human by portions and percentages

there’s a new Aussie show on ABC1 that I’m really enjoying for its indulgence and humour. That show is Rake, about a highly flawed, disreputable barrister in Sydney.

A short segment of dialogue from the last episode has stuck with me.


Cleaver Greene, our anti-hero, has just slept with his best friend’s wife. In an effort to unload himself to his ex-wife, he starts talking about a nature documentary he watched about chimpanzees – how they’re 98.7% like humans.

“There’s this 1.3% disparity”, he says, “that apparently has something to do with our ability to program dvd players, but essentially they are us, and we are them.”

Followed by an ode to the chimp way of life: the women in competition, until they go on heat, which pitches the males into out-and-out war with each other. He bemoans the fact that humans are expected to stay married to the same person for a lifetime, no matter how dull it gets. Then:

“98.7% of us is telling us we’re morons, it’s just this 1.3% – the dvd-programming part – telling us we’re doing the right thing.”

This struck me as such a poignant picture of the human condition. And it really is what marriage feels like sometimes – the tiny, cultivated part of the brain at war with tens of thousands of years of biology.

Comments 2 Responses

  1. cheryl nekvapil

    Are chimps actually promiscuous? Many animals and birds and spiders (though murder and cannibalism is part of that deal) do mate for life. It sounds like an argument of convenience to me! Did he get away with it?

    1. superaniistar Post author

      it was definitely an argument for convenience (especially as he ended it with “I think I have more chimpanzee than most people” as his defence), but if what he said was correct, then chimps mate whoever they can convince to go for them when they’re on heat.

      In the position he was in, he was trying to get himself off the hook by saying all this – but I still think it’s a compelling way to look at the human condition. Just in those moments when you feel like you’re swimming against the current.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.