I had added ‘Chimp Empire’ – a docuseries about chimps in Ngogo, Africa, to my Netflix list as something that called out to me. And I ended up watching it yesterday. It is a four-part series, each about forty-five minutes long. It is fascinating to watch – given my default inclination towards human predicament. When they first came to Ngogo – there was an advanced chimp society. And they dominated the forest – however, as their population grew, there were factions, and one section moved to the west -‘Westerners’ and the other remained in central Ngogo.

A couple of chimps grooming each other.

Chimps have a hierarchy in the sense that they have an alpha male, and males closest to the alpha male have higher status. Being an alpha male means you cannot show any weakness, as other male chimps are always looking to advance. And it is important to have allies. For example, when the pack makes a kill, who the alpha male shares the meat with is as important as who he does not share the meat with. The young males are always trying to show strength and make a play for Alpha Male’s position – it is in their nature to always get ahead in the pack. And the alpha male has to show them who is the boss continuously. And other males try to ingratiate themselves with the alpha male by grooming him or being close to him. Being an alpha male is not easy, but it has its perk – as in, he gets more opportunities to mate with females.

Females want to mate with males of a higher status, and the general purpose of females is to produce children and ensure they grow safely. Sometimes the females have to take the young ones away from other males as well in case they start to see the babies as a threat.

The docuseries follows both the Westerners and central packs. Westerners are a smaller group – hence females play a more significant role than just reproduction; they do patrols as well. And they are more united because they need everybody. In contrast, the Central pack is bigger, and there is a stricter hierarchy and a lot more inner conflicts and power plays. And, of course, Westerners make multiple attacks at the Central packs to expand their territory for food.

A pic with a family of chimps – dad, mum and baby chimp.

Now, let me come to the gist of the blog. While watching the dynamics between the chimps and the packs – I was starkly reminded of how we operate in our society even today. We still follow a model where we have an alpha male at the top of any organization, like a CEO/Chairman/founder/President/Prime minister/Queen/King etc. And then those closest to them have higher status. And overall, females still have the role of child bearer and carer. And if there is a shortage of men, then women take over men’s roles, like in the world wars. And we are still waging wars with each other over territories. And like Chimps, when we are fully satisfied, that is when we hunt more. If there are no problems in our lives, we like to go out and create more for fun. We are social creatures hence belonging to society is essential. And in the chimp society, there are one or two chimps who leave the tribe to join another one because that’s how the breeds stay healthy and breed. And similarly, we have individuals who leave their homes to go to a foreign land, encouraging diversity and inclusion.

My question to you is – have we really evolved, or are we just imitating our primal instincts from our chimp days? What does evolution even mean – have we explored that? What will society look like where there is no alpha? Where the roles are not based on gender? When are we not constantly fighting for power and survival? Maybe one of these days, we will wake up and truly evolve.

Where are you on the evolution spectrum?

Leave a Reply