India Uncut

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Monkey me, monkey you

Here's a nice excerpt from a Spiegel inderview with Frans de Waal, on chimps and bonobos and humans:
De Waal: There's plenty of intrigue going on beneath the surface. To help each other acquire power, chimpanzees form alliances based on giving and taking. It's the same thing with people. For example, unless US President George W. Bush doesn't give (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair, his biggest supporter, something significant soon, Blair will probably eventually withdraw his support for Bush.

SPIEGEL: You mean that the power game Blair and Bush are playing is essentially ape behavior?

De Waal: I'm convinced that that's the case. In people it starts already in childhood. If you put a group of two-year-olds in a room together, they quickly figure out who's the boss -- using fists, if necessary.
If you read de Waal's fascinating books, Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape, you might agree with me that monkey behaviour is basically human behaviour stripped bare. It ain't fun. I had alpha-male tendencies in my youth, all testosterone and ego and aggression, and compete compete compete, and I'm so tired of all that now. I need a holiday from the chimp in me, but just when I think I've left him behind me, I turn around and there he is, creeping, crawling, waiting to pounce.

(Link via email from Kind Friend. Also, speaking of monkeys...)
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