Man stupid, gorilla wise… Koko say so…

Social media can be good, as we saw with the Egyptian uprising, but it can also be dumb-arsed awful. The latest example of the latter is a clip mourning the death of a gorilla named Koko. The clip has gone viral.



Koko was a special type of gorilla, raised closely by a human. Koko learned hundreds of signs that meant she could communicate with humans far better than other gorillas.

Non-human animals can be taught to respond in particular ways through reward. It’s commonplace and known as operant conditioning. Koko was very good at it, and also displayed a capacity for affection outside her species. A youtube clip showing her caring for a kitten also went viral.

I feel sorry that an impressive beast like Koko has died. On the other hand, not being in her natural environment, not being in the wild, she lived to a long age for a gorilla – 46 years.

What is truly gob-smacking about the latest audio-visual mourning of Koko’s passing is the suggestion that somehow Koko had a wisdom that ‘Man’ does not possess. As Koko puts it, via her ‘sign language’ – of course, as interpreted by her long-time human trainer:

“Man stupid”…

“Fix Earth. Help Earth!”

“Koko love Earth”, “Hurry!” and, a not-so-subtle warning: “Nature sees you”. (The Three Stooges would have responded to the threat with nyaaaahhhh! )

Thus far, the clip has had twenty million views and ten thousand comments. Overwhelmingly, the comments are of the self-righteous, reactionary, Nature worshiping kind that belittles humanity and places the wisdom of the beast/Nature above humanity.

I wonder whether any of those posting such comments have reflected on the fact that they are doing so thanks to the Internet – something no beast could comprehend let alone create. (Not to mention the art of Leonardo or the music of Monk). Etc Etc.

It’s all very reminiscent of the Nazi philosophical commitment to a ‘religion of Nature’ and the ‘wisdom of the forests’. As German National Socialist propaganda put it:

Deep in the forest
Will be born the nation’s knowledge

In fundamental contrast to the ‘religion of Nature’ outlook, the social media commentary about Koko brought to my mind Karl Marx’s reference to another famous simian, Kanuman, in his article on the British rule in India in the New York Times in 1853.

Marx wrote that,

‘We must not forget that these little [Hindustan] communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

‘England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution’.

* * * *

People, and people alone, are the motive force of History!

* * * *












24 thoughts on “Man stupid, gorilla wise… Koko say so…

  1. Not a high point for the human species – on that i can agree with Koko’s purported communication.
    While the carer deserves a pat on the back for cultivating Koko’s potential (as an ape) and enabling her to develop (as an ape) he needs a kick up the arse for his cynical manipulation of a gullible public and a condescending and manipulative use of Koko herself. Koko’s ‘opinions’ about humanity was nothing more than the projection of the carers own beliefs and desires. The thing is that high functioning animals benefit from their interactions with humans and a part of this is how easily we anthropomorphize them. They like being around us and we with them.
    Sadly – or should that be laughingly – the popularity of the cares romanticized and reactionary drivel says quite a bit about the health of bourgeois ideology, here referring to our species creativity and natural desire to develop and within the laws of nature, conquer nature.
    Whoops, must go my dog and cat are wanting to have stern words with me about my species arrogance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes Koko was a lot like Marx Koko started knowing nothing of sign language but she learnt and the mastered it. Marx in 1853 knew less than nothing in that he supported British Imperial rule in India but he learnt he studied and by 1857 his opinion had changed — “We have here given but a brief and mildly-colored chapter from the real history of British rule in India. In view of such facts, dispassionate and thoughtful men may perhaps be led to ask whether a people are not justified in attempting to expel the foreign conquerors who have so abused their subjects. And if the English could do these things in cold blood, is it surprising that the insurgent Hindoos should be guilty, in the fury of revolt and conflict, of the crimes and cruelties alleged against them?”


    • Steve, nothing in what you’ve quoted suggests that Marx suddenly changed his view and in 1857 no longer regarded the backwardness of the ‘Hindostan’ communities as something in need of overthrow and that the British were continuing to assist in that process through causing a ‘social revolution’. Marx was appalled, rightly, by the findings of the Torture Commission in 1857 and by the methods used by the British, and understood that repression breeds resistance. Are you seriously suggesting that he suddenly wanted man, “the sovereign of Nature” to “fall down on his knees in worship of Kanuman, the monkey”?


      • Steve, a problem is that you say Marx “knew less than nothing” when he wrote the article in 1853. Presumably this applies to all six articles he wrote about or touching on India that year. I have only read two and they are not the work of someone who knew “less than nothing”. This also suggests that you do in fact regard his 1853 analysis as basically wrong, that you disagree with it. Again, this hardly makes my question a ‘ridiculous’ one.


  3. Hi Barry you seem to be arguing that Marx got things right first time and there for had no need to challenge his own ideas. Here’s an article that puts a different view on the development of Karl’s thinking on India on page 499 the author says “There is no doubt that Marx had outgrown his earlier optimism about the revolutionary role of British colonialism.”
    Marx changed his thinking on Ireland and on India why we would try to argue that his first draft was his final draft is beyond me.


    • Well, I wasn’t arguing that he didn’t develop his views as things changed, such as in response the Torture Commission’s findings. My point was that, in the quote you gave, there is no indication of a fundamental shift away from supporting the progressive development of India, which meant still recognizing human beings as “sovereign” over Nature and still wanting an end to the traditional ways under which a monkey named Kanuman was worshiped. That was my point. (I put it as a question to you personally, but you haven’t answered).


  4. Hi Barry I thought that your question was ridiculous. The argument is simple, you say that Karl’s position was A. I argue that after years of research Karl updated his position to B. A is that he supported British Imperialism’s development of India. B is that the hoped for development did not occur and that British Imperialism de developed India, introduced famine, disappear a million people after the mutiny promoted religious bigotry.
    You just repeat your position where as I have provided evidence
    And ending this is easy you just have to say ‘Steve you might have a point there’ end of argument.
    Ill even answer your ridiculous question the answer is No.


    • Not a ridiculous question at all. It’s relevant to today when we have anti-imperialists who defend their support for the most reactionary regimes and ways of life, claiming to be Marxist. The basis for their support for backwardness is their anti-imperialism. I see no evidence that Marx changed on this.


  5. Barry yes I said that Marx knew less than nothing this was as Lenin was fond of saying bending the stick or exaggerating to make a point.


  6. Again from the article by Ashutosh Kumar “In 1881 Marx while criticising Sir Henry Maine, observed that “the extiction of the communal ownership of land was only an act of English Vandalism which pushed the indigenous people not forward but backward”
    Barry I think that you have captured the essence of Marx in the early 1850’s but there is evidence and I have presented it that Marx changed his mind on the effects that Imperialism had on subjected nations.


    • It is not controversial that imperialism eventually becomes a fetter on development. But you were suggesting that Marx was wrong in 1853 when he said that, despite the vile motives and terrible deeds of the British in India, he was wrong in that view and that he could only say that because he ‘knew less than nothing’. Even today, in some backward parts of the world, imperialism can undermine the old ways of tribalism and superstition and cause a ‘social revolution’ in advancing capitalism over feudalism and worse. I think Marx knew what he was talking about in 1853 and Marxists are right to oppose backwardness today. That is where we differ.


  7. Yes Barry you are 100% correct I do think that Marx got it wrong in 1853 because he believed that British Imperialism would smash the existing feudal order and pave the way for India to become a modern Capitalist society. But then reality happened the British re enforced the Princely system, they conducted land reform that fettered development, they replaced food crops with cash crops and brought regular famine to India right up to the Bengali famine of 1943 which the British failed to provide famine relief resulting in the largest famine in history to that point. The British actively promoted Hindus in Muslim majority areas and promoted Muslims in Hindu majority areas. As I have pointed out on another thread while India was the source of the greatest profits in the Empire its industrial capacity increased at a rate no greater than population increase during the hundreds of years that we English ruled these poor bastards. What I have done is provide articles by scholars who think that Marx came to see his 1853 position as wrong but by all means restate your belief that he was right in 1853 and that he is still right.


  8. Tell it to the Indian Communists Steve. Long after 1853 they rolled Lenin at a Comintern Congress to redraft resolution on India to recognize necessity of alliance with the British Raj agaist the more backward feudalists.

    BTW have you been celebrating your expectations of Sadrist leading role in Iraqi government? Too overjoyed to update your predictions?


  9. Arthur is this what you mean when you say that the Indian Communists rolled Lenin to recognize the necessity to ally with British Imperialism “Regarding the political situation in the colonized world, the Second Congress of the Communist International stipulated that a united front should be formed between the proletariat, peasantry and national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries. Amongst the twenty-one conditions drafted by Lenin ahead of the congress was the 11th thesis which stipulated that all communist parties must support the bourgeois-democratic liberation movements in the colonies. Notably, some of the delegates opposed the idea of alliance with the bourgeoisie and preferred giving support to communist movements in these countries instead. Their criticism was shared by the Indian revolutionary M. N. Roy, who attended as a delegate of the Mexican Communist Party. The Congress removed the term bourgeois-democratic in what became the 8th condition.[17]”
    How can anyone turn supporting Communist Parties into allying with British Imperialism. Surely you must mean something else because if this is your example it is just well just the sort of distortion you get on Fox news.


  10. November 5, 2018 at 10:36 pm
    Tell it to the Indian Communists Steve. Long after 1853 they rolled Lenin at a Comintern Congress to redraft resolution on India to recognize necessity of alliance with the British Raj agaist the more backward feudalists.
    Fact check Im giving this the full 10 Pinocchio’s


  11. Last nite I took a quick look for confirmation of what I said and found none so wrote retraction of it. Must have forgotten to press send.

    Possibly I got confused with much later issues between Congress and Communists re alliance with Britain in war against fascism though of course it remains utterly clear that Indian proletariat developed with British industry against feudalists.


  12. Thank you but I still cant accept that British built an Indian proletariat as to do that Britain would have had to have industrialised India and they just didn’t “Historians have questioned why India did not undergo industrialisation in the nineteenth century in the way that Britain did. In the seventeenth century, India was a relatively urbanised and commercialised nation with a buoyant export trade, devoted largely to cotton textiles, but also including silk, spices, and rice. India was the world’s main producer of cotton textiles and had a substantial export trade to Britain, as well as many other European countries, via the East India Company. Yet as the British cotton industry underwent a technological revolution during the late 18th to early 19th centuries, the Indian industry stagnated and deindustrialized.[2] India also underwent a period of deindustrialization in the latter half of the 18th century as an indirect outcome of the collapse of the Mughal Empire.[8]”


    • “If the Communist International understands clearly that it must take this matter to heart, then the second question, how the colonial movement can best be encouraged and developed, still remains to be solved. Until recently there were in the colonies only national-revolutionary movements of the middle class, whose only wish was to supplant the ruling foreigners in order themselves to exploit their own proletariat. If we do not look at the matter in too doctrinaire a manner, if we look at it somewhat more closely here at the Congress, then one can estimate correctly the great value to the Communist International of the national-revolutionary movement among the peoples of the East Indies also. Great changes took place in India during and after the war. Whereas earlier British capitalism had always prevented the development of industry in British India, this has no longer been the case in recent years. Industry has developed at a greater pace in recent years in British India than anyone can imagine here in Europe. If one considers that in the same period that the industrial proletariat in British India increased by 15 per cent the capital invested in Britishowned industry increased by 2,000 per cent, one can form some impression of the rapid development of the capitalist system in British India. This is also true of Egypt, the Dutch East Indies and China. The same development that is taking place in British India is also to be noted in these countries. In recent years there has been a new movement among the exploited masses in India that has spread very quickly and expressed itself in mighty strike waves. This mass movement does not stand under the control of the revolutionary nationalists. It develops independently, although the nationalists try to use this movement for their own purposes. One can say of this mass movement that it is at all events revolutionary, although no-one would say that the workers and peasants who form this movement are also clearly class-conscious. This is evident day by day in the forms it takes. Comrades, I think that at this stage of the revolutionary mass movement the field of work lies open for the Communist International. It is only a question of taking the correct measures to harvest the fruits of work among these masses very quickly. Naturally a revolution by these masses would not at the first stage be a communist revolution, naturally revolutionary nationalism will play a role in the first stage. But at any event this revolutionary nationalism too win lead to the collapse of European imperialism, which is of enormous significance for the European proletariat.”


  13. Yes the question was about the relationship to the Indian National Congress in the fight against the British not about an “alliance” the British against the INC. Yes the British as a result of WW1 did encourage some industrialisation within India but this never amounted to much and can only be made to look impressive if you talk percentages. If fuck all industry exists (because you have suppressed it for centuries) then any increase looks impressive when expressed as a percent but doesnt look good when expressed in any other way. Are we done?


  14. Arthur wrote “course it remains utterly clear that Indian proletariat developed with British industry against feudalists.”
    Arthur is it still your position that Indian Communists “…. alliance with the British Raj agaist the more backward feudalists”?
    In the documents you offer up they talk about the “nationalists” ie the Indian National Congress
    If I meet an Indian Communist I would remind them of their alliance with the British I would but I fear they might get a hernia from laughter.


    • If you want to discuss your views on communist attitudes to feudalism and how wrong Marx was about India you might find that Koko could at least look interested.


  15. Arthur that is disappointing. Barry posted comments in line with Marx’s thinking in 1853. I pointed to scholarship that indicates that Marx developed his analysis in light of his intense study of colonial situations particularly in Ireland and India. I also argued empirical evidence suggested that Marx’s 1853 analysis to be in error as to how beneficial colonialism would be economically to colonies such as India. You entered the debate with the idea that Indian communists had rolled Lenin and had urged an “alliance” with imperialism. Instead of just making a simple correction you resort to anything but.
    I wish you, Good day sir.


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