1993 Pulitzer nominee Fables

Cloudy Public Image Has Primates Up in the Air

Mirthology column,
1st run Thursday 20 August 1992 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By Ben S. Pollock

When things get so bad you have to hire a public relations expert — indeed, have to raise the money, a lot of it, to retain one — you indeed are desperate.

We apes — monkeys, primates, whatever you want to call us — are that frustrated.

Indeed, that is our problem: What you call us.

Each of us species has a specific identity, such as chimpanzee, orangutan or gorilla. And, from a personal point of view, there is lowland gorilla, highland gorilla and my breed, midland gorilla.

We midlands are an easygoing set, but we’ve had enough racism, sexism and, from you people, humanism. It’s humiliating.

If I hear “Gorilla My Dreams,” “monkey’s uncle” or “aping” somebody’s mannerism one more time, I’ll just beat my breast all afternoon. How much pummeling can one creature take?

We’re all up the same tree. That’s why we put out a call for a consultant.

The first appointment was free. She said I first should speak for myself, for ourselves, and get this off my chest, so to speak. If that doesn’t work, to use a political line, then she’ll start shooting the ads in five minutes.

So here is my piece: Humans should have the sensitivity to refer to each ape by species. Of course, any individuality referred to after that would be greatly appreciated.

We want you humans to get to know us personally, see how big our sign language vocabulary is, how we can fashion crude tools out of rocks.

Yet, I know you readers are busy hunting and gathering; we all are. So until we can get together for a hearty dinner of shoots and bugs, I will be content if you see me as a midland gorilla, not any old gorilla, not any old ape, not any old monkey and not any old primate.

Speaking of primate, we know some of you people have problems with that term, since it refers to the theory of evolution. It doesn’t jibe with how you believe humanity came into begin, separate from the animals in general and not descended from the ape family in particular.

Believe me, we feel the same way about you.

I don’t mean anything petty by that, but I know exactly what you mean. Just because I like most humans doesn’t mean that I relish being related to them, or some of the other subgroups.

I could tell you stories about some of my — our? — interspecies cousins. They are called lowland gorillas for a reason.

Our P.R. consultant has proceeded to customize her standard marketing campaign of newspaper advertisements and broadcast public service announcements. She’s cutting out the school packets and reducing our bill!

This is because you people already are doing a fine job with your offspring. Not only do biology textbooks give our common names but also our Latin species classifications. Then you quiz the students rigorously.

We could implant politically correct knowledge better ourselves.

One part of the campaign will be to encourage more visits to the zoo. Come see that we apes relate to each other exactly like people do, but with absolutely no shame.

Lastly, we intend to take some initiative and bring the zoo directly to you — your offices and your neighborhoods — a “zoomobile.”

We love barbecues. Have you ever grilled fruit on skewers on the patio smoker? Delicious, anytime of the year. Since it may be dessert for you and our main course, we’ll eat slowly.

The mobile zoo project does have its limits. It will leave the baboons on the other side of the zoo fence and moat.

You’ve seen how nasty they can be. Be grateful that you don’t have to live near them.

We great apes know better than to bring baboons around. It could very well soil the reputation we’re trying to build.

You just have to draw the line somewhere.


Copyright 1992 Ben S. Pollock

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