It is hilarious that a bushel of feisty crabs can provide so many comparisons to our society.
Throughout the process of trapping mean, yet delicious crabs one cannot help but contemplate the nature of these little beasts. The scrappy Atlantic blue crab with its poetic and fitting Latin name callinectes sapidus is a creature that possesses legendary tenacity and a glorious taste. Callinectes translates from Greek to English as “beautiful swimmer” and sapidus translates roughly to “tasty.”
The steamed crab is a southern cookout staple, tossed on newspaper and picked with varying degrees of skill. When paired with cold beer and corn it is a meal that makes the poor feel wealthy and the rich feel working class.
This is where the compliments end.
The average blue crab also shares many personality traits with the people we interact with each day. I would even go as far as saying it could replace the American Bald Eagle as our national mascot in a pinch.
Let us look at a crab’s top traits — traits I have either felt, witnessed, or observed since the first time I scooped a crab out of a salt marsh. Crabs are stubborn, selfish, greedy, gluttonous, back-biting, quick to fight, sneaky and usually going backwards more than forward. Does this sound like anyone you know?
Animal to human comparisons have been a longtime staple of wildlife documentaries. Shows are packed with humorous actions that let us ponder the similarities of orangutans to uncles, honey badgers to grumpy friends and nervous meerkats to nosey neighbors.
Last weekend, I watched a riveting documentary titled “The Social Dilemma,” it focused on the dark side of social media and the exploitation of its product, also known as us.
In the documentary, social media engineers explained and examined the various outcomes of the algorithms they created or use to funnel users into more purchases, more likes, more political division and greater dependence on the platform for self-value. Humanity’s sins, selfishness and materialism are used to funnel users into spaces where designers want us to reside.
This sounds remarkably like the commonly used crab trap. An oily fish (bait) lures the passing crabs to the wire trap. Eventually, the crab becomes drawn to the chance of the big reward — crawling into a funnel that eventually leads it to an opening. The crab’s selfish nature makes it forget how it got into the trap — thus making the crab the eventual “product.”
As our hours on social media increase each year — we might also find ourselves in a wire square looking out.
A few years ago, a rather ambitious billboard was erected in Baltimore by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It showed a blue crab with claws held up saying, “I’m ME, Not MEAT. See the individual, Go Vegan” written next to it.
In Charm City, the home of Old Bay Seasoning, this billboard was taken as a direct attack on its most cherished crustacean. I mean they love them, really, they do… steamed.
To me the blue crab is a creature that does not need cuddling. They are the living definition of defiance with their claws held aloft — they give no quarter, nor do they expect any. If we were tiny, we would be dinner. I am not sure that they even like each other — except when it comes to mating.
My daughter once argued in defense of crabs… at least the female ones. Crabs tend to be surly before they take that final swim in the spicy hot tub. I recall discussing the impending doom of a dozen crabs with her.
“I think if they would stop fighting with each other a few could escape,” she said staring into a bushel basket. “Are they like that because you released all the girl crabs?”
I explained it like a wise old waterman: “It’s always more gentlemanly to free the ladies.”
“I get it. Girl crabs are prettier and they have painted tips on their claws,” she said with a smile.
The legendary Baltimore columnist H.L. Mencken pondered crabs and man too.
“Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backwards in search of the ocean and missing? That is the way the mind of a man works,” he typed.
Conservative journalist Michelle Malkin once compared crabs to political life in our nation’s capital.
“Washington is gripped by crab-in-the-bucket syndrome. And there's no cure in sight. Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket, and it will find a way to climb up and out on its own. Put a dozen crabs in a bucket, and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts escape.”
Through searching out origins, one becomes a crab, according to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
“The historian looks backwards, and finally he also believes backwards,” he wrote.
One trait that Mr. Crab possesses immeasurably is courage. A crab will stand its ground against nearly anything from the grinding gullet of a Red Drum to a chubby, buzzed, backyard chef. They are fearless and resourceful opponents, especially when under a boat plank or scampering through your kayak.
Before you toss one into a steamer consider the lessons it can teach.