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If we are anything at all we humans are social animals. The things we call Social Media show this quite well. A great many of us seemingly can’t get enough twittering, chirping, posting, pecking, puffing, and displaying to calm an incessant desire. I call it a desire because doing so is something social animals want more than they need. (It’s a bit like sexuality, really, but with lighter long term consequence.) You’ll search the States over and not find many a grandparent with a ready stash of grandbaby pics. Younger social animals differ primarily in content by displaying pics of the objects of their deepest affection or of themselves in a reproductive if not well considered mood. When the species propagates the fruit falls not far from the tree.
The monkeys and apes, are much like us as social beings. As our cousins (Fundamental Jews, Christians, and Muslims agree, there’s a thought sobering enough to dry out a wino, this is not so as it is counter to Creation none as in no one could have been present to witness and record in languages as yet lacking written form. Believers are fussy about many things, but not facts.) the simian portion of the family would be media lovers of the highest order. In other words, they’d be just like us twittering with glee as they swung limb to limb above the mere and uninteresting ground below. Observation reveals our cousins to be a damn noisy bunch of monkeys. They hoot, howl, hurl, and display over every little thing entering the monkey mind. This is done for two purposes. One is that all the bloody noise and commotion helps the group stay together. If you are a monkey and the forest is silent you are in trouble and sharpen your monkey ears for a hoot that will haul you back in the right direction. The second reason is monkey love of noise. Yips and yaps communicate something of utmost importance to the yip yapper. “It’s me!” “I’m over here!” “Where are you Florence?” “Who’s got food?”
The monkey was made for social media. An interesting thing though. If you track the noise makers you will spot an inverse relationship between hooting, jabbering and the importance of the critter. In comparison to the mob the Alpha male and female are relatively quiet. A frowning growl from the monkey queen will settle all within frown range. One grunt from Alpha male shuts up the entire tribe as they tune in. In this respect it seems our human important alphas differ from the furry. It could be that those political creatures running for highest office are not alphas at all, but they aspire to the place by making all the racket of the mob they presume to one day lead. It is another sobriety inducer to picture (in alphabetical order) Donald and Hillary in fur suits. Well, that’s an easy one isn’t it? Drape fur over either of them and you end up with one form or other of the great ape. Since it is difficult to be truly optimistic this election cycle I’ve decided on cynicism. It’s all I have left.
Social animals like to gather. I confess it is pure mystery to me to understand why monkeys have not developed dance. They are cut out for it, but I suppose the lack of alcohol production in ape land and a shortage of musicians puts them at a partying disadvantage. The tendency to clump up is all I need to explain cities. I say this because it is in no stretch I’m aware of “natural” to be in high density population groups where you’re bumper on bumper by day and all too aware of the neighbor’s evening menu, entertainment, and erotic habits by night. Frankly, it makes sense seeing a herd of antelope or caribou closely spaced, heads down, grazing while a few on the fringe scan the sides for danger. The entire mass moves slowly along grazing. Why humans bunch up in cities is less clear to me. It is certainly not due to availability of natural resources.
Do you consider that safety might be the reason behind humans grouping more tightly than a herd? If you observe schools of fish or herds of grazers you’ll note that the group does provide a degree of security. If the shark nears it being in a big mass of little fishes might spook the shark into backing off or at least improve your small fry odds not being in the sorry ones destined for the shark tummy. If one of you is going to die by predation then your odds are best in a big group rather than being one of a few or stuck out there all alone on the plain as the one and only edible item in view. Uh huh, I get it. I also get why boat people and others arrive in packs. Whether we are talking in terms of six lions on the veld or six guards at the border, if you arrive in a streaming group the attackers or defenders are simply outnumbered and overmatched. How many gazelle can a lion kill before it’s exhausted? How many illegals can a guard cope with at one time? It’s kind of the same question isn’t it? If we disregard philosophy, politics, and notions of “the moral” the things people do as social animals are rather easier to understand. We may be (sorry fundamentalists) the top of the evolutionary tree, but our good old roots are those of the lower orders howling in the branches and throwing poop (apparently there is an election season in monkey land) at those in the opposing trees. How beautiful is nature in all her ways!
As an antisocial animal off on the sidelines I’m not that different except in style of being social. With that said, I hope you had a fine Labor Day (great topic for another time) and have the foresight to get your snow shovels ready what too soon will follow.