I have just read the latest article by George Monbiot, which outlines his action in attempting to perform a citizen's arrest on John Bolton at the Hay Festival. More power to his elbow, I say, and it's just a shame that he didn't succeed, though I am amazed that there are some people out there still attempting to justify the invasion of Iraq.
However, the serious political issues aside, my attention was grabbed by GM's reference to gorillas in the piece. I read the article in hard copy last night and have been haunted by the phrase till now, which is the first opportunity I have had to go online and read the comments posted by the loonies on CiF. These are his words:
"I had almost reached the stage when two of the biggest gorillas I have ever seen swept me up and carried me out of the tent..."
It comes hard on the heels of watching Escape From The Planet of The Apes the other day, which is a mildly absorbing and mildly amusing movie. A bit too clunky perhaps in its attempts to raise social issues. You will be familiar with it, I'm sure, or at least familiar with the whole POTA schtick, as I thought I was. I had always thought that the story went like this:
In a future Earth, due to some catastrophic nuclear event caused by humans, apes will have become the dominant species (or would that be race?) and us people have become subjugated to their will and hunted like animals. What I have discovered (from Wikipedia) is that the story was originally a novel written by a Frenchman called Pierre Boulle. What really happened was:
"In the distant past, the planet was ruled by human beings, who built a technological society, and enslaved apes to perform their manual labour. Over time the humans became more and more dependent upon the apes, until eventually they became so lazy and degenerate that they were overthrown by their ape servants and fell into the primitive state..."
(From the Wikipedia link highlighted above)
The problems obviously start with the premise that the most belligerent group on this hellish future world are the gorillas, while the chimps are the gentler, more cerebral ones. Orangs (in the films at least) are cast as spiritual guides, holders of the sacred word, etc. This is clearly not correct, as anyone who has watched either (or especially both) of the David Attenborough programmes on gorillas or chimps will concur. Chimps (and to a certain extent bonobos, though there is some debate as to whether the influence of humans, direct or otherwise, is causing a shift in bonobo behaviour, making them more aggressive. Which could be a possible explanation for the total shift in ape behaviour in the POTA) are immeasurably more violent than gorillas, who are, as someone on the CiF board pointed out, peace-loving vegans. They go on to point out that the gorillas GM refers to are actually serving the top chimp - GW Bush - but my issue is with the whole idea of gorillas being misrepresented. This is, I suspect, partly the result of ignorance, in that M Boulle wrote his novel in 1963 and detailed knowledge of wild ape behaviour would not have been available at that time. We all, even the esteemed Mr Monbiot, carry the stereotype of the 'big gorilla' as a terrifying monster. But more than this, I believe there is a strong whiff of racism in the classification.
Anyway, 'two of the biggest gorillas [he had] ever seen' is surely a wild exaggeration? Has he never watched King Kong?