Monday, March 24, 2008

Something In The Blood

They had been planning the murder for days.

All twelve had seen the stranger venture too close to their territory. And they didn't like it, in fact started to despise this stranger. They were used to their friends and relatives, those they knew, and held great suspicion for anyone they didn't. They didn't know him.

The planning began in earnest. One would be the lookout, others would take up positions on either side of the stranger, while the toughest would attack head on. It was pre-meditated, planned, and when the time felt right, they headed out to find their enemy.

Far ahead in a clearing they spotted him. And the stranger spotted them - he started to run, yelling and screaming in fear. Somehow, he knew what they'd come for. The troop of murderers edged closer, some running up on either flank, others trying to get ahead of him. Soon the stranger could run no further, and he was pulled down to the ground. All twelve piled atop him, taking turns beating him with fists, clubs, even jumping on his body. They screamed their hate, their anger, their rage.

Even when it was obvious the stranger was dead, some of the members of this gang still punched and kicked him. They dragged him off to a rock and threw him against it, shouting in victory. It was a massacre. It was planned, pre-meditated murder.


This event is true, it happened, and more importantly, was filmed. Why? Because the gang of murders, the troop of pre-meditated killers, were our cousins: they were chimpanzees. And their victim? That's the incredible fact: it was another of their kind, their species - another chimpanzee. Now, it's a well-known fact that apes will now and again kill monkeys, not for meat so much as the answering of an urge borne deep in their evolution. But this incident was not about a monkey being killed by apes, these chimps were killing another chimp. A planned murder, considered with intelligent design and forethought. This behavior had never been witnessed before, not by Jane Goodall, or Bergit Gildicas, nor Dian Fossey, the pioneers backed by anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. No one had seen an ape plan out and murder another ape. And for no explicable, obvious reason. Just hate. Fierce, unreasonable, uncontrolled rage. It was very akin to what humans do: kill other humans. UP TO NOW, HUMANS ARE THE ONLY ANIMAL BELIEVED TO BE CAPABLE OF MURDER. That seems to have changed. This document of film was made one year ago, and has set anthropologists to thought.

Is it possible that a gene exists in our ancestral collective memory, a killing gene separate from the one needed to survive, composed of nothing more than the urge to murder one of our own kind? If it exists, as it seems to in our own cousins, who planned to murder then indeed, murdered one of their own species, then perhaps it is inherited by the human animal, perhaps it is not a trait evolved through the use of our over-sized, very complex brain.

Killing is not the same as murder.

Certainly it is common in nature for one animal to kill another of its kind, usually over territory, food, or the right to mate with females. These are not pre-meditated or pre-planned as we define it, they're usually not meant to be fights to the death, though on occasion they can be. And there is always a set purpose, nature's own calling, something instinctual, hence requires no planning. It's part of the natural world.

But so are we, people forget that humans are animals, though highest on the food chain, not always as successful as other species in social reasoning. Instead of adapting, we force the world and everything in it to adapt to us. We steal land we don't need, we allow other animals to go extinct with no thought but our own needs. Many foresee the time when nature will put things in balance. As cold as it sounds, events like tsunamis, droughts, starvation, wars which produce populations of sick homeless dying humans, these events which take many numbers from our populace just may be one way nature tries to keep a balanced order.

But humans have found ways around even that. Look at the Gulf Coast after hurricane Katrina. This is land so utterly unstable that to build there is courting ruin. Yet we're doing it again, rebuilding on very unstable land, we demand all the habitat we can find. After this planet's last Ice Age, the glacier ice sheet that covered the North American continent receded back to become our polar caps, forming our mountains, valleys, lakes, our whole topography. One area that was effected and extremely unstable, slowly being reclaimed by the sea, was the Gulf Coast States of America. But we drained the essential wetlands and built heavy houses on them. Those wetlands, if left alone, would've saved millions in lost lives and habitat. Geologists know that the outer shores of our gulf States one day, maybe as little as 8 to 10,000 years, will disappear back into the sea - the land simply cannot and will not obey man's selfish, unreasonable directives. And in that same vein....

If humans can thuart the natural progression of life, if humans can murder other humans for nothing, and if as it seems, it's an inherited evolutionary trait from our cousins, a killing gene, can we really say with certainty that we're a successful species?

I want to believe we can be.


princesssaurora said...

Wow... that was a very deep essay for a Monday!  Thank you for the thought provoking entry!  I hope so, too.

be well,

rdautumnsage said...

I would like to believe we are evolved enough we can change and learn....lately however the odds seemed stacked against that. In any event I plan on standing strong against the coming storm and trying for that change, if enough of us are willing...perhaps we are not lost entirely. (Hugs) Indigo

pharmolo said...

There is a good deal of wild beast in all of us, Cathy, although the layer of 'civilisation' tends to keep it under wraps. Or does it.

pamal3 said...

That's got me thinking alright! Another great entry. Also just wanted to add something of no relevance whatsoever! lol. Just wanted to tell you that when we had a power cut last night and was looking out the window Into the blckness, I looked up at the stars which were almost blinding In contrast and i thought of you. Just wanted to tell you! lol. Love Pam xx

wwfbison said...

Well you have done yet another wonderfully thought provoking entry.  i always enjoy reading entries such as this for it makes me think about what you've written.  i didn't know chimps would kill one another and was shocked to find it was indeed chimps you were talking about and not humans.  I believe humans "think" they have found a way around the balance of nature, in the end though I truly believe nature will be the victor.  Humans have done way too much damage to our world without eventually paying the ultimate price, imo.

aimer said...

A very thought provoking post! I like to think that what makes us human is the ability to reason and control our baser impulses. I've long believed that the ability to do violence, to harm another with malicious intent is instinctive in human beings. The real issue is are we willing to recognize our flaws and focus on nurturing our more empathetic impulses and suppressing our violent ones. Sadly, I think that far too many people neer even think about that you always have a choice as to what you do unto others.--Sheria

sunnyside46 said...

you are a thoughtful interesting writer

ksquester said...

GREAT post!  Food for thought.   Anne

ma24179 said...

I think we all are capable of murder under the right cirumstances///-Missy

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