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Rooting for the Apes

In the movie Planet of the Apes (1968), the chimp-archeologist Cornelius in quoting from the sacred scrolls of the apes:

Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

Those familiar with the the Planet of the Apes series know that the action moves back and forth between a distant future, when apes inherit the world, and a not-so-distant human Apocalypse, genetically engineered apes rising against the cruelty of their masters.

When I watched the latest reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), I surprised myself rooting for the apes. A casual search on the Internet convinced me that I was not an exception. Tired of human cynicism and decomposing ideals, the public was ready to embrace primate liberation as a cause worth the demise of humanity. The reaction is catalyzed by a subtle racial/political subtext.  The rising apes are perceived as racial stereotypes.The pandemonium is a cartoon of white fear. The uprising stands for the  emancipation of the third world.

Let’s go briefly over the movie. A young scientist, Will Rodman, works in a biotechnology lab. The research team is looking for a retro-viral drug to enhance mental capacity and cure brain disease. Rodman has a special interest in this work, as his father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The drug is tested on a female chimp named Bright Eyes, increasing her mental power. Without them knowing, Bright Eyes gives birth to a baby chimp who has inherited her almost human intelligence. As she perceives him to be in danger, Bright Eyes turns violent and is killed. The project is terminated and the chimps are ordered to be euthanized. Will takes the baby-chimp home, determined to continue the project by himself. His father calls the baby-chimp Caesar.

As Will continues to medicate Caesar with the mind enhancing drug, the chimp grows as a frustrated would-be human. For all reassurances, Caesar realises that he is  just a pet. The hysterical reaction of their obnoxious neighbour reinforces his doubts. Eventually, Caesar has a confrontation with the bad neighbour and ends up in a primate shelter. Here he discovers his own species. Caesar is disappointed by their stupidity and cruelty, but is more repelled by human insensitivity toward animals.

In the meanwhile, Will develops an improved version of the mind-enhancing drug. Caesar steals it and medicates his tribe. He organizes an escape. The rebel apes confront humans successfully on the Golden Gate Bridge and escape into the forest. Therewith the retrovirus created by Will turns lethal to humans and spreads through airlines. Man’s rule on earth comes to an end.

As Caesar is moving center-stage during the movie, the spectator begins to identify with his cause. It seems like there’s a deep self-hate in humanity feeding archetypal fantasies about hell and the Apocalypse. The retroviral pandemic at the end of the movie is received like an act of biblical justice. On the other hand, Caesar has been identified with liberation icons, like Mandela Gandhi, Malcolm X, even Obama. All these are beside the point. Caesar stands for Mao-zeDong.

Why Mao? After all Caesar is against unnecessary violence. However, Caesar is Mao, because he merges the struggle against the West and the dethronement of man, in one and the same cause.

Says Mao:

The life of dialectics is the continuous movement toward opposites. Mankind will also finally meet its doom. When the theologians talk about doomsday, they are pessimistic and terrify people. We say the end of mankind is something which will produce something more advanced than mankind. Mankind is still in its infancy…  In the future, animals will continue to develop… And can it be, moreover, that of all the monkeys only one species can evolve, and all the others are incapable of evolving?

This is exactly the point in the Planet of Apes. The movie is more than an allegory of racial/political liberation. It is Maoist dialectics. Toppling western imperialism is the first step in toppling humanity: “Can it be, moreover, that of all the monkeys only one species can evolve”? Forget class struggle, forget racism, forget Western dominance and Third World emancipation. The true oppressor  is humanity.

One can only understand the subtle chemistry of postmodern academics toward Mao. He walked the walk where they only talk the talk (killing means business). Google yields 82,600,000 results for “human race is a cancer of the earth”, and 38,700,000 results for “white race is the cancer of human history”. If humanity is cancer, the West is metastasis.  So, what is the point?

The point is that the West stands for the concept that a human being is defined by something which is universally true, rather than by culture and blood. I don’t mean that this has been an exclusive prerogative of the West, or that universal humanity has been historically embodied in it. My point is that the West has aimed for universality, and that anti-western sentiments are rooted in the absoluteness of culture and tribal identity.  When science and reason are denounced as forms of cultural imperialism, a process of infinite regression is set in motion. One ends up rooting for the apes.