Sarah, don’t be a Crab!

I have many pleasant memories of my mum’s cooking. As a child, I remember running to the kitchen as soon as she started cooking and doing the happy food dance (everyone has one, yes, even you!) while waiting for her to give me piece of fried fish or meat to tide me by until the cooking was done. The only time I avoided the kitchen was when she was cooking crabs, those were rare occasions, and I steered clear of the kitchen as soon as I saw the crabs in the open bucket. I wondered why mum didn’t put a lid on the bucket because I was terrified they would climb out and grab me with their vicious looking chelae (pincers/claws), so I wisely stayed away. Mum either left the bucket open or put a small cutting board over it so that we kids could run in and out of the kitchen when we needed to, but the crabs never came out.

Now that I’m older, I understand more about crabs than little Sarah did; there was no need to have a lid on the bucket because the crabs do a great job of keeping each other down. When one tries to climb out, the others pull it back down; when another tries to escape, the same thing is done over and over again until they are all exhausted and just remain in the bucket or enclosure. I have heard the term crab mentality being best described as a way of thinking that says, “if I can’t have it, neither can you”; in other words, if I’m stuck in this bucket, so are you and so we shall remain”. Isn’t that a distorted way of thinking? You’re stuck, I’m stuck and we will wallow in this misery together because neither of us is getting out.

Think on this for a moment and let’s talk about soldier ants.

I hate soldier /army//safari ants with a passion because their sting hurts very badly, in fact, I clearly recall the first time I was stung by one in May of 2007. It was a sunny day in Jinja Uganda, I was with my team cutting grass with a slasher when I felt a sharp sting in my inner thigh; I was wearing trousers that were tucked into socks, that were tucked into gum boots, yet something had gotten through!

My first thought was “snake!” but thank God it wasn’t… I looked down and realised I had stepped on a trail of soldier ants that were previously concealed by the grass which we had now cut. The ants were not pleased and were climbing my trousers but one had found its way in and was stinging me in my inner thigh, I yelped and stomped as I ran to my room to take off my boots and trousers! Upon stripping, the ant still had not let go so I had to pull it off my skin, crushing it before I was free; the stinging continued for a while with some swelling but the ant was gone and that was a relief, literally! Here’s the thing about soldier ants, they are unified, they march in a trail and when derailed, they gang up on the obstacle and take it out even if they die doing so. Am I saying that the ant on my thigh was yelling in ant language  “I will die for the cause of the ant line” probably not, but I can’t say 100% since I don’t speak the language :).

Here’s what I am saying: ants have structure, they support each other, carry their burdens together and look out for the collective good; crabs don’t, they pull each other down and each one wants to escape alone. Imagine if crabs would unite and support each other in bucket scenarios; granted, that would be like something out of a horror movie but it would probably yield different results.

When I read news articles, blog posts and reviews online, I am often appalled by how ugly we as human beings sometimes treat each other. How we criticise others, make fun of their pain, their differences, deformities, mistakes, physical appearances, and God help them if they’re famous people with broken marriages. Crab! If someone is in pain, what is your go-to response? Your default response, what you think on the inside, check that thought. Rather than learning from the mistakes of others, we often mock them and celebrate their tragedies without realising that with that mindset, even though we might be physically free, we are emotionally and mentally enslaved. That to enjoy the misery of others, to put fellow human beings down and to rejoice in the pain of those who are suffering whether we like them or not is a reflection of our own depravity and the state of our inner wellbeing. Believe me, I am speaking to myself as much as I am to you.

Time to turn a new leaf. Does this mean I will automatically like everyone? Ha, fat chance of that happening! BUT, will I commit to having a clean heart, celebrating justice and equality, spreading love instead of hate, joy instead of gossip, and hope not slander, absolutely! What’s more, you can now hold me accountable to it by saying Sarah, don’t be a crab!

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