Lessons And Analogies To Work Non-Human Bonobos Democracy

Lessons And Analogies To Work Non-Human Bonobos Democracy

Bonobos, also known as the forgotten Ape because of their small number and recent discovery, are a delight for the democratic imagination. Some primatologists believed bonobos were strange chimpanzees before the 1970s. This was because females ruled in this primate society.

Frans de Waal is a popular primatologist and writer who has contributed much to explaining the amazing lives of these peace-loving apes and how they are changing human evolution. Bonobos and other apes can show us reflections of ourselves, both the good and the bad.

Bonobos are unique among all apes in how they resolve day-to-day conflicts. Their society is full of personalities and high social standing. There are often disputes between or within groups. These conflicts can be defused by Bonobos who use quick bursts to have sex, mutual grooming and hugs and kisses. They also mimic the sounds that each other makes.

To find common ground with your opponent, you need to use gentle, intimate, and genuine methods. This is the bonobos way of saying it’s okay and to heal any emotional wounds caused by the dispute. This is not always the case, especially when there are rival groups. However, violence is an exception.


Today, peace is important to us. The discovery of bonobo offers hope that Homo sapiens doesn’t have naturally sadistic terrors. They can be controlled only by authority, the divine, or fear of the afterlife. Another close relative is the gorillas. They are also an inspiration. Although a large male can protect most small groups, he is more of a bodyguard than a despot. The only way that gorillas can make decisions is through cooperation between their sexes.

Baboons offer a counter to our brutish and vile inner nature. You’d be able to see the strongest individuals in a group of hamadryas and olive baboons. You might think they are the ones who call the shots, but they don’t. Baboons use a delicate method of collective decision-making. This requires sitting at the right place and waiting for a majority to emerge. This allows for more than one person to take the leadership role.

We now come to the chimpanzees. They are the most influential species in our understanding of the origins of human behaviour. They are patriarchal and hierarchical, always trying to rise in rank, and often shockingly violent. If the times are good and food is plentiful, they can be conciliatory, peaceful, and mellow. Chimps, like bonobos, try to heal emotional trauma after a fight. The group must work otherwise everyone’s life is at risk.

Bonobos And Gorillas

However, bonobos and gorillas, baboons, and chimpanzees don’t reflect our past. Frans de Waal, Virginia Morell and science journalist Virginia Morell both observe that these species have been evolving along with us since our common ancestor split. It’s not the same thing as looking back at them.

We can understand the behaviour of these species and can even see ourselves in them. We might wonder if we have always been able to choose between violence and peace. Our species is trying to help the former. Maybe the bonobos or other apes can inspire us to think differently.

Imagine if we stopped being violent towards each other. The violence committed by democrats in democracies online and in person, often among strangers, reduces or even eliminates our ability to live peacefully in our daily lives.

Let’s suppose there is a fight over parking spaces. It was there first. You had your blinder on to “claim” it. Then, the omfg no you-didn’t moron stole it. My research shows that most people want to punch the stranger in their face or throw away their car if they are treated this way.

It is difficult to find common ground between you and them. Stranger is the idea of you and the spot-thief sharing a hug, smooch, and a handshake. Then, go ahead and run your fingers through each other’s hair.

Replicate The Bonobos Behaviour

Because I don’t believe we can replicate the bonobos behaviour in a perfect way, I am playing to the absurd. Laurence Whitehead made a similar point. We shouldn’t confuse inspiration and replication. Instead, we should try to take inspiration from bonobos in order to improve our own practices and to strengthen today’s human democracy. It might be equally good to imagine rhesus monkeys with their insensitivity to inequality or spider monkeys with their patient, if they are not living wondrously just and happy lives.

Because peace is what keeps them together, these primates insist on avoiding violence. They thrive on it. This is important to us: Peace and social cohesion represent the legs on which democracies stand. Violence and social division are the opposite of what is desired by the Beetlejuice regimes: benevolent autoritarianism, which is a hated, but necessary, stabiliser for states in times of crisis.

It is important to remember that violence avoidance builds trust and confidence within the group as well as between groups. This is what bonobos excel at. We struggle to use words and care in our society, despite the fact that we still have guns, bombs, mines, and guns.

John Keane, a political theorist, once said that the future of democracy and its quality depend on our ability to trade violence for peace. We must be able make this exchange for the sake of democracy, from the everyday moments in the parking lot to the times when diplomacy is replaced by conflict.

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