What Politicians Can Learn From Primate Social Structures

When a presidential candidate has quotes attributed to him like “You know, it doesn’t really matter what

[the media] writes as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” and “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” or this gem “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever. ” it might be time to rethink how we choose our political candidates. Indeed perhaps our whole political structure.

Most of our thinking around how human social structures work comes from our observations of primate social order. Work from primatologists often paint the male as the primary driver of primate society and use these observations as an analog to human social structures. One of the most problematic issues about these observations are they paint a male-oriented explanation for the evolution of human culture and provide a scientific basis for patriarchy.

Most of these observation are based on the great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. But there is another primate that can perhaps shed more light on how humans organize. These apes can also provide evidence that females and traits generally associated with the females are actually the main drivers of group evolution.

Bonobos are a class of great ape not generally well know compared to their more famous cousins, the chimpanzee. Genetically speaking, bonobos are extremely close to humans. Further, they are widely regarded as one of the most intelligent of the great apes showing the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror, communicate with geometric symbols and even speak. And while they look like chimps, they differ greatly. For instance, they are less violent than chimps which have a tendency to murder, make war and beat female chimps.

In many respects the bonobo is closer to humans than any other primate. What might be even more interesting is the central role the female plays in bonobo culture. So what can our political system and societal structure learn from these apes?

Females stick together

While most primate social structures center around the male (and there is even some evidence that puts that assumption into question.), bonobos tend to organize around the female. In certain instances the females actually work together to team up against aggressive males. What’s more, the entire structure of bonobo culture is based on female leadership – the bonobo mothers introducing their young into their culture.

What this shows is that females can, and should, stick together. Especially in the face of extreme misogyny.

Females are the innovators

While most theories hold that males were responsible for creating tools and innovating, there is evidence that suggests that females are actually the innovators in society. Because bonobos (and most great apes for that matter) spend so much time with their mothers, it is essentially up to them to teach their young how to use tools. Additionally, it’s been shown that females that leave their troop often bring the culture they learned with them to other groups.

As human society progresses we’ll have to face and innovate around more and more difficult challenges. And if primates are any indication, it will be the women who develop the tools we need to survive.  

Sharing is caring

Bonobos love sharing just about everything. Researchers have witnessed bonobos sharing food with other members of their group. And they continue to share well into adulthood. This is in stark contrast to chimps which tend to share more when they’re young, losing their willingness to do so as they grow older.  

It’s important to remember that sharing prosperity with all members of a society is not only the right thing to do but helps strengthen our communities.

In a political climate dominated by hatred, woman bashing and misogynist remarks made off hand, it may be time to alter our thinking about how human culture arose. It may be time to rethink who we choose to lead us and finally elect our first female president.  

By | 2017-06-20T03:23:46+00:00 October 13th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments