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« A Tale of Two Quagmires | Main | Michael Winship: The Afghan Ambush »

Michael Winship: A Jane Goodall Thanksgiving

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

"A Jane Goodall Thanksgiving"
By Michael Winship

Give thanks. Because this isn’t one of those Thanksgiving lists of things for which we should be grateful -- although health, family, friends, laughter, etc., would certainly all be on mine.

And Jane Goodall.

Yes, that Jane Goodall, the woman we all grew up with watching those National Geographic specials on TV as she communed with the chimpanzees of Tanzania’s Gombe National Park in East Africa. Everyone I know seems especially to remember those scenes of chimps ingeniously utilizing straw and blades of grass to poke around in mounds hunting for termites, proof that they know how to make and use tools. I still have trouble opening a can of tuna.

Goodall was interviewed by my colleague Bill Moyers for this week’s edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS. She began her work in Africa in 1960 at the age of 26, spurred by the encouragement of her English mother and the great anthropologist Louis Leakey, as well as the African adventure books she read as a child. “I was in love with Tarzan,” she told Moyers. “I was so jealous of that wimpy Jane. I knew I would have been a better mate for Tarzan.”

I’m especially thankful to Jane Goodall after reading the passage in Sarah Palin’s GOING ROGUE in which the erstwhile vice presidential candidate and Governor of Alaska writes that she doesn’t “believe in the theory that human beings -- thinking, loving beings -- originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees.”

She could learn a thing or two from the chimps. Goodall sees our affinity with them as like “the bond between mother and child, which really for us and chimps and other primates is the root of all the expressions of social behavior you can sort of see mirrored in the mother/child relationship.”

But chimpanzees can be violent, too, and Goodall says, “Some people have reached the conclusion that war and violence is inevitable in ourselves. I reach the conclusion that I do believe we have brought aggressive tendencies with us through our long human evolutionary past. I mean, you can't look around the world and not realize that we can be, and often are, extremely brutal and aggressive.”

But, she adds, “Equally, we have inherited tendencies of love, compassion, and altruism, because they're there in the chimp. So, we've brought those with us. So, it's like each one of us has this dark side. And a more noble side. And I guess it's up to each one of us to push one down and develop the other.”

Jane Goodall has never seen a conflict between religion and evolution. “I don't think that faith, whatever you're being faithful about, really can be scientifically explained,” she said. “And I don't want to explain this whole life business. Truth, science. There's so much mystery. There's so much awe.

“I mean, what is it that makes the chimpanzees do these spectacular displays, rain dances -- I call them waterfall dances. At the foot of this waterfall, [they] sit in the spray and watch the water that's always coming and always going and always there. It's wonder. It's awe. And if they had the same kind of language that we have, I suspect that [they would turn it] into-- some kind of animistic religion.”

In 1986, after two and a half decades of quiet research in the African forest, Goodall’s career took a dramatic turn at a conference of scientists studying chimpanzees. During a session on conservation, she said that it was “shocking” to learn that across Africa, because of deforestation, the explosion of human population and commercial hunting of animals for food, the chimpanzee population had “plummeted from somewhere between one and two million at the turn of the last century to, at that time, about 400,000. So I came out – I couldn’t go back to that old, beautiful, wonderful life.”

She now spends more than 300 days out of the year traveling, speaking out, rallying people to see ourselves as caretakers of the natural world, and inspiring us with word that all is not yet lost. Her Jane Goodall Institute works ceaselessly for the worldwide protection of habitat, and her program “Roots and Shoots” now has chapters in 114 countries, working to make young people more environmentally aware. “I could kill myself trying to save chimps and forests,” she said to Bill Moyers. “But if we’re not raising new generations to be better stewards than we’ve been, then we might as well give up.”

The worldwide chimp population is down to fewer than 300,000 now, spread across isolated fragments of forest, Goodall says, in 21 African nations. Moyers asked, what do we lose if the last chimp goes? “We lose one window into learning about our long course of evolution,” she replied.

“I’ve spent so long looking into these minds that are fascinating, because they’re so like us. And yet they’re in another world. And I think the magic is, I will never know what they’re thinking… And so, it’s like elephants and gorillas, and all the different animals that we are pushing toward extinction…

“There's a saying, ‘We haven't inherited this planet from our parents, we've borrowed it from our children.’ When you borrow, you plan to pay back. We've been stealing and stealing and stealing. And it's about time we got together and started paying back.”

That’s as good a Thanksgiving wish as I can imagine.


Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

Ms. Lauter wrote, in part, "I believe the same brain types can be found in all animals, and that an important rule that is followed among wild animals is that incompatible brain types must never be forced to live and work together."

With all due respect, this is NOT "new" information, anymore than Amish all of a sudden are classified as "organic farmers".

Social engineering has been very pro "consumer".

"Producers" and "consumers" are incompatible brain types with irreconciable differences.

To micro-categorize "consumers" does even more damage to the society "producers" have created and will create again.

But it is very much a "just war" period of decision making...no way around it.

I also call the "producers" by another name - Olympic Labor.

The irrational hatred of certain brain types towards Olympic Labor

that currently expresses itself as a war over the "wages" that "consumers" want to pay "labor"

is no longer tolerable, I agree. After having spent 7 hours in a wild mix of "travelors" penned up in an airport lock down, I found it entertaining to classify a human being into a function of the bone marrow's immune system cells....amazing how, universally, the cancerous-ACTING "cells" were easily identified and efficiently neutralized without a lot of yaddayadda....perhaps there is less standing in the way of red and white blood cells doing the right thing than "science" wishes there was...?

My research in human neuroscience suggests that there are three principal brain types created by prenatal hormones (over and above what genetics dictate) that shape individuals for living in different kinds of groups – whether democratic or hierarchical, peaceful or warlike.

As anyone knows who has struggled to work with one committee or another, WHO is in a group goes a long way toward determining WHAT the group is like – Cooperative? Combative? Effective? Wheel-spinning? Achieving? A showcase for showoffs? All such differences in individuals and groups can be easily described in terms of brain types.

I believe the same brain types can be found in all animals, and that an important rule that is followed among wild animals is that incompatible brain types must never be forced to live and work together. In the chimps that Jane Goodall studies, as with humans, I believe that incompatible brain types ARE being forced together by situations beyond their control, and the result speaks to the crucial importance of matching brain types to group makeup -- unhappiness for many individuals, chronic stress leading to health problems including immune function, and physical violence.

The signs of stress in a population are no different for humans as for other animals, and we need to recognize them when we see them. Both the Goodall chimps and the bonobos studied by Franz de Waal can tell us things about ourselves, all right, but only if we recognize that all large primates on the planet are impacted by the same pressure-cooker environment that we have made for ourselves, and their suffering (personal as well as sociological) is the natural result of breaking the same neurobiological rules that govern us all.

Bill, Please do not retire.

If you believe man has caused the earth to over heat in a few hundred years, that may explain the idea that we can turn the faucet of fossile folley off, & we will all happily ever after.

Billy Bob Florida

You're missing the point of having a "higher" brain than the chimps, Billy Bob.

Since YOU won't be around when the oil is gone, a NORMAL minded human being might start looking at other options for "energy".

The 1st prime-mort-eal bubble said to the 2nd, "Think I'll go out & play!" & the 2nd said, "Hey, you ain't no chimp, chump!" "Besides, yesterday you were going to be a dina-soar\bird--what ever that is."

Lets see--study mankind by spending a life time in the jungle with chimps--if that makes sence to you then you probably believed Made-off could earn you 17% when the best of the rest could only manage 1.7%! (than is one point seven)

If you believe man has caused the earth to over heat in a few hundred years, that may explain the idea that we can turn the faucet of fossile folley off, & we will all happily ever after.

Billy Bob Florida

During my formal years in Sheffield England during world war two I suffered the Blitz, I suffered the abject terror of bombs and a large city ablaze. I watched in horror fairmen just dropping down in the flames due to exhaustion and it had a profound affect on me the rest of my life.

War is a man made tragedy, it is a racket to line a few peoples pockets at the expense of rest of us. Nobody in the USA seems to question the right of us to build as many nuclear or hydrogen bombs but we have some devine right to forbid others. How is it possible for the so-called UN security council to pass a decree that Iraq should not have weapons to defend themselves, but they did and sent in inspectors to make sure.

We then somehow connected the 911 fiasco with Iraq and invaded that country with tragic results, millions dead and the country in ruins, precious articles dating back 1000s of years destroyed, and for what.

The great war machine rolls on across afghanistan and into Pakistan with what aim, with what earthly purpose, looking for Osama Bin Laden perhaps or was he some convenient figment of somebody's imagination.

Every time I see the destruction being perpetrated by our troops on these poor people I think back to my young days and the senseless butchery in the name of some madmans craving.

Time for the people to demand our troops are brought home and stop this immoral act in the name of defense, or some other lie.

I am thankful to Grady and Gladdie for the use of their little shotgun house, and for the ramp Gladdie had built.

Just looking at Jane Goodall I'd say she's only a celebrity. But then you think of her choices, somewhat better than most; better than my enlisting in the Merchant Marine at 26. I almost became an animal, like so many working people do. If you want to think and choose, don't volunteer and don't enlist. Demand something compatible with your personhood. (I wish the government would offer people some constructive tasks, not "jabs" as President Obama calls working. If you have lost your predatory "jab", be glad on your unemployment. Take that opportunity to reflect and decide what kind of world to build.

That dang Bill Moyers cut Jane off before she could explain that the occupation of Afghanistan is a "sentient monkey super-collider" operated for oligarchic profit. (President Obedient has been unable to placate the Overlords with compromises. The economic sine wave continues as life is further devalued. We and Barack were probably naive. Give them a bailout and they'll take it all.)

I agree with Jane that Chimpanzees are people. We didn't inherit anything from them because they branched off from a common evolutionary tree millions of years ago. In that time there were many varieties of people who don't exist now. I don't know if other apes could be classified as people, but chimps certainly are the co-proprietors of this planet. There were some simple-living human beings but they're about eradicated. Jane often comments how magical it would be if we could find Bigfoot alive. She hopes for Bigfoot. Does that sound silly? I hope for Bigfoot too. That is part of the mystery of hoping the planet survives with people, against the odds.

One thing I think Jane mistaken about is that corporations will help save the planet. Even she is deluded by the sources of her funding. That's a profoundly sad thing, an impairment she shares with Moyers.

I'm glad to be off the intubation and walker and catheter and out of the hospital. By Spring I'll be back on my bike and give the mobility scooter away. Some medical practitioners are kind, and I thank that tiny minority for the extended quality of life they have given me. I will use this time to give our planet an improved quality of life. (Only 17 more days to work for "the Man." Turn me loose! Retirement HO!)

Here you go Mary.

The Old Wisdom by Jane Goodall

When the night wind makes the pine trees creak
And the pale clouds glide across the dark sky,
Go out my child, go out and seek
Your soul: The Eternal I.

For all the grasses rustling at your feet
And every flaming star that glitters high
Above you, close up and meet
In you: The Eternal I.

Yes, my child, go out into the world; walk slow
And silent, comprehending all, and by and by
Your soul, the Universe, will know
Itself: the Eternal I.

Would it be possible to send to me the poem Bill Moyers read by Jane Goodall on the Journal, Nov. 27?
I would like to include it with my Christmas cards.
Thank you much.

Nice post Mr. Trappman. I grew up in the '60's reaching the age of 13 in 1970. Los Angeles was an exciting place to be a kid at that time. So much was happening and it was all linked by this hunger for a new way to look at things. Of course when you're a kid everything is new to you. As I began to form opinions about the world I was greatly influenced by the popular culture of that time. When the Beatles sang 'All You Need Is Love' I took it to heart. The anti-war movement was simply the right thing to do. Black people were oppressed and that was simply wrong. These ideas were woven into my being and anchored my worldview. Then many of the people who actually did all this, marched against the war, embraced the whole peace and love thing, began to turn their backs on these ideals. It's as though the '60's were some sort of youthful fling that while fun, was not what grown-ups did. So most of these folks went back to the old way of thinking and chased the mighty dollar. The 70's became the 'Me' decade and it just got worse from there. All you need is cash.

Today, those same people are tired and depressed. Illegal drugs were replaced by perscription drugs. Instead of getting out of the rat-race the rats were left eating dust and wondering what sped by them. The idea of comfortable middle-class became a loser's lifestyle and only riches could make one truly happy. But the rich don't look happy, do they? They look tired and depressed. Lives seem empty, empty because they are just that. There is a great deal of searching. What was lost? Perhaps it's time to go up in the attic and dust off those old beads, to get out those old posters you rolled up so long ago. Maybe during the wild and crazy '60's you were on to something, something you tossed aside because you 'grew up'. Woodstock seems a million light-years away, but maybe it isn't. We've just got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Ever since I can remember, I loved the arts and sciences. Art became the way that I described my understandings. My parents found my interests extremely disturbing. They felt compelled to attack my enthusiasm. The love of science and art were seen as a weakness. They wanted me to embrace some course which targeted financial success. Because of my interests I was denied a higher education and any financial assistance.

Geek, nerd, bunny hugger—we have terms for people who are in love with something other than greed. Sometimes geeks luck out and accrue fortunes for a technological advancement, but mostly they expend their efforts because technology attracts them. Nerds, folks who are in love with one of the sciences, they too are often relegated to positions away from the greed economy within the educational community.

The people who have a love affair with natural history and the protection of the environment, the bunny huggers, are socially minimized as well. Anything which gets in the way of financial gain and social power is seen as useless.

Health care, which traditionally was a calling, a passion, has become the playing field of the greedy. Capitalists discovered that they could use doctors, nurses, and all the others folks drawn to the profession to make scads of money. Pharmaceutical companies found that the medical profession’s reliance on drugs was big bucks. The profession was captured by the truly greedy, sharks who didn’t care at all about the health of patients.

Culture describes the values of a society. America is a culture of greed. Production and the people behind it are meaningless to that focus. The culture of greed prefers slavery. The thinkers, philosophers, scientists, teachers, healers, communicators, workers, they are only tools for those whose sole focus is financial gain.

The destruction of the quality of life for the majority of the population is of little consequence to the truly greedy. There is never enough, there is never satisfaction, there is only want. Their focus is so narrow that the destruction of the very environment that they are dependant upon is a blind spot. The love of natural history and the nature of this planet is a blind spot. The love of humanity is a blind spot.

The greedy who came to these shores from distant lands saw the American Indians as a problem. We know how that turned out. They viewed slave labor as an absolute necessity. It took a national blood bath to wrest slavery from them. Wage slavery was their next answer.

All along this bumpy road, good, courageous Americans struggled against those of absolute greed. We are again engaged in that struggle. The greedy have everything on their side. Technology, the communications industry, the economy, and many of the best minds that money can buy are brought to bare against the population at large. The rest of us have love, a passion for ideas, and the world around us. The risk is high, it’s our very existence and our planet which is at stake, not to mention our quality of life.

Wonderful insights into our behavior offerd by Ms. Goodall. Her comments reinforce some of the thoughts suggested by Robert Wright, another author who has been a guest on the Journal. We have evolved along with the rest of the planet and it does not need to threatened our spiritual beliefs. I am thankful for the wonderful guests that share their insights on the Journal.

"In wildness is the preservation of nature." Thoreau

In the west the wild mustangs are being eradicated by the United States Government or the Bureau of Land Management because they compete directly with the blood crop or cattle industry, the bloody beef. These horses need our help too. But what can One do? It is very difficult to fight city hall, be it locally or federally, but we can all choose what we eat. To help the wild mustangs of the west, to preserve nature, the wild west, please don't eat beef.

With my love, thank you Jane , and Bill, and Michael for the work your doing, bringing to light or truth again the problems and issues we must all face together, as One. In that unity, that truth of Oneness, equality, is the solution or freedom of us all.

Happy Thanksgiving,

=
MJA

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