Many people would probably think that it isn’t a wise use of time for a beyond middle age man to spend the better part of an hour watching YouTube videos of monkeys riding bicycles. I certainly wouldn’t defend that man until I remember that it’s me doing the chimp inspecting. I think most adults would agree that mankind has made huge leaps in the field of lower primate leisure activity instruction. Barely a generation ago most apes wouldn’t have known the difference between a bicycle and a popsicle and now monkeys of several species happily pedal bikes…and often without training wheels! Miraculous!
When I say “happily” I don’t mean this literally as the chimps wouldn’t perform unless there were guys hitting them with a stick if they didn’t spin around a small track lined with spectators involved in illegal gambling. Cruel? Perhaps, but we employed the same techniques to motivate scientists in the early years of America’s space program and look where that got us. So by saying that monkeys “happily pedal bikes” I mean they prefer it slightly to being beaten with a stick.
And consider this: what if after viewing these “cruel” videos this same beyond middle age man came to the conclusion that perhaps we aren’t so different after all? If I may be allowed to stretch a metaphor to the bursting point, what if I said that the only thing keeping me pedaling a bike is the stick that represents the tyranny of our image-obsessed society, that I ride to keep in shape so as not to be struck by the “fat stick?” Perhaps I’m not violently coerced to perform three shows a day, six days a week with a matinee on Sundays but I think I have some idea as to what these little guys are going through. Am I not just a big, slightly chubby monkey riding a bike in a vicious circle solely for the pleasure of others?