Friday, October 07, 2005


ON STARING AT MONKEYS


In re the previous post, I should point out - so as to forestall any unexpected monkey-human hostility - that in monkey society (at least Japanese macaque society) it is impolite to stare directly, particularly at alpha males, to whom staring is a direct challenge sometimes requiring physical resolution, much as in certain sectors of human society (we’re not all THAT far apart). Thus monkeys don’t really stare, in the human sense, nor was I staring at the monkey in the human sense. We were staring at each other in the monkey sense, comprising quick glimpses and quick lookaways, which, though quite natural when staring at monkeys, oddly enough is considered shifty-eyed in human society. Thus when I got on the train I had to remember immediately to stop staring like a monkey.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The above is from Nils down below you in Sakyo-ku.

Ooo, the comment form is not letting me fill in the name field. Maybe it's my browser's fault.

nils said...

I was actually getting ready to ask you about what to do when you come across wild monkeys or boar, because I'm going to hike up Hiei-zan in the near future.

Tabor said...

Interstingly gorillas (which I have never encountered in the wild) have a straight and steady stare in the zoo. So, unlike monkeys, but since they are much larger and stronger....

Robert Brady said...

Nils, bring a stout hiking stick, don't stare into monkeys' eyes, and absolutely don't show fear. Hieizan monkeys are used to humans anyway. Just hike on by. As to the inoshishi, I doubt you'll encounter any; they'll hear and smell you long before you get a glimpse of them; and they're more active at night, not aggressive unless cornered.

Tabor, I suspect that gorilas in zoos have become psychotic to some degree (gorilla-Freudianly speaking) from being stared at relentlessly for years without recourse, and aren't really representative of gorillas in the wild.

Dalene said...

Having an awareness of non-verbal communication was something I was taught as a means far more effective than anything verbal I could attempt, and something, for my own safety, I was taught to read in others. It is interesting, this human-to-monkey communication of not staring, of looking, looking away and looking again. It as if to say I mean you no harm, a show of mutual respect. Or flirting, looking, looking away, glancing back, in humans it can be flirting. (I am not suggesting you and the monkey were flirting. Let's just say over the years I found it to be a very effective way of flirting.)And Lesson One, as a girl I was told, in a situation where I might sense a threat to my safety, was never look away, hold the eye contact, because the first one to glance away, break the stare, was less dominant in that moment, and while not breaking eye contact, never show fear. The point of this all being, I am certain you and the monkey had as good, perhaps more honest, conversation than a day full of words.

nils said...

Thanks for the tips, Robert.