Lessons come at us when we least expect them, particularly when they seem to be guided to you by an unseen hand. Why I was channel surfing on this day and stopped on this show, I will never know; but it has left me with a deeper understanding of the human condition.
See if you can decipher the meaning of this particular experience. Most are unable to do so. It has some profound implications for mankind.
In the summer of 1988, watching cable television, the world-renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall, stood talking to the camera from the remote jungles of Tanzania.
Behind her, amidst the lush vegetation, in an open compound of compacted dirt and flattened plants, was a troupe of chimpanzees leisurely at play and grooming one another.
The paternal leader of the tribe was a massive chimp that was a good head taller and 50 pounds heavier than the rest of the males.
Because of his huge size and his position on the central tree trunk that he rested upon, which also offered a 360-degree panoramic view of his domain, one could readily see that he was the boss and no one had better believe otherwise. Truly, he was king of all that he observed.
Yet, he was a gentle giant, playing with his many offspring, lovingly nuzzling his favorite wife, administering an authoritarian slap to a wayward young teenager that bordered almost on playfulness.
It was not necessary for him to bare his huge fangs, which could tear through flesh and break bones, to maintain control. It was understood by all that he and he alone was in charge. His reign was that of the benign benefactor to all of his subjects.
Peace and tranquility ran supreme within this close-knit group. Off camera, Jane Goodall explained all of this to the viewer and that she had observed this societal construct over many years.
As she spoke, the camera slowly panned back and forth over each member of the tribe, giving the viewer a true sense of his or her peaceful state.
The camera refocused on Ms. Goodall and she said to the audience that their diet was composed of grass shoots, insects, nuts and berries when they could find them, and occasionally small rodents.
She went on to say she and her team were planning to introduce to the chimpanzees a stalk of bananas, which were alien to this part of the jungle. For the next 20 minutes, as the cameras rolled, Ms. Goodall did not say a word, not one single word!
Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chimpanzees awaken at dawn, not to a black monolithic stone, but to a six-foot stalk of fresh bananas.
Wiping the sleep out of their eyes, they stare at the bananas in utter amazement; they do not know what to make of it. One by one, they slowly approach the stalk, extend a hand as if to touch it, and run swiftly away consumed by a fit of hysterical screeching.
Again and again, they repeat this exercise until there is only one left to come and render his judgment, the paternal leader himself.
With his usual regal bearing reduced to a humble craw he cautiously approaches, trying to look in control; but, on his animated face, the viewer can see confusion, and in his brown eyes, fear. You could almost hear him say, “What is this Thing?”
Slowly with a trembling hand, he reaches out, touches one of the bananas on the stalk, and, in a flash, pulls his hand back to his hairy chest.
After three or four of these repetitions, he is satisfied that the bananas will not bite him and poses no immediate danger, first to himself and lastly to his cowed subjects, who go into fits of screaming and bouncing up and down with each in and out motion of his hand and arm.
Finally, after a lot of trepidation, he breaks off one banana, holds it up to his face, and spends about thirty seconds smelling it from end to end while slowly rotating it in his palm with a watchful eye for any hidden teeth.
Satisfied that the banana is some kind of strange food, he bites off about a third of it, chews for a few seconds, and swallows the mouthful, skin and all. His eyes immediately light up with pleasure, like rockets exploding in the air at a July 4th picnic, and lets out a low grunt of satisfaction.
He quickly gobbles down the remains of the banana and reaches for another. This time, he finds that he can peel off the banana’s skin and eat the white fruit, which when eaten alone was ten times more delicious. The patriarch lets out a wild bellow of pleasure and satisfaction.
Immediately, every chimp quits bouncing up and down and makes a mad dash to get their share of this strange food. As the alpha chimp sees his troupe rushing in toward the food, he bares his massive fangs, throws back his head and bellows forth a tremendous scream of defiance that declares to the onrushing mob, “Step back! This is mine and mine alone!”
He punctuates his statement with a wide swing of his massive right arm, and knocks to the ground the entire first wave of charging monkeys. The chimps in the second wave trip over their felled comrades but keep rolling on the ground in order to avoid the rage of their leader.
They know that getting too close to the stalk will result in instant death. They all retreat to a safe distance from their deranged leader, and watch him devour one banana after another.
He eats bananas for hours. He eats so many bananas that his stomach becomes extended to the point that an observer would think he was pregnant.
He eats until he cannot eat any more, then he lays back on the stalk, which is still two thirds full, using it like a back rest and extends both of his huge arms out embracing the remaining bananas to protect them from his tribe.
The rest of the chimps watch with bated anticipation, waiting for the moment when they can make a rush for the food. Suddenly, a young male makes a frenzied dash for the fruit only to be knocked fifteen feet away into the dense underbrush.
The rest of the chimps can hear him scream as he nurses his broken left arm. With a grunt, the leader resumes his position on the stalk and glares into the crowd with utter defiance.
An hour later, his favorite wife crawls forward, dragging herself with her belly nearly touching the earth, her head and eyes looking at the ground submissively, and with her right hand extended beggingly above her head, approaches three or four feet at a time, pausing each time to see what her master’s reaction will be.
He snarls at her but allows her to continue to come forward. Eventually, she is prostrate next to him, and extends her right arm waiting for his response. The chimp compound is in a state of complete silence.
They all hold their collective breath waiting to see what he will do. Two minutes pass and then another three. Finally, with a heavy grunt, he breaks off one banana and gives it to her.
She gratefully grabs the banana and runs back to the circle of waiting chimps; and, in the mob of grabbing and groping hands, manages to secure a small piece of the fruit and swallows it. She immediately responds with a screech of pure delight as do the rest of the monkeys that have managed to secure some of the fruit.
All hell breaks loose in the troupe. The chimps make another mad dash toward the stalk. This time led by the monkeys that have already eaten a piece of the bananas.
The guardian leader instantly becomes a one monkey wrecking crew. He throws small chimps into the trees, knocks out males and females with one thunderous blow after another, stomps others into retreat, and quickly restores order to his community.
With his chest heaving from the exertion of fending off the attackers, he resumes his position of leaning back on the stalk, satisfied that no other monkey managed to steal his beloved prize.
To demonstrate that he is still in charge, he breaks off three bananas, forces them into his mouth, and swallows. You can tell by the look on his face that he is well past the point of enjoying them.
An hour or so later, his number one wife approaches again with his baby in her left arm and with her right hand and arm extended in begging submissiveness.
He gives the two of them a hard discerning stare, and finally with a sigh, gives her another banana, but this time allows her and the baby to consume the food by the stalk so the others cannot get any.
After she eats the banana, he sends both of them back to the circle of watching monkeys. He allows her and the baby to eat one and only one banana. He lies back on the stalk again, determined to defend it against any and all comers.
Minutes later, another one of his wives approaches, baby in arms, hand and arm extended in submission. He gives her a hard look, breaks off a banana, and allows them to eat. This is repeated four more times. He grows tired of this game and proceeds to thrash any other trespassers.
By now, only a handful of the tribe has eaten the exotic fruit, and they strut among the less fortunate who have not eaten any of the bananas with an air of superiority, which seems to infuriate their unfortunate brothers and sisters.
But, they dare not challenge the banana king who has decided that only the privileged few within his kingdom can eat this sacred fruit.
The lead chimp tries to eat all of the bananas, but even when he eats well past his full, he refuses to share the remaining bananas with his clan.
Instead, he lets them rot away to nothing. When he realizes that all of the bananas are gone, he goes back to being the benevolent patriarch that he was before the stalk was introduced to his band.
The picture fades to black, and the viewer hears Jane Goodall announce, “Six months later, we introduced a second stalk of bananas.”
Do I have to tell you what happened? Identical to what happened the first time, the actions of the monkeys were repeated again. Rather than share the stalk, the lead monkey let them all rot; and after they were gone, returned to his former self.
Now remember, we are talking about monkeys!
The last part of Jane Goodall’s documentary deals with another abhorrent behavior of this troupe. One day for no discernible reason, the troupe gathers together and makes a twenty-mile forced march through the jungle, crosses a river and makes a surprise attack on a neighboring group of chimps.
Ms. Goodall could not figure out how her tribe even knew of the existence of the other group. They never had any contact with each other.
Ms. Goodall’s band kills all of the chimps in the other group, even to the point of eating their babies. She has no explanation for this genocide.
After the carnage, the clan marches back, crosses the river, returns to their familiar home and resumes their lives in their usual lethargic mode, just as if nothing happened. It seems it was all in a day’s work.
And, remember, we are talking about monkeys!
Did you, by chance, catch the significance of this story, that for the past twenty years, I call The One Banana Monkey? This is perhaps the most important lesson that one can learn in their lifetime and is at the root of all the evil that mankind inflicts upon one another.
Ms. Goodall was appropriately correct in remaining silent as the film rolled on. The story reveals all that we need to know about a dark aspect of our true nature.
She knows chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Since the DNA and genetic makeup of humans and chimps have a difference of only 3%, this makes us more than just kissing cousins.
How could a monkey growing up in the wilds of Tanzania demonstrate such Gordon Gekko like traits? If you don’t remember Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s classic, Wall Street, he spoke the immortal words, “Greed is Good,” to a group of stockholders.
Ms. Goodall knew that no one had to teach our one banana monkey to be greedy. It was in his and all of the other chimps’ genetic code.
If it is in their genetic makeup and they are 97% biologically the same as we humans, then it stands to reason that the gene for excessive greed is alive and controlling our actions, just like the one banana monkey.
That is why she remained silent. She relied upon us, the viewer, to deduce what was really happening. She knew that we were not looking at monkeys; we were looking at a mirror image of ourselves, unfolding as the film rolled on. Keep in mind we are talking about monkeys! But we are really talking about people.
Now consider how much more intelligent the chimps are than us. They didn’t idolize and deify their leader like we do with our Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, and all of the other billionaires of the world. They saw very clearly that their leader had the bananas and they wanted them.
The only reason he had them and they didn’t, was because he was too strong to overthrow so they could claim the prize. Is it starting to sound familiar?
We all look at our billionaires and we want their money too. We cannot take it from them by force. They don’t have the physical strength to fend the masses off, but they have something much better.
They have the police, the laws, and the power of the government all of which are sworn to protect their fortunes. Are they really that much different than our monkey friend?
Look at their dollars as bananas. How many bananas does anyone really need? Can they possibly consume and enjoy all of them or do they let them rot away like our monkey.
Of course, they will argue that their money works to put people to work, builds progress for mankind, and besides, they give money to charitable causes every year.
They do give. I am not singling them out to be any better or worse than their contemporaries, but they never give enough money to eat into their substance. They essentially give a portion of the interest earned on the vast sums that they possess.
They never sit down and say, “This is how much money I need to maintain my lavish lifestyle for my lifetime, and I will put the rest to work improving the lot of mankind.”
Warren Buffet made a big show of establishing a foundation to distribute his wealth at his advanced age and I commend him for it.
But he is in his seventies. Why didn’t he do this when he was in his forties, fifties, or sixties? Was it so important to keep the bananas during his prime years to maintain his standing on the list of the super rich?
Think about this for a moment. The two hundred richest people in the world have more money than 3.5 billion people, most of which are not adequately housed, fed, or clothed. Or should I say more bananas than half of humanity.
I submit for consideration that something is wrong, something is very wrong. For every banana that they cherish, hold, eat or let rot, someone has no banana at all and will never get one.
I am reminded of a television show, that I saw in the fifties, called O’ Henry Tales of the West. Mr. O’Henry was a prolific writer of stories about the Old West. In the only episode that I can remember, it deals with how much land does a man need.
The story starts at daybreak with a white man standing in front of an Indian Chief with a shovel in his hand chomping at the bit to get on his way.
It seems that the Chief had promised him that he would be allowed to take title to as much land that he could cover on foot from dawn until nightfall, when he would return to his starting point.
The land grabber had only to take his shovel and dig a small hole every fifty paces to mark the boundaries of his newly acquired property. It was imperative that before dark, his last hole be dug next to his original starting point. If he could not return by the end of the day, he would receive nothing.
The Chief gave a starting nod and the man quickly dug his first hole and proceeded down the hill from where the Chief stood at a dead run, stopping every fifty paces to dig a marker hole.
Hour after hour, the man ran digging one hole after another. He quickly ran out of drinking water, discarded the empty canteen, and kept going forward, running and digging as he went.
He started to talk to himself, voicing out loud for none to hear but himself, how rich he was going to be. He made all kinds of elaborate plans on how he was going to spend his newly found wealth.
He sweated profusely and grabbed at his chest occasionally to soothe the burning around his heart. Overhead, buzzards circled patiently following his progress. He ignored them and pressed on.
Dusk had started to fall. He could just make out the Chief standing in the same spot atop the hill where he had left him in the early morning. He knew he must hurry or everything would be lost; and with his last bit of strength, crawled and dug his way up the hill, only to fall dead at the Chief’s feet still clutching the heavy shovel.
The Chief gave a dry smile and ordered two of his men to pick up the white man’s body and place it in a newly dug grave on the backside of the hill, next to the graves of another couple of hundred white men that had also failed the test.
With the digging man’s shovel in his hand, the Chief scooped up a shovel of dirt; and as he tossed the contents into the dead man’s face, looked at the camera and spoke these words to the viewing audience, “This is how much land a man truly needs.”
We have all heard the old adage, “How much money does a rich man want?” The answer is always the same, “He wants all of the money!” The old saying, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” was true yesterday, today and tomorrow. People say that it is American; it is capitalism; and it is good.
You have been taught all of your life that the acquisition of money will solve all of your problems and that capitalism is the best form of government.
No, I did not make a mistake with the word “government” because the business of America is business! The Bible teaches, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” We all know that it profits him nothing.
You are taught that capitalism created the American middle class. I submit for your consideration that the middle class was created by organized labor through their union movements, demanding fair and equitable pay for their services.
Yet today, most people believe the lie instead of the truth: Without the union movement, there would be no middle class, and our children and we of the working class would be working on the edge of starvation like most of the world’s population.
The most destructive human vice is greed. It is at the root of 95% of all of our problems and the problems of the world. No, Gordon Gekko, greed is not good; it is the worst thing that happens on this planet.
The Bible was rewritten to say that the love of money is the root of all evil. As if to say, you can have money without loving it. If you don’t believe anything, believe this: If you have money, you love it, and it will destroy you.
Money cannot make you happy. It will, every time without fail and with no exceptions, make you crazy, arrogant and insecure. You can see this if you are honest with yourself; but people with money never are.
Where does any religion teach that you are placed here on earth to make as much money as you can; and by so doing, you will secure your place in paradise?
Instead, the Christian Bible teaches that when Jesus was asked “How hard is it for a rich man to get into heaven,” he responded, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Then, of course, the rich men redefined what the word “needle” meant to accommodate their needs; and thereby allowed themselves access to heaven, by saying that the needle was a low entrance to a walled city that forced the camel to drop to its knees and crawl through, making it possible for a camel to get through the eye of a needle after all.
Consider the destructive power of greed. Cigarette manufacturers sell a product that they know will kill 300,000 plus people yearly in America alone. Greed.
Pharmaceutical companies price life-saving drugs beyond the reach of poor people and they die. The companies spend more money on advertising than they do on research and development. Greed.
Meat-packing houses import illegal workers and pay low wages in order to increase profits. Greed.
Practically every business in America has jobbed out its customer service department to a foreign country denying American workers a living. Greed.
Wall Street destroys the retirement income of an entire generation; and the taxpayer rewards them not with a jail sentence but with trillions of dollars in bailout money, thus allowing them the freedom to do it all over again. Greed.
We attack Iraq for its oil, claiming that they were involved in 9/11, and I hear Tom Brokaw, the news anchor, shout out on national television “We have now got our oil back!” Greed.
Companies drill water wells in small villages in Africa and charge the residents a dollar per gallon, all the while, knowing that one dollar is their total income for the day. Mothers are forced to choose between fresh water and parasite-infested river water. So, they drink from the river and their children die. Greed.
Drug cartels sell their poison worldwide killing millions. Greed.
A church builds a ten million dollar sanctuary while poor people are starving down the street. Greed.
Politicians pass bills that benefit the power elites at the expense of their constituents. Greed.
An insurance salesman lies to an elderly lady about her health insurance to make a sale. Greed.
A beautiful young woman marries an old man for his money. Greed.
The old man got his money by breaking every law on the books. Greed.
I could go on but I think I have made my point. We are all one banana monkeys. But there is a difference, the monkey does not have a religious or moral code to teach him that hoarding the bananas is wrong, and we do. We know better, the monkey doesn’t.
Under the capitalist system, resources are held in the hands of a few who need a base of poor people to capitalize on by converting this cheap labor into larger profits for themselves. For every billionaire, there are tens of thousands of people with nothing.
One man cannot be rich without many men being poor. Their possession of vast riches is a crime against humanity, yet we readily endorse their every move. It is because we have been taught that we can one day become rich too.
But, I have some bad news. If you are reading this and you are not now rich, you never will be. Most rich people did not work for their money, but inherited it. Long ago, I learned that hard work will make you a living, but it will not make you rich, no matter how hard you work.
I have known some very wealthy people. I have also known those, who were not born into money but were mentored by an already rich person, and were given the opportunity to participate through that relationship in the club of the power elites, not as full members but as wealthy lackeys of the elites.
If we are to survive as a species to see the 23rd century (that is two hundred years from now), we must rid ourselves of this paradigm of greed and destruction. The rich must have less in order for the poor to have more. It is immoral for 200 hundred rich men to have more money than half of the world. It can’t be justified!
The greatest sin, which is defined as harming others and not helping the helpless, is greed. The rich man lives by this code because he long ago cast out his guiding Soul and lives completely for Self.
Normally, when the guiding Soul leaves the Body, the flesh dies; these Soulless entities, driven by the evil force of the Self, live on anyhow.
They shutter their eyes to the reality that they too will die and live a life of hedonistic selfishness to the very end, and then they are shocked back into reality with the eternal death of their worthless Selfs.
Meanwhile, until that day of accountability, they wield havoc over all of humankind. And we, the people, worship them and their money as if they were gods. They must be taught, as well as you, that there is a better way.
Some would say that capitalism is woven into the very fabric of our being; there may be a better way but communism was tried and failed.
This argument is wrong in that it limits us to but two choices. There are other options. The Europeans seem to be doing a whole lot better than most with their blend of capitalism and socialism for one.
For those who think change is impossible, the next chapter is written especially for you.