In referring to Life on Earth in the last post, I could not help but recall the incredible scene in which David Attenborough confronts the mountain gorillas of Rwanda.
In one of the most amazing and beautiful scenes in television history, Attenborough reflects upon humanity and how we have unfairly characterised the gorilla as brutish:
“There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than with any other animal I know. Their sight, their hearing, their sense of smell are so similar to ours that they see the world in much the same way as we do. We live in the same sort of social groups with largely permanent family relationships. They walk around on the ground as we do, though they are immensely more powerful than we are. So if there were ever a possibility of escaping the human condition and living imaginatively in another creature’s world, it must be with the gorilla. The male is an enormously powerful creature but he only uses his strength when he is protecting his family and it is very rare that there is violence within the group. So it seems really very unfair that man should have chosen the gorilla to symbolise everything that is aggressive and violent, when that is the one thing that the gorilla is not — and that we are.”
There is a grandeur in this view of life and our relationship with nature – and a humility and reverence we all too often brush aside in the cause of efficient markets and personal enrichment.
Our debates, politics and discourse have become nasty, brutish and destructive.
We have forgotten what is at stake; and it is not just magnificent species such as the mountain gorilla.
We are at risk of losing that sense of who we really are; a species capable of both barbarity and genius, and whose only home is this planet.