Hope & the Summer of Anger

I’ve had this quotation from primatologist Frans deWaal in my head for a long time. Sadly, I think it’s relevant now for life in the United States:

“Humans have something of the bonobo and the chimpanzee in them, which makes them bipolar in character. Most of the time, actually, we like to have a peaceful relationship with everybody around us. But at the same time we can be aroused to a point, under certain circumstances – either by political leaders, or by an invasion, or by some traumatic event – that we start killing, and not killing on a small scale like chimpanzees do, but genocide… When we are bad, we are worse than any primate that I know. And when we are good, we are better and more altruistic than any primate that I know. ” — Frans de Waal, primatologist (source)

The two pieces of this passage that mean the most to me are that: (1) peaceful relations are our default preference, and (2) mass acts of violence require being goaded or aroused by some external push factor. 

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