We shape our world according to the narrative we tell about ourselves. Take for instance greed and violence: Many intellectuals have insisted throughout history that we need societies and strict laws in order to keep our brutish aggressive urges in check, and point toward or closest biological cousins –the chimpanzees– as evidence to this –In fact, if you type ‘chimpanzee’ on your device’s Google search, the first option suggested by the autocomplete system is ‘chimpanzee war,’ in possible reference to the tribal-like disputes reported by Jane Goodall during her observations of chimps in the wild.
In this animated video, on the other hand, world-famous primatologist Frans de Waal discusses chimpanzees’ inherent capacity for fairness, reciprocity and empathy –‘higher emotions’ that used to be consider the exclusive province of Homo Sapiens– especially toward the more feeble members among them; something that would fly in the face of the ‘survival of the fittest’ delusion quoted by social engineers –and then aped back (pun intended) by politicians and capitalists– who love nothing but to misquote and misuse Darwin’s theories, in order to justify their own lack of empathy and fairness toward their fellow men.
Our cousins teach us that alongside our ‘inner aggression’ we humans are also equipped with a natural capacity for empathy and altruism, and what we let flourish depends greatly on the circumstances and the environment we live in, rather than what is dictated by our genes. We should therefore design our societies, our policies and our communities with the goal of promoting compassion rather than fear of one another.
We do live in a dog-eat-dog world, but I’d rather live in an ape-love-ape world instead.