Anyone who has a sibling is familiar with the name calling that happens between you – they assign you nicknames completely unrelated to your real name and
lovingly call you that in public. Coming from a large family, while
unfortunately being the youngest, I am very familiar with this. I have a
plethora of names. I won’t go through all fifteen (and counting) of those names,
but there is one that has been around for some time now; it’s the name that
started it all – they call me Monkey.
I know that these are probably just terms of endearment but I've always taken
it as something insulting. However, after watching these documentaries for our
class, boy oh boy was I so wrong to think that.
The documentaries I watched in class were part of a BBC series by David Attenborough called The Life of Mammals. My class only watched the last two episodes: Social Climbers and Food for Thought. It featured various species of monkeys and apes found in South America and Africa. It followed them go about with their days and nights, live their lives, and survive in the wild. Some were shown spending hours collecting food. It also showed how unlike other animals, they would use their sense of colour to choose the right food. But more than just showing how monkeys eat and collect food, it revealed how complex they really are.
What makes them so special is everything is very social with them. Just like us, social interaction is an enormous part of their daily lives. Most of them stay in groups.; they look after one another. They keep form relationships through lice picking, leaf rubbing and even casual chattering. They flirt with each other and attract the opposite sex through their subtle winks and glances (sounds familiar), their flashing of gums (maybe this one, not so familiar any more) and their exposing of their red, swollen chests or behinds. And beyond this, there are class systems and complex social structures. Monkeys are actually very political. They would form alliances with other groups to strengthen protection from predators. Because of class systems, alpha males, when in heat, could just force themselves upon some female monkeys. Monkeys of a higher class could also literally take food straight out from your mouth. This may seem shallow, but all these things remind me of a line in the song Think About It by Flight of the Conchords: “Leave those poor, sick monkeys alone. They've got problems enough as it is.” Disregard the first sentence; the second however, holds true. They live in a cruel environment and yet they manage to survive. Monkeys are admirable creatures. Their intuitiveness and intelligence are not to be belittled. Their seemingly simple lives are actually very complicated. We could learn a thing or two from them by looking back on these possible ancestors. I realize that to be nicknamed a monkey isn't an insult – though a bit strange, it’s actually quite the compliment.