The “Bizarre” Reality of Chimps and Humans and Male Aggression

I find myself deeply affected by yesterday’s DM that focused on the dark side, what Safina called the “bizarre” reality, that only chimpanzees and humans, among all ape species and most other species, succumb to male violence and aggression and hierarchical ladder climbing.

Sir David Attenborough narrates this video recording the disturbing scenes of a real chimpanzee territorial attack. Uploaded to YouTube by BBC Studios.

Says Safina:

Chimpanzees are obsessed with dominance and status within their group; we are obsessed with dominance and status with our group.  Chimpanzees oppress within their group; we oppress within our group.  Chimpanzee males may turn on their friends and beat their mates; human males may turn on their friends and beat their mates….When real trouble breaks out there seem to be no limits to the aggressiveness of chimpanzees.

In other words, sadism—even to one’s own—and the teaching of power-over (which requires of course power-under on the part of others) is unique to our two species.  Male chimps die as a rule much sooner than females due to wounds they encounter in battles.

Maskless, non-socially-distanced campaign rally for Donald Trump at the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday, June 20, 2020. Photo by Thru_the_Glass on Flickr.

What I call “climbing Jacob’s ladder” vs. dancing Sarah’s circle is, well, bizarre.  These seem to be elements of patriarchy along with what seems to be a direct link to the reptilian brain (“I win, you lose”).  Plus what Adrienne Rich warns us is a “fatalistic self-hatred.” 

One wonders, as you see thousands of people lining up without masks at a time when Covid 19 is on the rise to hear a very reptilian-brain speech from the current occupant of the white house, “fatalistic self-hatred” is at work. 

Or when an entire political party commits not to tackling climate change but to denying it–is that too a politics of fatalistic self-hatred and therefore of patriarchy?  If we destroy the planet as we know it, our common home, are we not committing self-hatred along with self- extinction? 

Thom Hartmann talks with Vyckie Garrison, mother of 7 children, and editor of a newsletter for the Christian Patriarchy / Quiverfull movement until she left the movement 3 years ago. She runs the Take Heart Project, a non-profit for other Christian Patriarchy/ Quiverfull “escapees”. Uploaded to YouTube by Thom Hartmann Program

Or when religions consider it their primary task to promote an all-male deity pictured as a punitive father God of fear and damnation promised in this life and the next?  And link this time and again with men’s apparent commandment to control women and their bodies at all cost?

The bonobo way, where women who see the world not primarily through the reptilian brain but through the mammal brain and through compassion and caring, oversee the culture–is that not a path humans can choose to go instead of the patriarchal way?  The bonobo DNA is also very close to our human DNA.

“Radical Therapist” Chris Hoff, PhD, LMFT, outlines five ways in which underlying patriarchy undermines men’s relationships and offers ideas on how men can undo patriarchy’s effects. Uploaded to YouTube by The Radical Therapist.

Safina stresses throughout his book on Becoming Wild that animal species are not just driven by their DNA.  Rather, culture and educating the young and wisdom from the elders also play a life and death role in the survival of these species

But I would maintain that this is where so much of the failure of our species is embedded today.  Education and religion and other layers to our culture (including law and agriculture, eating habits, politics, business and economics) are at a low point.  So many professions have sold their souls to the reptilian brain and the patriarchal consciousness. 

To be continued.


See Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace, pp. 240, 243.

See Matthew Fox, Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

Also see Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work.

Banner Image: “It’s only funny until you end up killing your friend at the shooting range. Husband with friend B., back in town for a visit. Hopefully friend is only playing dead.” Photo by Victoria Marinelli on Flickr.

What does it mean to you to learn that male aggression is a “bizarre” reality in nature and we, both males and females, can move beyond it?  What ways have you learned to move beyond it?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science 
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.


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3 thoughts on “The “Bizarre” Reality of Chimps and Humans and Male Aggression”

  1. Avatar

    Another insightful and true response. So much of men,s lives they are taught to be soldiers not spiritual warriors. A huge difference. A warrior knows their feminine and masculine and also spiritual sides, embraces it and as you say dances in Sara’s circle not Jacob,s ladder. And we have so much to learn from ingenious cultures from this wisdom. Thanks Matt ?

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    I don’t know what I’d do without these daily meditations. I so appreciate the gift you give to this world, Matt Fox.

  3. Avatar

    Always brilliant Matthew, ‘though today I was tempted to say “too much information”- the horrific Chimpanzee attack and cannibalism. But I acknowledge that looking at the origins of patriarchy does shed light on many of the messes that we are in today. And I do want to know why and how, please God.
    As if to juxtapose, next months Sierra Club magazine has a beautiful photo, on the cover, of a crab-eating Macaque, fingers held to his or her heart, looking wide-eyed at someone ahead. The brilliant caption says “We need to talk”. Tears are rolling down! And you are leading the way in that talking, thanks so much, Matthew.

    BTW thanks also for the super talk on angels on the Beyond the Veil summit on Tuesday

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