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:
“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’.
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People, and people alone, are the motive force of History!
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