In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,
Jonathan Haidt uses three central metaphors to describe not only the human mind, but human nature in general. The one that stood out to me the most was “humans are 90% chimp and 10% bee.” With this metaphor, Haidt is very briefly characterizing the human race. He claims that for the majority of our time on this Earth we are like chimps – acting individually to reap benefits for ourselves. However, if need be, humans have the ability to transcend mere self-interest and function as bees by activating a “hive switch” (256), which allows us to become one with a “hive” (or group) with each “bee” working together in order to achieve something that benefits the whole team, not just the individual bee. According to Haidt, this make us “Homo duplex” – “divided human” – operating at two levels with the ability to switch between them at any given time (369).
The reason this metaphor had the greatest impact on me is because I instantly connected it to Spirit Week during my senior year of high school. Rarely during these four years do you actually care about anyone other than yourself. Spirit Week is one of the few exceptions. Each class gathers in their own section of bleachers in the gymnasium and watches as participants from each corner tackle various challenges to garner the most points. As seniors, we had the most influence on the school and all of the younger students, so Spirit Week was more than just a friendly competition to us – we had to prove our worth and defend our title. Standing amidst nearly two hundred other seniors, I subconsciously activated my “hive switch”, lending myself to what had become a senior superorganism. In this moment, I was not looking to make profit for myself, but for my whole class. We all cheered for each other, as though each of our voices had merged into one harmonious tune. Our goal was shared – emerge victorious – and it took the effort and support of each individual to accomplish. We each stopped rooting for ourselves and starting rooting for the group in order to reach collective success. There was not a single day after that where a senior said “I won Spirit Week” – it was always “We won Spirit Week”, or the more boastful, “We beat all of you guys in Spirit Week”. The chimp played no part in our triumph. It was the bee and the rest of its swarm that took the reins that day, driving us to proud prosperity, and it will continue to be the bee and its swarm that reach the greatest milestones of humanity.