The Awkward Ape

I wonder how long it’s going to take us to catch up with ourselves, or even if we’ve got enough time left to get us there. We’ve come so far in such a short time we’re like cartoon characters running out of our clothes and leaving them behind, only in this case bits of our bodies have run off with the clothes and left behind a pile of tails and most of our brain.

A lot of us have brains that still remember, on some impossible to access circuitry that never got updated, the days when we were some kind of monkey man hybrid living in cowering, grunting tribes, getting eaten by dinosaurs. We’re a species that can’t survive outside the tribe – with a very few exceptions, and even they’d dwindle to zero if they had to organise removing a brain tumour or curing all but the most benign of infections with what they could find in a forest. Most of us round these parts are ‘lucky’ enough to live in tribes that – generally speaking – aren’t easy to leave. If they catch you trying to leave, they’ll usually try to drag you back, try to reprogram you, encourage you to play by the rules. Some of us have brains that remember when tribes were less forgiving, brains that can still pick up the subsonic vibrations from that great, hostile darkness in the heart of mankind. It doesn’t matter how loud you turn up the radio – we can still hear it.

We know that the social death is as much of a catastrophe as a physical death, and that there are times the former can lead to the latter much by the same mechanism as a well-placed curse. To shame ourselves, to embarrass ourselves, to publicly reveal ourselves to be socially inept, dithering dickheads, to appear useless or unattractive or stupid to the tribe – it can be terminal. You may not see it – but we do. The lips of the tribe shrivel from their teeth in a sneer of condemnation, rejection. The tribe doesn’t need a fool. Off with you, awkward ape – off into the night with your meal for one and your packet of fags, off to your flat to watch Netflix on your own while the tribe sings kumbaya and sleeps in a big huddle, all holding hands. Wither and die beneath your own personal raincloud while you listen to the endless party and lovefest that’s going on in the warm and well appointed cave. You schmuck.

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