Monday, August 15, 2011

Let the Apes Run the Show!

One of the hot movies of this year is called “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” This movie is supposed to be the prequel of the 1968 and 2001 and one version of “Planet of the Apes.” The premise of all these movies is simple. One day, the apes will achieve human like intelligence and become the dominant life form. Human beings will end up either as slaves or game for the apes to hunt for the fun of it.

These movies have all been success. Science fiction is always fun and there’s something innate in human nature to be terrified of anything that is remotely different. What’s more terrifying than something different is the idea that you may one day be in an inferior position to something that you once dominated.

I look at the way the American establishment got very upset with the Japanese in the 1980s and have since transferred that angst to the Chinese when the little Yellow people started doing things like buying American icons like the Rockefeller Centre. The pundits couldn’t help but draw pictures of America being bombarded by Yen Signs and although tried not to do it, they ended up blabbering about the “Yellow Peril.” The reality was quite different. While the Japanese and the Chinese today have made some headline grabbing purchases but the fact remains that the biggest investors in the USA are British – the Anglo-Saxon cousins.

Why didn’t anyone make a peep when you had the likes of Hanson and James Goldsmith’s buying up US assets and throwing people out of work? There was no “British Peril” there. If anything, the Americans started portraying the English corporate raiders as ruthless but very charming and sexy – just think of Terrence Stamp’s character in Wall Street.

Let’s not put to fine a point on it – the American establishment is simply terrified of little Yellow People, who don’t speak the same language and follow a somewhat different set of beliefs beating them at their own game (let alone being superior to them). If the ruthless billionaire who is about to throw you out of work is the same colour and speaks the same language (which is why there’s been less paranoia about Indians running multinationals – the Indians speak excellent English), it’s not as scary as someone who looks different and more importantly doesn’t exactly want to be you (Americans usually assume the world wants to be like them and they can’t handle it when the rest of the world say ….no).

This isn’t limited to the USA. If you surf the internet in Singapore, you cannot escape people complaining about arrogant Indians from India who expect Singaporeans to have a “slave mentality” towards them. It’s not that the Indian Nationals and to an extent the PRC Chinese are arrogant. We, the Singaporeans have been so used to thinking ourselves as the most advanced beings in Asia (as close to the West as you get), we simply cannot take other Asians being our bosses.

So, if we get this way about our fellow human beings, this is sense of paranoia must be magnified a million times over when the former slave becoming our master happens to be from another species. Hey, we don’t like the idea of being locked up in a cage but we’re quite happy to see other species locked up. We think it’s a violation of rights when the likes of Singapore’s former Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew talks about making graduates breed with other graduates to get smarter babies. We have no problem breeding faster horses (a multi-billion dollar industry) or smaller, bigger, fleshier dogs. As far as human beings are concerned, we are the only species on the planet with “rights.” Everything else is meant to serve us and if it can’t – we eat it. It is incidentally perfectly OK to be a meat eating human but totally unacceptable to be a man-eating tiger.

Well, I don’t want to be locked up in a cage or anyone’s sport. However, if that day happens, would it really be a bad thing? If you look objectively enough, having one of the “other” species take over the planet may not be such a bad thing. Let’s face it; the human being is an exceedingly destructive creature. We happily destroy everyone else’s home in the name of progress.

I don’t need Al Gore to tell me that cutting down rainforest is bad. I live in tinny Singapore, which gets covered in smog whenever the large neighbour, Indonesia, starts burning down trees. You might get pissed off with the Indonesians for doing it because you’re breathing crap – but you sympathise because you, as a human being would happily burn the trees too if someone told you that this was a way to progress. We are the only species on the planet that acquires stuff for the sake of it. Every other species simply takes what it needs. A pride of lions can survive on a single kill for a week or two. One human beings needs this and that every day.

So, when you look at things like that, letting apes take over may not be such a bad thing. For a start, they’re going to cut down hell of a lot less trees. Most ape species climb them and a civilisation of apes may end up finding a way of building cities that work in rain forest rather than cutting down the rain forest to do it.

Then there’s the fact that apes are simply less warlike than human beings. In our system, we have people like the neoCONS who think that it’s perfectly acceptable to march their troops all over the place to be slaughtered. Yes, gorillas, chimpanzees and orang-utans do get into violent displays or temper with each other but they rarely kill each other and when they do, there’s usually a purpose to it (usually a case of one has to die for the other to survive).

Let’s face it, a silverback gorilla, the leader of his troop will do the fighting himself rather than get others to do it for him. When you have to do the fighting, you understand pretty darn quickly that you can get hurt as well as do the hurting. This realisation makes you less likely to get violent and start conflicts. Humans on the other hand are quite capable of getting others to do the fighting for them – so they’re more than happy to get into large scale conflicts – hey war is fun as long as I’m not the guy risking my neck. I don’t get fights on a personal basis because I don’t want to risk getting hurt.

When you look at the other ape species and the societies that they form, you’ll find that they seem to have a system that’s more in harmony with nature. They use only what they need. They only use violence to survive in their own personal space and they don’t pillage and burn things down. In short, the other ape species are living a life that is far better for the planet than the one we’ve imposed on society. As is said in the 2001 version of Planet of the Apes “The Strength of an Ape is nothing when compared to the cunning and deviousness of the human.”

So, go and watch the “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Have fun doing it but don’t pander to the fear mongering. Instead, welcome the prospect of another species taking over. They may actually have something worth looking forward to.

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