The elk was designed, clearly, by committee of grown ups. The committee wisely chose a subdued brown of sturdy leather covered in a coarse fur. Four legs were chosen. Two were noted to be dangerous, and might lead to jogging. Three dismissed as unstable. Five, extravagant. Because of a mistake in paperwork, the design committee’s organizational chart was accidentally mounted on the animal’s head, upside down.
Mammals were designed by committee (** A short set of minutes have been appended to the end of this essay). The elk is one example to illustrate my point: If one were to review mammals, one finds durable fabrics, sensible colors, sturdy frames, modest stylistic appointments: a strong emphasis of function over form. The mammal connoisseur might point to the aardvark or the platypus as mammalian thrills of achievement. However, these mammals represent what the PT Cruiser was to Chrysler, inventor and manufacturer of the mini-van and the K-car.
But what explains the insect? It’s as if the Mammal Committee publicized its work with school visits. Imagine a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ribble. The mammal design committee representative, Mr. Minson let’s say, gives a condescending overview of mammal committee’s work and asks the children to design their own creature. Once Minson’s presentation is over, they let the kids loose. Oh, the iffy projects.
One child we’ll call Yedmar, rolled out a platicene finger. She tacks a hundred legs to the thin, plasticene hotdog. Mr. Minson smiled patiently. An impractical celebration of appendage, he thinks. Watch Ryder apply two slobs of glue to his creation. He mashes his project, glue first, into the container of eyes. Not just one eye, but a hundred. Noises guaranteed to annoy. Incessant buzzing, squeaks, trilling. The only sound missing is a loud rock guitar sound and digitized repetitive phrases.
Susie glues the fuzzy body to the absurdly huge, colorful wings. But, Mr. Minson sighed with frustration at the butterfly’s erratic flight. “Yes, it flies,” he said with a faked delight to the girl who built it. “Quit hogging all the good wings,” another girl complained to the boy building a fire-engine red dragonfly. “Now, there won’t be enough for everyone.”
Finally, show and tell. Mr. Minson audits the presentations looking for signs of hope. The fly seemed fairly sensible, overlooking the excessive number of eyes. Mr. Minson congratulated the child who designed it, thinking he had found something he could endorse. All went well until Ryder, with a smirk, explained the fly’s favorite food, causing the class to laugh. “It likes to eat WHAT?” asked Mrs. Ribble. When he repeated his answer, the kids laughed again and she made him sit in the corner.
Insects glow with the incandescence of the 1980s: they’re faddish, idiosyncratic, and gaudy. If mammal design was done by committee, insect design was done by freelancers, recyclers, children. Insects are proof that some design work was delegated, and that diversity is not a creed, but a fact.
** Footnote to the previous essay: Mammal Design
Committee, Gopher Meeting Minutes
** Author’s note: I was unable to locate the elk design meeting minutes. I’ve included this set to illuminate the inner workings of the Mammal Design Committee (MDC).
To: God From: Mark Minson, Chair, Mammal Design Committee Re: Mammal Design Committee Meeting Minutes, Tuesday, July 12, 2 p.m., twentyfive million B.C..
- 1. Previous Minutes approved
- 2. No business arising.
- 3. New business
Presentation by Steve, Chief Mammal Engineer
Motion: that the gopher project be terminated and re-designated as a reptile.
Presentation on the motion: Steve argued that there wasn’t enough room in the design for the brain mechanism. He had tried to make more room for the brain by reducing the vocal range to a simple squeak, but brain size was still inadequate. The gopher more properly fit the operating parameters of the Reptile Committee, and, therefore should be re-designated and reassigned.
Mabel, the designer, pointed out that the animal was not substantial enough to warrant production. She has a number of “end of roll” fabrics that she hoped to use up on the next design. The sheer number of gophers required to use the remaining fabric would be astronomical.
Myron, the design tester, noted prototypes broke easily and were drawn to play on roads.
Barry, the policy expert, was texting his wife.
The production coordinator, Theodore, asserted that gophers could be squeezed into production in parallel production processes to the bigger animals, and a vast quantity could be produced without compromising large animal production. The smaller creatures could also be used as packing peanuts for the larger animals during shipping.
The accountant, Elke, added that offshore gopher parts were cheap, and that a number could be released to fund the production of larger more extravagant animals.
Rohmina, from Marketing, observed that these creatures would be useful in promoting the work of the mammal design committee. The gopher would be a giveaway promotion, like a free keychain from a bank. She argued that if mammals don’t reach quota on the land creatures, their quota would be given to the reptile committee and how would everyone like that? Budget monies reassigned to the reptile project team.
The group seemed quite swayed by Rohmina’s stance.
Myron sulked, calling the design a slutty concession to the “man” and complained that money and politics, rather than quality, drove decision-making.
In favour: 1
Abstentions : 0
4. Motion to adjourn – Rohmina
Seconded – Barry
In favour: 7