Monkey Day 2014, a great day for monkeys and other primates!

Hanuman_Mistakes_the_Sun_for_a_FruitThis is an auspicious moment to honor Hanuman the Indian monkey god.  He excels in the virtues of intelligence, courage, and agility.  Son of Siva, god-son of Vayu, as an infant he mistook the sun for a fruit and chased after it voraciously.  He suffered for his error but gained the power of flight.

An excellent source volume is Hanuman: The Devotion and Power of the Monkey God (2010) by Sri Krishna Das.

A terrific cartoon, complete with talking animal characters (including a cameo from Bambi) and demon women warriors, is Hanuman.  It is in Hindi, but we English speakers ought not expect to be spoon-fed cultural comprehension.

Chimps are apes, not monkeys, but Monkey Day is a good time to honor them as well.

Significant progress in human evolution was made in 2013 when the National Institute of Health (NIH) moved to reduce research which uses chimpanzees as test subjects.  This follows the 2002 the Chimpanzee Health Improvement,450px-Kibale_chimp Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act.

Chimp Haven is sanctuary for apes released from laboratory tyranny.  An astonishing release video demonstrates clearly the meaning of this change.  Possibly the human species is growing up.

The Great Ape Project, founded by philosopher Peter Singer, is dedicated to defending the rights of non-human primates.

The struggle continues as on 12.04.2014 the New York appeals court ruled that chimps do not have human rights protections.  The suit was brought on behalf of Tommy, a chimp held in captivity in NY.  I am confident that these legal efforts in defense of apes will grow.

At issue in this debate is the definition and value of personhood.  At a time when corporations are deemed to have constitutional human rights but apes do not, we have cause for reflection on our social values.

Kant argued that animals do not have equivalent moral status to humans because;

“The fact that the human being can have the representation “I” raises him infinitely above all the other beings on earth. By this he is a person….that is, a being altogether different in rank and dignity from things, such as irrational animals, with which one may deal and dispose at one’s discretion.” (1978, Lectures on Anthropology).

Even if we grant Kant’s conception of personhood as self-awareness, the philosophical and scientific animal consciousness demonstrates an increasing difficulty in separating humans from other animals: See Animal Consciousness.

I think that along with self-awareness comes doubt which enables us to question our own beliefs.  A powerful expression of human consciousness will be to call our beliefs about animals into question and extend to them the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s extend the golden rule to our bestial kindred, the 8099406232_383e5e3d91apes and monkeys.

Most of all, take this day to appreciate and value monkeys!

I’ll celebrate with banana cake and reading Hanuman stories and at least one Curious George book.

Happy monkey day!


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