5 things about politics that we can learn from chimpanzees
Humans and other primates are the closest relatives of each other.
There are incredible similarities between people’s political scene and other primates.
Can the good chimpanzees be better in politics than humans?
Professor James Tilley explored what we could learn about politics from the struggles between chimpanzee groups.
1.Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer
Chimpanzee politics consist of a network of constantly changing alliances.
To get to the top, your friends must be ready to turn your back and embrace your enemies.
Most alliances are founded not on friendship but on necessity.
2.Choose a weak one rather than a strong one when setting up your alliances
Chimpanzees are prone to building alliances with “minimal power necessary to defeat”.
That is, the formation of an alliance of two weak chimpanzees against a strong chimpanzee is much more common than a weaker chimpanzee alliance with another against a strong chimpanzee.
This is also conceivable because when the alliance with the weak is done, the share to be taken from the end is more than enough to be taken when the alliance is made with a stronger one.
3.Being fearful is good but being a loved one is better
There are some chimpanzee leaders who prefer to rule with power and fear, but these types of leaders are often overthrown.
In order to become a successful leader you need to get support yourself and your alliance. That key is gentle and decisive.
“The best alpha male does not have to be the biggest and the strongest,” says Professor Frans de Waal, who wrote the chimpanzee politics book by reviewing the political coalitions between the chimps in the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands.
“It is important that you have your supporters, so you should make your supporters happy.
4.Loving is good but distributing resources is better
Leaders who have been in power for the longest time have used resources to acquire support.
Professor de Waal says, “When the Japanese scientist Toshisada Nishida examined the remaining leader chimpanzee for 12 years, he saw that he had seized other men’s flesh and distributed it to his supporters and not to his enemies.” He adds:
“He built a bribe system that was very useful for his own business.”
What was in practice was that the chimpanzee leader would take tax from the group and distribute these resources to their supporters.
Bribing voters with their own money is clearly not unique to people.
5.External threats can increase support
When faced with external threats, primates are more connected to each other and forget the conflicts among themselves.
In the face of big and unexpected events such as the September 11 attacks, it has also been seen to work in humans as well. Support for US President George W. Bush was up to 90 percent after the attack, while public support fell before the attack.
According to Michael Bang Petersen, Professor of Evolutionary Political Psychology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, all these similarities should not be surprising. Most people, too, traveled in small hunter-gatherer groups, mostly primates and human evolution.
One of the potential reasons behind people’s political preferences contrary to the modern world is this past.
Professor “We think we live in a small community, and the first solutions we think are right are usually solutions that will work for small communities,” says Petersen.
For example, it shows that physically strong people pay less attention to income distribution and adds:
“They tend to forget that the distribution of income can not be achieved by the physical forces and is something ruled by groups in parliament.”