Thursday, November 15, 2007

Monkeys: Misanthropic or Misunderstood?

(photo:thomas lu)

"We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult"

-New Delhi deputy police commissioner Jaspal Singh, as quoted by AFP.

I feel it is my duty to remark upon the spate of yellow journalism that has been denigrating the noble race of monkeys in recent days.

It began with an Agence France Presse article titled "Monkeys rampage in Indian capital", which quickly scaled Yahoo's "Most Viewed" charts, prompting the other agencies to respond.

"In land of the Monkey God, a primate menaces," Reuters blared.

To the AP's credit, it has a slightly more factual story, "Monkey Injures Several People in India," avoiding the dubious claim repeated by other agencies that a single monkey had hurt more than 2 dozen people.

Today the New York Times got into the act, two days late and with 1,000 words _ the words not worth the picture. At that length, the NYT is more a magazine than a newspaper...

All the stories are basically anthropocentric, species-ist and humanist in their outlook: people are good, and monkeys bad. People are valuable, monkeys are a nuisance.

And, aiming at the lowest common denominator, all make sure to mention prominently the death of New Delhi's vice mayor last month.

Trouble boiled over in late October when the city's deputy mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, 52, fell to his death driving away monkeys from his home.

He was on his balcony reading a newspaper when four monkeys appeared, his family said. As he waved a stick to scare them away, he tumbled over the edge and died in hospital from head injuries.


Tragic, surely. I pray that I don't die in some humiliating manner.
But no one dares to point out the obvious: if this guy weren't going after the monkeys with a stick, he'd be alive today.

In fact, none of the stories makes more than a passing effort to think about things from the monkeys' point of view.

(peter garnhum)

(mr. huevo)

Estimates for the city's monkey population in all four stories range from 5,000 to 25,000.

Well, I estimate New Delhi's human population at 14 million, and growing at the rate of 1/2 million per year. Who is overbreeding here?

A telling detail is included in the final sentence of the AFP story:

"Kartick Satyanarayanan, head of India's Wildlife SOS, said the invasion of natural habitats by mushrooming populations was at the root of the problem.
"Humans are taking all their space."

It's only natural for monkeys to strike back. In fact, rumor has it, the latest altercations are part of the monkey's "Take Back New Delhi" campaign, in which all the humans will ultimately be put in cages and be moved to neighboring Mumbai.

The monkeys are a nuisance, but please, don't insult my intelligence by suggesting that they can compete with say, pollution, on the list of troubles that New Delhi faces.

The other thing these stories do is mock Hinduism, the world's oldest surviving religion, in which monkeys are considered holy.

The AFP says that "along with sacred cows and buffaloes, marauding monkeys have been longstanding pests."

Efforts to drive out the animals is complicated by the fact that devout Hindus view them as an incarnation of Hanuman, the monkey god who symbolizes strength.

Devout Hindus? As opposed to lax Hindus, who cook and eat the monkeys? New Delhi is more than 80 percent Hindu.

There's a reason Hindus worship monkeys!

Monkeys are pure comedy gold. Always have been, always will be.

Praise Hanuman!

And please, keep me up to date about any important monkey news or comedy you come across...

(stephen butler)
(stephen butler)

1 comment:

Hasselblatt E. said...

And all the while, nobody gives a damn about those poor defenceless bananas! My fear is that once humans and monkeys have depleted each other's armed forces, the bananas will have their revenge, horribly! The death of that vice-mayor probably was a first warning, as he obviously slipped on a peel.