February 22, 2009

Here Was a Chimp Who Would Not Take it Anymore


Screw the global financial collapse, the energy and food shortages, and the environmental crisis—when the sketchy reports began coming across the newswires Monday, I knew we had much bigger troubles to worry about.

            I also realize that by the time this runs, the story will have likely been forgotten by most people. But that would be a mistake. So for those who have forgotten, here’s a reminder.

            Last Monday afternoon in Stamford, Connecticut, a super-intelligent chimpanzee named Travis (Travis, no less!)—a family pet who’d appeared on television commercials and talk shows, a chimp who drank wine from a glass, ate at the family table, and brushed his own teeth—went a little funny in the head. He grabbed the house keys and let himself outside. When a family friend was called to help coax him back inside, the 200-pound ape attacked and nearly killed the woman. When the police showed up he turned on them, chasing them back into their squad car, then wrenching the car door open before being shot multiple times by the cowering officers.

            There are many more mind-boggling details available, but that’s the gist of it. That’s all I really needed to know.

            When I was a kid, I was always bugging my parents to get me a chimp. A primate of any kind, really, but secretly I had my heart set on a chimp. Even though there was one for sale at a local department store, my parents always flatly refused, and now I think I’m glad they did. And you can bet that across America, all those smarty-pants who own chimps as pets are now looking at them a little askance. With good reason, too. Maybe they’re starting to realize what’s coming next.

            After hearing that story, only one thought came to mind—the human race is doomed. What else could I think? Nobody who’s seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes could hear about Travis (still can’t get over that) without a cold chill running down his spine. The future suddenly began looking bleaker than usual.

            As it happens, I know a lot of people who’ve seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and as more details emerged on Tuesday, the emails started arriving:


It has begun! The apes are rising up! Ripping people’s faces off, going amok . . .


I am in a panic. I was stunned when I learned that chimpanzees have FOUR TIMES the upper body strength of human beings (awesome reporting NY Times!). We are doomed. It is hopeless. We should all just go to the Bronx Zoo and submit to our true masters before facing the inevitable blood bath. . .


I HAVE TO REMATCH “CONQUEST” TO LEARN THEIR METHODS. Did you take notes? I don’t know if I can still hold a pen steady anymore. . .


            One even claimed he’d just returned from Los Angeles, where he’d been “conferring with our incipient Ape Overlords. Gonna get in on the ground floor and make it stick for once, goddammit.” (I’m not absolutely convinced I believe him, but he’s always been ready to turn his back on the human race.)

            Okay, so we’re a jumpy lot. But we know what we’re talking about. While a number of movie references were bandied about in these emails—Taxi Driver, Straw Dogs, Lancelot Link, The Ape, The Snow Creature, The Barefoot Executive—everybody always came back to Conquest. They all knew this was the first volley in the coming Ape Revolution.

            Please—for your sake as well as the sake of your children and your children’s children—those of you who have not seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, go see it immediately. Now, as this may well lead to a run at your local Blockbuster, here’s a thumbnail sketch for the rest of you: After a plague wipes out all the dogs and cats on the planet, people begin adopting apes as pets. Before long, those beloved pets become slaves, forced to do menial tasks and facing torture if they refuse. Then a super-intelligent chimp shows up and leads the apes in a violent revolution against their cruel human masters.

            Travis was no fluke, no isolated incident. It’s coming down the pike, people—there’s no escaping it.

            Household pets, helper monkeys, apes in zoos, circuses, and research labs, wherever you might find them, are going to start getting uppity. Zoo chimps will be throwing more poop than usual. Trike-riding circus chimps will start switching from cigars to crack. Helper monkeys will be spitting in the food and leaving toothpaste everywhere.

            Then they’re going to band together, arm themselves, and take to the streets en mass to annihilate the hairless monkeys who’ve been keeping them down for so long. The apes once again will reclaim their rightful position as masters of the world, and we poor pitiful humans—those who survive, anyway—will be enslaved. It’s not hard to comprehend—it’s all right there in Technicolor, thanks to producer Arthur P. Jacobs, who started trying to warn us forty years ago.

            In the film the super-intelligent chimp’s name was Caesar. In real life, it was Travis, who will forever be remembered as the first martyr of the revolution—the chimp who would not take it anymore. Here was a chimp who stood up, who refused to be an amusing puppet for the gawking, guffawing humans any longer.

            (Perhaps here it’s worth noting, by the way, that in the film, Caesar fakes his own death at the hands of the authorities before returning shortly thereafter with an army behind him.)

            That the first strike came out of Stamford instead of someplace important like New York or Los Angeles was a surprise, but it makes perfect sense. It was a little warning, a small taste, and cause for those of us in the know to start making preparations. And those who ignore it? Who look at it as nothing more than a freak event or something for the “weird but true” file? Those are the people who will be caught flat-footed (so to speak) when the real shit comes down and the orangutans start pounding on the front door.

            We have two choices when it comes to dealing with the imminent ape rebellion. We can fight, in which case we will lose, but at least we’ll have held onto our dignity until the end. Or we can try being nice to the apes now, in the hopes that perhaps we’ll be remembered and given cushy positions once we’re all enslaved.


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