No. 18 Farming Aphids – An Ant’s guide

(Written by a Person)

Ants and Aphids

The difference between an Ant and an Aphid is tiny, but in that tiny difference lies a world of pain.

Ants farm Aphids. Chemicals secreted onto the Ants’ tiny little feet mark their territory and sedate and pacify entire colonies of aphids. In this way Ants keep their Aphids close, as a ready source of nourishment. Ants feed on Aphids.

In addition to the use of chemical tranquilisers, Ants have developed an arsenal of tools and techniques with which to subdue their Aphids, including physical and chemical mutilation and even food deprivation.

The complex relationship between Ants and their Aphids makes a fascinating study.


Selecting the Aphid

Ants select their Aphids very carefully. There are typically six to eight interviews, not including the third-party recruiter’s filtering interview, before an Aphid is invited to join the Colony. This is part of the indoctrination process. An Aphid applies to join a Colony of their own free will. There is no force involved. The Aphid submits themselves to a protracted interview process from which they could be ejected at any moment. This serves to develop both a degree of impostor syndrome in the applicant, plus an equal and opposite sense of entitlement. Once the interview process is over, the successful candidate dumps the impostor syndrome and grabs hold of the sense of entitlement with both hands. From this moment they have become willing participants in their own indentured servitude. The Aphid is therefore complicit in their own imprisonment. Simple.

The social superiority of Ants

Ants, of course, are little if any better off.  Ants are subject to the constant pressure of unachievable goals which they will all ultimately fail to realise. Upon failure a number of times to achieve the essential goals of an Ant, the Ant will disappear, only to reappear, magically, as an Aphid. This substitution is never mentioned, never discussed.

Until the moment of the transformation however, the Ant occupies a position apparently at the pinnacle of the social hierarchy of the Colony. I say ‘apparently’, because the Ant, all Ants as a matter of fact, are unaware of the existence of the true rulers of the Colony, those few Executives sequestered away in the centre of the complex, invisible to all except the very few senior Ants who serve them directly.

Ants are destined to farm the aphids for their entire lives, sustaining themselves by sucking the honeydew that Aphids secrete from the sphincters of their alimentary canals.

Ants encourage Aphids to secrete the life-sustaining goo by stroking them sensuously with their feelers.

The Colony

The Colony, Executives, Ants and Aphids, is a single, self-sustaining, self-organised, living being, competing savagely with other similar Colonies distinguishable only by their logos and marketing. There is really nothing to choose between Colonies, especially from the point of view of Ant or Aphid (insofar as Ant of Aphid can be said to have a point of view).

So when next you encounter an Ant, busily serving its Colony, have a thought for the mutilated honeydew excreting Aphid it will inevitably, one day become.

No. 15 Monopolis – The Customer Survey

One practice that will stick in the mind of the recent returnee from Monopolis, must certainly be that of the so-called ‘Customer Survey’.

Such great store is set by the results of the Customer Survey. Every conceivable interaction between the Monopolian and his or her customer is surveyed and evaluated.

The Monopolis ‘official version’ of the Customer Survey concept is that customer satisfaction is the single most important measure of the work, and therefore of the success, of Monopolis. The Customer Survey is king, people get promoted or fired based upon their Customer Satisfaction Survey Results.

Of course, being Monopolis, the Customer Satisfaction Survey is not referred to as the Customer Satisfaction Survey at all, but is instead, entitled the ‘Customer and Business Partner Experience (CBPE) Survey’, which, you will agree, is very different and obviously much better as it places somewhat at one degree removed the vexed question of customer satisfaction itself, and substitutes instead the more ambiguous, and therefore more malleable, concept of customer ‘experience’.

From an apparently objective measure, the renaming of ‘satisfaction’ to ‘experience’ repositions the matter nicely from the world of facts to the word of perceptions. And as we all know, within Monopolis, perception is reality.

The recent returnee will recall that the CBPE Survey asks a number of questions about some more-or-less recent customer interaction and allows the Customer or ‘Business Partner’ to select from nine possible responses, where (1) indicates that said individual is ‘Highly Dissatisfied’ and (9) indicates ‘Total Beaming Satisfaction’.

Although there are nine possible responses, only an (8) or a (9) actually ‘count’, i.e. anything less than an (8) or a (9) represents the abject failure on the part of the Monopolian to satisfy the expectations of his or her customer. As mentioned, failure to satisfy ones customer (or more accurately, failure to obtain an (8) or a (9) in the CBPE Survey of said customer) is a recipe for corrective training, reduced bonuses or even dismissal.

It naturally follows that the Monopolian’s focus on keeping his or her customer very satisfied indeed, or at least of obtaining an (8) or a (9) from them when surveyed (which of course amounts to the same thing) is laser-like both in its refinement and its intensity.

One might infer, given the overarching, indeed central, significance of CBPE Survey results to the success, comfort and ultimate lifestyle of the Monopolian, that the Monopolian might do anything and everything necessary to obtain an (8) or a (9) from every customer, on every occasion they are surveyed. And one would of course be quite right.

The first question a Monopolian would ask, when musing upon the question of an upcoming CBPE Survey, would be whether or not to survey the customer at all. Monopolis, being nothing if not reasonable in matters such as these, does of course allow for odd occasions when, for whatever reason, a customer cannot be surveyed. Actually, I should correct my previous statement: to say ‘for whatever reason’ is not accurate, there are of course a limited number of prescribed reasons why a customer can and indeed should, be excluded from a survey, and of course each one comes with its own attendant risks…

The reasons for exclusion are:

  1. Death of the customer
  2. Permanent disablement of the customer
  3. The customer no longer works at the same organisation
  4. The customer has specifically asked not to be surveyed

The risks of using any one of these exclusions are as follows. The Monopolian’s manager may:

  1. Send their condolences to the organisation
  2. Send their condolences to the organisation
  3. Send a survey to a customer representative of their own choice at the organisation
  4. Call the customer directly to ask why they did not wish to be surveyed, and/or the manager may record a ‘black mark’ against the Monopolian’s name for failing to convince the customer to accept a survey

Finally of course, above a certain unspecified quota, failure to survey itself engenders a black mark.

The second question a Monopolian would ask, when musing upon the upcoming CBPE Survey, would be who, at the customer organisation, would be the most ‘appropriate’ recipient of the survey request. A great deal of thought and preparation can go into this selection.

The third question a Monopolian would ask would be what is the customer’s email address? Any error, even the most minute and apparently insignificant, might make the difference between the customer receiving the survey request and not receiving it.

As mentioned, a small number of customers will not to respond to the survey, and this is only to be expected.

Having selected the customer and their email address, the Monopolian then sets assiduously about explaining to the customer how the survey system works, in particular, the fact that anything other than an (8) or a (9) represents abject failure. The ways this is done are many and various.

The Monopolian must ensure, at all costs, that they get overwhelmingly (8)s and (9)s. An occasional (7) is acceptable and even adds a frisson of authenticity to the results. No response below a (7) can be tolerated.

It is therefore a testament to the quality of the customer service provided by the Monopolian, that the overwhelming majority of Monopolian’s achieve overwhelmingly excellent results the overwhelming majority of the time.

Overwhelming really…




No. 12 The Returnee’s Handbook – Passion

Those who have recently had any interaction either with the colony of Monopolis or with a resident Monopolian will be aware of their attitude towards, and use of, the word ‘Passion’ and its derivative, ‘Passionate’.

Monopolians are passionate about everything, from clipping their toe nails to ending world hunger.

There is no subject upon which the Monopolian is ambivalent, they are never ‘so so’ on any topic. Being passionate goes with being super-excited. Monopolians are never merely ‘excited’ about anything, if they are going to be excited at all, they will be super-excited.

The Monopolian will be passionate and super-excited about whatever task they are engaged in, or are about to be engaged in, or have recently completed. If the Monopolian is in a particularly good mood or if you area a close friend, superior, or someone who may help them in some way either immediately or in the future, the Monopolian may be super-excited about your currently allocated task, or one you’ve just completed or are about to start. They may even claim to be passionate about it.

If you have recently returned from Monopolis it is important to be aware that the words passion and passionate are used differently here than they are there. In Monopolis the word passionate is roughly equal to the phrases ‘working on’ or ‘aware of’ back on Earth. Its use is of course derived from the same original core concept, that of caring about something very deeply, but as it is applied to everything the Monopolian does, all the time, it has evolved a less fervid meaning.

This can be confusing to the recent returnee, as Monopolians are genuinely fervent abut some things, for example bonuses and fulfilling their true potential. They are also ardent in their attachment to Monopolis. Research has shown that the average Monopolian will not leave Monopolis willingly, ever.

The Monopolian is also zealous, genuinely so, in articulating the superiority of Monopolis and all its works, over those of competitors; avid in their interest in all things Monopolian, and obsessive in their need to iterate and re-iterate their key sales messages and points of differentiation.

As with any organisation, its hangers on and enthusiasts, there are those who go too far. These are the fanatics, every large organisation has them, particularly in the fields of sports and technology. They are the storm troopers of Monopolis and its competitors, those who adore the leader and would die for the cause. The fanatics, are, mercifully, few in number though their voice is loud and their influence great.

It will be evident from this short reading that hanging out with a Monopolian can be exhausting, and is typically tedious after a little while. For the recent returnee from Monopolis, therefore, it is important to be aware of the common use of words on Earth if they are to avoid ridicule, or worse, becoming a source of ennui amongst their fellows.