Hippie chimps

Lynne McTaggart

All animal societies – and also human societies — can be essentially reduced to the organizational dynamic of one of two kinds of monkey: a chimpanzee or a bonobo, known as a dwarf chimpanzee, a variety derived from the other branch of the chimp genetic tree.
Common-or-garden chimpanzees order themselves into a dominant hierarchy, with usually the largest and most aggressive male in charge. He gets first tabs on food and other resources and also first choice of reproductive access to the females. He reinforces his control both with might — periodic fights and contests of strength — and intimidation — elaborate rituals to remind the rest of the group exactly who is in charge (is boss).
In any game pitting a chimp against another chimp, it is usually a zero sum game. The chimp plays to win – at all costs.
Make love, not war
Bonobos, on the other hand, are the hippies of the ape community —
loving, equal opportunity, devil may care. Bonobos societies are matriarchical and maintain sexual equality — females even eat first — and groups of bonobos rarely enter into conflict with outsiders.
A bonobo’s motto is make love, not war, and bonobos are almost absurdly promiscuous – having it off with any one of either sex at any time, graced with a sophisticated sexual repertoire (bonobos even know how to French kiss), endowed with the belief that dinner without a bit of sex beforehand is like a three-course meal without the right wine.
To a bonobo, sex is not a form or dominance or a genetic imperative so much as a means of arbitration, used to resolve conflict and signal friendship and maintain social equilibrium. Sex is the bonobo’s equivalent of ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’, and even used as a variation on ‘hello’ — to diffuse tension when a roaming male strays into a foreign community.
Food sharing is the other social glue, and when food is found, a banquet spread is laid out and the neighborhood invited round, like an Italian family christening on a Sunday afternoon. Chimps maintain social cohesion through a top-down power hierarchy; bonobos generally maintain their society through cooperative teamwork and through caring, in the form of sex and food — in that order.
The more equal, the healthier
For their recently published book, Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Always Do Better, authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett spent more than 30 years examining why certain human societies live longer and healthier than others. They concluded that human societies as well fall into either the chimp or the bonobo camp.
But what we were meant to be, according to our genetic coding, is more akin to bonobo than chimp, and it is our disparity in the West between what we should be – equal and loving – and what we are – isolated and competitive – that causes our societal problems.
As they researched the social conditions of virtually every Western country, Wilkinson and Pickett discovered that the more unequal and hierarchical any society, the worse off everyone is — both rich and poor — in terms of virtually every social problem.
Divided we fall
In countries of the very rich and with giant income disparity, both the most affluent and the very poorest suffer from higher rates of ill health, higher crime rates, mental illness, environmental problems and violence. The UK, the US and many countries in Europe, with their vast difference between rich and poor, are among the worse off in virtually every social indicator than countries like Sweden, with less wealth disparity in the population.
We are better off in every way when living in some crude approximation to bonobo society and not in a mode of constant competition.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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24 comments on “Hippie chimps”

  1. In comparing chimps, bonobos and humans the discussion was not made regarding the chimps having an intelligence level or desire to eridicate the bonobos because of their belief system.
    Therefore if a group of chimps get control of a weapon or multiple weapons and then proceed to enslave or eridicate the bonobos what will the bonobos do to protect themselves?
    If the chimps decide to enslave the bonobos I'm sure that they will enjoy the friendly gesture of recieving sex to show friendship. Then what is the next action on the part of the dominate chimp towards the bonobos when they start spreading this free love attitude among the less powerful of the chimps. They are not going to like this and they will use the tools that they have to control or eridicate the bonobos.
    People are not chimps or bonobos and we are guided by a higher self. In reading the religious writings of the past there are many instances where god or higher self used power and destruction to change the direction that humankind was taking.
    I personally believe in a peaceful approach to differences between people with different opinions from mine. I am intelligent enough to recognize that there are some less developed people who will use the dominate chimp method of getting their way. As a human I will not allow the dominate chimp to use their power on myself or my fellow man.
    I am a human and proud of the tools and abilities that have been given to me by higher self.
    Free love is the weaker way of making friends. Good luck making a lasting friend with this method. Having an intelligent discussion will make a better and longer lasting friend.
    Protecting what is mine will demonstrate that I am not a bonobos or a chimp I am a human.

  2. I'm guessing these aren't the kind found at our local zoo in Denver, as they would fear offending the zoo patrons' sensibilities with all that sex 🙂 I'm a hippie chick (well, except for being monogamous) so I loved this post. Thanks!

  3. You help me when you lay out your findings and let me take it from there. You turn me off when I can't tell whether the findings, values being expressed, conclusions and judgments are an authors or yours. You turn me off when I think you are telling me how to live my life.
    I am not used for there to be so many ways for me to disagree with you in what you write. I'm not saying you are wrong but I cannot see the data from which you are making your judgments and forming your conclusions. Just reading another making judgments turns me off.
    This is not like you and I will choose to ignore the article.
    I appreciate your work, Lynne and Tom.
    KCB 🙂

  4. Very good food for thought , I feel like a mix , I want peace but sometimes I need to fight or be killed by the greedy savage ones, running isn't always an option

  5. Thanks for the article, Lynne.
    Well, it makes sense that a society based on cooperation would do better than one that devalues any of it's members (whether man or monkey). Nature seems to function in just this way...and yes the dinosaurs (chimps of the jungle) found themselves with a one way ticket to the tar pits. Humans need to heed this message also lest we become nothing but the fossil fuel for coming generations.
    Blessings in all you & Tom are doing with your work. You're doing much good in changing the staus quo in science and elsewhere (!)

  6. WOW! I believe a number of the folks commenting have sadly missed the real point of the article. It's about cooperation versus competition! Admittedly, this was not the most well written article of Lynne's, as normally she has it spot on. I have had the pleasure to witness Bonobos in the wild at Wamba in Zaire, Dr. Kono's site, as well as 'garden variety chimps' in Uganda, The Ivory Coast and Tanzania. Regular chimps are extremely violent and competitive while Bonobos are extremely peaceful and cooperative. They use sex beyond it's reproductive value and apply it as a stress relieving tool. Sadly, a number of the comments revealed how sexually up tight they really are in their own lives. I am completely & totally pro-monogamy. Some folks missed the boat! Envisioning enslavement, etc. Again, the article was about competition versus cooperation and learning something from these Great Apes. Would these same folks have come un-glued had the article reflected on a male dog used to sire ('at stud') numerous litters with various female dogs. Let's not miss the point here, by letting our personal sexual feelings fog the lens as well as thinking Lynne was attempting to tell individuals how to live. Hello! Baby with the bathwater syndrome...........

  7. Lynne
    I believe that in order for the intentions to be a success we need to come from positive intentions - may I suggest that you eliminate the words 'particularly in these tough times' and also 'particularly during these difficult times' - tagging these negative thoughts
    slows down the healing process. We need to come from the 'a perfect world' that needs to bring humanity into balance. What can we do as a community to put our own world
    in balance. Is it spiritual? financial? love life? relationship? etc
    Thank You
    Live in Love

  8. Wow, Kim , you completly changed the subject and blamed us. You need to go masterbate or learn how to , no offense ,but you need relief and if you are unable to do that ... go swimming or something

  9. I am a nature show lover so I have seen the shows pertaining to the bonobos and it did cause me to stop and think about their approach to life vs. the the chimps approach, who are vicious and will go on hunting expeditions to hunt down and kill on sight other chimps. Their take -no-prisoners approach to life in the forest is frightening when you see them in action!
    I was born with the non-competitive gene and I find that those who are super competitive and who like to dominate everyone around them what to engage with me.
    I refuse to deal with them and I find that kind of person to exude a quality of tension that actually makes me feel ill to be around them.
    I don't feel humans can compare themselves to primates and while I'd not go along with the bonobos love-the-one you're with lifestyle, I'd like to think I'd be happier being with them(bonobos) as opposed to those humans who are vibrating the take-no-prisoners style of interaction. They really are the chimps of the world!

  10. Great article! Cooperation is good. Could you imagine a world that used Cooperation rather than War? Need rather than Greed? Forgiveness and Love rather than Judgement and Punishment?
    With Love,

  11. This article really stirred up a lot of feelings! PBS had a special about killer stress.One researcher had spent 20 years checking out the cardiac health of chimps.He found that in the societies that had strong, dominant males that ruled by fear and violence, their heart and blood vessels were much healthier than the males and females that were subordinant to them.They had narrowing of their blood vessels, higher blood pressure,etc.He found in the Bonobos, that both male and females had equal and healthier circulatory systems.They did a follow up to that in England and found a correlation between people who were bosses or self-employed versus people who were in a job where they had to be submissive. The ones who had to be subordinant had more problems with heart disease. I found that very interesting

  12. Very interesting subject. Years ago I was upset when Sweden went for socialism or communism or whatever they call it and had friends who had fled Sweden when that happened. However they seem to be pulling it off, at least compared to other nations who have tried it. I tend to think it is due to their having had a very strong and pretty universal work ethic. I believe I have heard however that they have a very high suicide number. This is really a discussion of capitalism versus socialism. I believe either system would work well if a sufficient percentage of the population were evolved to the point where the idea that we are all one is fully understood. Otherwise the system is held in place by one type of force or other. So the political solution is not the answer. Spiritual evolution is the answer

  13. Sweden communistic? Just to straighten the facts Scandinavia - consisting of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and to some extent iceland/greenland - is democratic.
    Modern democracy was born in scandinavia, and what is most interesting about it is that although people at large don't like to give away power, we do so for the larger good of society.
    Maybe like the bonopos?
    It's great to see the many comments mirroring diverse beliefs held on different subjects. It is good to remember that everyones perspective is just that - a perspective. No better or worse than anyone elses.
    Whether you believe that the bonobos are doing what they are doing "because it works" is also a matter of perspective. As with the chimps.
    We have the possibility to reason and talk it out, so for us to make love - not war - figuratively speaking, we only need to let ourselves hear and try to understand someone elses perspective.
    As soon as we listen without prejudice there is a possibilty for change.

  14. I have often reflected on this subject and agree with all you say.
    Except that it is my understanding that chimps are more successful and prolific as a species. I believe that the most aggressive species will always be stronger than a peaceful one, much as we would prefer to think otherwise. The Hippie lifestyle was tried in the 1960's and largely fizzled out.
    Perhaps one day we will become truly civilised and all enjoy the Bonobo's lifestyle!

  15. Has anyone ever been in love, than not in love. The feelings you have that are left over. I think this in a way reflects our fears of ourselves. As humans we have so many choices on how to deal with our lives. How to react when it doesn't go our way. Friendship, love , and caring are so needed when we have nothing. I learn so much, from kind caring people, but also , the respect we all need. I love you all, again, thanks for sharing. Allison....hugs to everyone today.

  16. At my last job, my two good friend co-workers and I found ourselves a lot of free time, and in talking I both derived and then touted my theory that all human beings belong to two groups. We humans are all a little bit of both, but we each lean a little more dominantly to one or the other, and it sounds like the primates in this story. All humans are either Meatheads or Hippies, and you can be both, but you know a meathead or you know a hippie.

  17. Lynne, Lynne, Lynne--
    Chimpanzees and bonobos are NOT monkeys! They are apes. Very different.

  18. I loved this article. Thanks, Lynne. As to the idea that the bonobos would be unable to protect themselves if under attack, my personal experience is that if you are loving, cooperative and compassionate, you attract the same into your life. Therefore, no need for defense mechanisms.
    Hugs, Marilyn

  19. "eridicate", "masterbate", and god knows what else, since I stopped reading comments.
    You guys need a spell checker. Use Firefox browser. It highlights your messes for you, so you don't look so illiterate. Hard to even pay attention to what you say when you misspell like that.

  20. Historically most words have been spelled many different ways with the evolvement of language.
    If I were to be more true to a words Creative meaning for me , perhaps I would be even more of a spelling deviate.
    Thanks Kal , for your emotional predilection and
    spelling ego preference. But you nor this years
    " DR. Spell Spin will totally control my personal relationship with words

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