It’s an instinct that runs in our ancestral genes. I call it the “the highest monkey syndrome”. It relates to pecking orders, and all societies have them – even insects. People often attempt to raise their own status in their peer’s eyes as well as their own by putting down other monkeys in the tree. The higher you go, the more they try to pull you down. No one monkey can stand to see another higher than them, except those that have given up. And even they tend to rant and rave about the monkeys who have moved on up. It goes against survival instinct, which has deep roots in the desire to control. After all, who are you if you can’t control everything around you? You are powerless. Everyone wants total dominion, even if it means yanking another monkey down. Everyone wants to be the highest monkey in the tree.
When they can’t do shit they sling shit. Ever watch monkeys in a zoo, or in the wild? It’s a basic social instinct, part of our animal nature. As such it is base and coarse. But you see it on every level – the scramble for ‘power’, meaning control. From politics, church, and families. Who’s gonna be “boss” (the highest monkey on the tree) – and who is going to see about that. And when one monkey can get two or more to agree with him – that another monkey is higher than them – they gang together, attacking him any way they can so they can feel better about themselves.
What you can take comfort in is if monkeys are talking about you – even behind your back – you got their attention. You made your mental ‘mark’ on them. They noticed you – at least enough to keep on talking about you while you were gone. That in itself is an accomplishment. It’s something to remember when the other monkeys are talking about you, no matter what “they” say.
“The highest monkey in the tree.” With seven billion plus, it’s kind of hard to do. No one can ‘dominate’ the tree, not anymore – and if you do? Trust me: the rest will work hard and long examining you, trying to bring you down. And the higher you go the more they will look – not out of admiration, but in an effort to bring you down.
Here’s an example I noticed one time:
A lady worked on the factory floor – a menial job, hard labor. She was also attempting to better her situation by going to night school to become a nurse, and I encouraged her. I’m all into doing that. After all, I did it myself, putting myself through night school and working full time days – or, when I was in premed, the other way around: working all night so I could attend the university classes. I encouraged her – and anyone! – to go on, make the effort, get an education . . . because it’s well worth it.
And then the other monkeys began attacking her.
“You’re tryin’ to make yourself BETTER than us!” they cry and exclaim. “You THINK you’re better than us!” And so they made her job harder. They were afraid she would escape the tree they were on – one of hard labor, menial work, and a paycheck that didn’t add up to much. They didn’t want to see her become better herself because of what that meant to them – that they could do it, but weren’t willing to, were too lazy to, lacked the discipline and commitment.
She came crying up to my office one day – the monkeys had at her, whittling her down, slinging their poo – telling her she was bad for trying to be better. And yet? She was the one improving herself – not they – and they were jealous past fault. They hadn’t the grit and determination to do it – escape what they lives had been – and yet they were bound and determined to keep her just like them: little monkeys down on the tree, slaving for a living, living from paycheck to paycheck . . .
I don’t know if she ever made it. I hope so. I’m always encouraging people to ‘move on’, make an effort. I moved on in my engineering job by making myself the highest monkey in the “tree” – the top graduate of my class, Dean’s List, too. But even in my days as a student I noticed this tendency on the part of my classmates – how they would attempt to ‘drag you down’ . . .
“Lets go party, drink a beer!”, they’d say, clapping their hands across my back. “Why are you studying so hard!” they say with a voice of contempt. But no . . . there I sat, slaving away, learning computer aided design in such record time that they gave me the job of teaching my class later while the instructor went on to school to learn to do what I was doing. Little by little they dropped away until out of ninety there were only a handful of students – then one, a girl and I.
Out of four years and ninety students, only two graduated: her and I. And boy! – the dirty looks I got from the former students – as though I had done something wrong . . .
People can’t stand to see someone get ahead – or at least not ahead of them. Everyone’s so perfect – just ask them! Oh sure, they might admit a mistake or two, but the majority of them? How many have the guts to say “Oops!” to their boss like I did? (He gave me a strange look; no one ever did that in engineering!). But the “Oh, I’ve made a few mistakes” is part of the “perfect monkey syndrome” where all monkeys must make amends for being “too good”. But when you get down to it, how many are ready to admit their sins? The real ones?
Few, very few. If as many people are as perfect as they view themselves, this this world oughta be a better place than it is . . .
“The highest monkey in the tree.”
People gotta remember: we ain’t monkeys, there is no tree, and cooperation goes a long way towards being a better human being.
And stop slinging poo while your at it.