Are We Still “Great” Apes?


“Apes. Together. Strong…” Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

My dad used to say all the time, “First the apes learned to talk, then they learned about fire and then they set about burning the world to the ground and bragging about it.”

We are Great Apes, one of seven still existing species. The Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans, the Eastern and Western Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos and Humans. We are, in case you are wondering, the ones with the bombs, suv’s and 401k’s. We are also the ones responsible for the near extinction of the other six species.

I will not be drawn into the age old debate about, “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” The answers are out there, even in easy to understand graphics, so do your own research with your mind open and you will feel the little lightbulb blink on, I promise.

I went in to the Planet of the Apes movies (the reboot, not the Charlton Heston ones) expecting good adventure, some cool FX and perhaps some amazing action, but what I have gotten so far have been two movies that at points left me in tears, at points had me ashamed of what we have become and ultimately inspired, and isn’t that what good stories should do for us?

If you haven’t seen the movies yet, I highly recommend them. I cannot guarantee that they will have the same impact on you as they have on me, I cannot even promise your enjoyment of them, but I have a feeling that if you are reading my words, then it might stir something within you.

This is not our parents’ Planet of the Apes franchise. This isn’t about time traveling astronauts ending up in the future and discovering an earth mastered by our hairier cousins, this is a story that begins now, with Chimpanzees, Bonobos and other apes being used for product testing and all of the things that go awry in the aftermath of that.

The story follows Caesar, yes, the “ape”. He is our protagonist. He is a leader, a genius, and dissatisfied with the way he and his species are treated by humans in general, but it is so much more than that but I will go no further in my description because I loathe spoilers.

I grew up in a home where I was taught that I did not have dominion over the earth, I was simply another species upon it and was actually more flawed than most. There is a certain freedom to this knowledge, it allows you to see your place, your interconnectedness with your surroundings, it gives you the wisdom to see that your actions against the earth are actions against yourself.

It also gave me a love for nature in a way that has given me incalculable joy and also many sleepless nights. I find myself angry over the destruction of tiny tracts of forestland to build another strip mall when there are three or five of them sitting vacant within a couple of miles. I find myself upset, sad and then furious when I see healthy, huge, ancient trees laying in yards where they had just been cut down by people who didn’t want to rake leaves.

I dislike driving down roads called Oak Lane or Poplar Drive when all of the oaks and poplars where cut down to make room for more houses.

“Monkey killing monkey killing monkey.

Over pieces of the ground.

Silly monkeys give them thumbs.

They make a club.

And beat their brother, down.

How they survive so misguided is a mystery.” Right in Two by Tool

The idea that some neighbors complain when others plant gardens instead of grass in their yards disturbs me and makes me wonder at how broken human priorities have become.

But the part of me that is most affected, is the part that says that we, as a species are horrible to each other.

For all of our protestations that we are the superior species or nature’s crowning achievement, we define ourselves on so many levels by who we hate, who we won’t tolerate and who is inferior to us.

But on the other side of it, are the hated, the untolerated, and the inferior. Those who have been marginalized for their differences, their sensitivities, even for how much they care and the amount of empathy that they show.

I am not going to make this political, but I am going to say that now, more than any time in my life, I see fear in my fellow apes. We are afraid of our governments, our futures, our bosses and our neighbors and those who are feared, seem to be reveling in the fear that they cause.

If you see such people, ones who have fled social media because of the hate, because of the injustice, who are afraid to express themselves on a daily basis because of this swelling resurgence of misogyny, racism, homophobia, or other hate fueled rhetoric and your first thought is, “Suck it up Snowflake.”, then you are part of the problem, a problem that is tearing us apart.

And in our fear, we are abandoning each other, we are giving up hope, we are retreating behind our walls, diving into our fantasy worlds and hoping that it will all just blow over, but the wind that is blowing, is fueling the inferno that is threatening us as a species, but more than that, it is tarnishing, ruining and breaking apart the one thing that we had left to be proud of, our compassion.

When you consider that we share 96 percent of our DNA with Chimpanzees and we view what we have done to them because they were weaker or different from us, then what are we going to do, what are we already doing to members of our own species that we feel are weaker, or just simply different?

“We have only one thing to give up. Our dominion. We don’t own the world. We’re not kings yet. Not gods. Can we give that up? Too precious, all that control? Too tempting, being a god?” – Ethan Powell as played by Anthony Hopkins in Instinct.

What will it take to make us shake off the façade of weakness? What will have to happen before the threat of what might happen if we speak up becomes less frightening than the possibilities if we do? If the 22 veterans committing suicide a day isn’t enough, and the 13 million hungry children doesn’t merit a rise, if the 50,000 drug deaths in the US last year doesn’t do it and the nearly 6,000 hate crimes in the past year doesn’t move us to shake off our fear and apathy, then we are not even deserving of our place among the other “great apes.”

Each time I write one of these blogs, I sign off with, “Take care of each other.”

I mean it, it is not me being cliché or clever, I am asking, no, I am demanding that you look at your fellow apes and stand up for them, check up on them and do what you can, because we are all we have…

“Apes. Together. Strong.”


Take care of each other…


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