can be as abrasive to the naked eye as a Lena Dunham nude scene. Whether these are properly categorized as different breeds or species of tarantula, I didn’t think to ask. Though the point is that each type of animal features an entirely distinct size, coloration, attitude, and environmental profile that is well documented and utterly uncontroversial.

“You mean the Mexican Red Knee isn’t just a social construct?” She looked at me uncomprehendingly.

She also discussed breeding her stable and how languid males often became the female’s unfortunate postcoital cigarette. As Ray Parker Jr. once advised all Casanova crawlies: You hit it once, then break away clean.

Though one aspect of the mating subject about which she was particularly passionate was her disdain for breeding hybrids. Each kind is bred exclusively to its own kind. To do otherwise is an unconscionable ethical breach; the contempt for which she implied was shared across the hobby. This strict sexual segregation is an effort to maintain the cherished diversity of tarantula-kind that hybridization would obviously destroy. I am certain saying they’re all the same spiders on the inside would do nothing to lessen her conviction.

“So I assume you would be a staunch advocate of anti-miscegenation laws as a moral imperative.”

That’s what I wondered, but didn’t ask. Though on the likely presumption that a meaningful percentage of tarantula breeders are also liberals, it highlights the human mind’s amazing capacity for double-think. Diversity means a global brownish-yellow paste in humans, but the careful maintenance of multiple distinct genotypes in nature. So breeding out Scandinavian blonds is as much virtue’s mandate as breeding in Arizona Blonds. It doesn’t have to be consistent, it just has to be socially correct.

That’s why dialectic will always fall to rhetoric when they clash in the public sphere. Logic is just what people use to flatter their pieties.

taranTULa couldn't agree more.

and taranTULa couldn’t agree more.

5 thoughts on “Saving Diversity

  1. You just HAD to post a picture of one of them, didn’t you! Bugs, in general, bother me to a greater or lesser degree depending on size and number of legs. But spiders and scorpions and the like really give me the creeps. I live in Arizona about 35 miles south of Phoenix and we are surrounded by these things. We hire an exterminator to come in regularly and spray all kinds of wonderfully effective poisons about the place and so far have seen only dead would-be invaders (and nothing the size of a tarantula). Insecticide is good.

    I have been reading your blog for a few months now and enjoy it very much. I have to ask – where do you find those photos you post up top? You have a talent for picking some of the most disturbing/amusing/ironic images I have seen.

  2. Pingback: Saving Nature’s Diversity | Reaction Times

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