Bonobo Culture

Bonobos have always fascinated me. They are the hippies of the primate world. Peace, free love, and hairy bodies. And genetically they happen to be our closest relatives, along with chimpanzees, who are much more warlike. Which direction will we go?

Bonobos may be more like us than we thought. According to an article in the Harvard Gazette entitled, “Differing diets of bonobo groups offer insights into how culture is created”, they do, in fact, have a rudimentary culture going on. I’m intrigued.

It seems that scientists studied two bands of bonobos in the Congo for five years. These bands lived and hunted in the same forest. They were genetically identical. They hunted with the same size hunting parties and displayed the same amount of teamwork. And yet the two groups had two different food preferences.

All things being equal, that had to be a learned behavior or, at the very least, different cravings. Which amounts to culture. Isn’t that astounding?

It’s now believed that since bonobos have the beginnings of culture, and we of course do as well, then our earlier, common ancestor must have had it, too. I wonder what their culture was like? I love the idea that someday we might learn the answer to that question. Who knows what archeologists will dig up next?

Science rocks. Just sayin’. And all this talk has me craving Chinese food.

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Chaos: The New Normal?

A coworker of mine was describing a situation in which he and his brother were watching TV and they got into an argument which then escalated into a fist fight, and the police had to be called. Just a regular Tuesday night at Chez Coworker, apparently. I remember thinking, “Huh. My whole life, the police have never been called to my house. Am I normal, or is he?”

Someone else I know regularly shouts and makes intimidating gestures, causing tension, fear and anxiety in his household. He says that he’s of Mediterranean descent, so he can’t help it. That made me wonder about all the Italians and Greeks and Turks that I’ve passed on the street who have managed to behave themselves and act with courtesy and respect. Who’s the stereotype?

And then there’s the girl whose husband tried to choke her. But she’s still with him, because she loves him. I tried to imagine sleeping under the same roof with someone, even for one night, who had tried to kill me. I’m not getting any pictures.

Another story: this guy left his car keys on the counter and went to sleep. One of his relatives took the car without permission and got into an accident. The guy wakes up, sees the damage to the car, asks who was responsible, and no one admits to it. And they all (every one of them is an adult) still live with him. Oh no. Not me. Not even for a second. I’d have gathered them all in one room and said, “Either someone confesses and makes arrangements to pay for damages, or every single one of you is out on the street.”

Another woman racked up thousands of dollars in phone bills by calling her boyfriend who was in the military overseas. She was the only one in the house who even knew someone overseas, so there was no doubt who was responsible. Not only did she not pay the bills, but since the phone was in her parent’s name, their service got cut off, and they haven’t been able to have a house phone for years because of it. Not to mention the fact that their credit is ruined. It’s the great unspoken thing in the family, but apparently she has no remorse whatsoever. That same girl’s sister stole her own 10 year old child’s birthday money.

All of these things have me wondering, who is living a life outside the norm? Me, for being shocked by all of the above, or them? Are most of the people on the planet just animals with no moral compass whatsoever? Should the Jerry Springer Show be considered a documentary? And to think there are people out there who still refuse to believe we’re related to primates. Sheesh.

chimp