Thomas Paine’s pamphlet of January 10, 1776 was, as everyone knows, an important factor in bringing about the issuance of the Declaration of Independence. Common Sense pointed out that the colonies received no advantage from their connection with the mother country, which was intent on exploiting them; a firm and final and violent break from the mother country was what was demanded, said Paine, to secure the necessary and justifiable break… relief from the injustices being imposed on the populace, what was enraging many citizens.

I part company with Paine when it comes to the violence, was there another way to deal with the violence being imposed upon citizens by Great Britain.  But there is — unquestionably — a need today for… common sense. A new Common Sense too; let this be it. Anyone out there can elaborate on it, this is the thrust of what we must do;

Commensalism, a food sharing association of two different kinds of non-parasitic animals, which is harmless to both and, in many cases, of mutual advantage. Many commensals are free to separate; for example, the pinnothere, a tiny crab inhabiting the gill cavity of the oyster, leaves its refuge within the shell to feed itself and its host. Other commensals grow together so completely that they cannot separate, yet are not parasitic because each retains its form and faculties, while the true parasite changes in such a manner that it is incapable of obtaining food other than that elaborated by the host. An example of such permanent commensalism is the association of a species of hermit crab and a polyp resembling the sea anemones, found in deep water off the coat of Newfoundland. The polyp attaches itself to the shell of the crab and, by budding, covers the entire shell with a colony which dissolves the original shell.

Since the colony grows at the same rate as the crab, it furnishes continuous protection and the crab does not shed its shell at periodic intervals as do other crabs. The polyp in turn benefits by moving about with the crab, thus obtaining a greater food supply than it would otherwise… fixed in one place.

While commensalism is most frequent among marine invertebrates, it often occurs among land animals, as, for example, in the association of ants with other insects such as aphids and beetles. The association of colon bacilli with man and other animals, especially herbivores, is also a type of commensalism.

Paine’s pamphlet, published anonymously in Philadelphia (The City of Brotherly Love, the say), sold over 100,000 copies in about 10 weeks… and created a watershed in history. We need to embrace the kind of sharing symbolized by the science delineated above… and soon. Today we can — if we use our high tech gadgetry properly — cover much more ground than Paine was at pains to project in the 18th-century virtually overnight.

The challenge, however, is for one to blend with another in the spirit of commensalism, so that we can share what must be shared. Separate ourselves nonviolently from The Mother of All Horrors. And — arguably, most importantly — do so so that the powers that be cannot easily see what we’re up to. For, truth be told… the truth about what we’re up to must be communicated obliquely (as art often does)… so that we are not cut off at the knees prematurely, prevented from creating our watershed in history under pain of death, courtesy of the Mother of All Horrors.

Puns are allowed, and you must have fun… like the “Indians” at that famous Tea Party in Boston.

Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at [email protected].



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