Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Monkey Business

The actor Nick Nolte, on a break from filming...

I don't know why I was thinking about this again the other day, but it is just one of those things that kind of stays with you once it has come to you, and then just pops up in your head again from time to time. I remembered again seeing a documentary quite awhile back now, about some monkeys; I think they were chimpanzees, in their forest or jungle habitat. There was a band of them together, and they were foraging about, when one of them found an old tin gas can in some overgrowth, and he started to begin to roll it about. He began rolling it along, batting it back and forth as he rolled it up and down between the rest of the troop. The other monkeys watched very intently, and became increasingly frightened at the new found power of their fellow member, who himself began to shriek ever louder, beating his chest as he now banged more and more intensely and thunderously upon the can, realizing the tremendous fear and awe he was now inspiring. It seems that he became the new leader of the frightened, awed little group.

As an anthropologist in training, we believe that modern man and the apes both descend from a common ancestor, way back in the far reaches of time, which makes man, who himself is a primate, a distant cousin to the modern apes with whom we share this ancestry. The sci-fi writer, Robert Anton Wilson, has at the beginning of one of his novels a short section describing primate behavior, and how monkeys do things like throwing their “you know what” at each other in order to show their anger or dissatisfaction with one another. Wilson believes that such behavior is also exhibited by humans, such as when they use scatological language in referring to each other in less than flattering ways. It's basically just a verbal way of doing what monkeys do. Wilson states that one difference now though, is that we have also made that “waste” to be today of a nuclear variety, and it is now this nuclear “waste”, in the form of missiles, which we wish to throw at each other in the present, given all of our "advances" in modern technology. In other words, it's really just the same 'ol shit, but now in a new day. The point of all of this is that, even as things change, they still also tend to remain the same in many ways, and human behavior tends really not to stray so far from its roots and beginnings in many ways.

So, because of that documentary I saw several years back now, whenever I now see or hear a person bellowing, or otherwise bloviating, about how they are in charge, or how they know everything, and we therefore must listen to them, be they a teacher, a president, a professor, a manager, a TV preacher, a rabbi, imam, or mullah, a self-help guru, the guy at the corner market, a real estate agent, or really just about anyone else who makes a claim of some sort of exclusive leadership over others, and I then see such others cowering fearfully, or maybe just taking in things that really don't seem to make much sense; accepting authority because it is loud or seemingly “in charge” of the situation, I simply now just say to myself, “Oh well, he's just banging on the gas can, once again”, and I just have a little laugh over it all.


Blogger willowtree said...

Hehe, they were talking about this very thing on The View this morning.
I think they could relate because there's quite alot of banging the gas can at that table.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

They did a skit of The View on Mad TV, where all of the women were squabbling with each other, and then a farmer came in and threw down some chicken (hen?) feed, and the women all started bending down and pecking at it. The farmer finally came back with an ax and took Barbara Walters away. You then heard loud squawking, a chop, and some feathers flying from the back.

Did you happen to see David Letterman the other night? I never watch it, but in changing channels I saw that he had Bill O'Reilly on, so I stopped to watch. I couldn't believe it! Dave got quite serious with O'Reilly about all of his nonsense, finally saying that, "I believe that about 60% of everything you say is crap!" Band leaded Paul Schaffer chimed in, "yeah, about 60%". There talking about it all over the 'Net now. O'Reilly is the biggest gas can banger of them all, and a major figure finally pointed that out to him directly.

11:14 AM  

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