Things are not looking particularly promising for human beings these days, what with insane wars, all forms of religious zealotry, global warming and the decline and fall of Britney Spears. Given how Planet Earth seems to going to hell in a handbasket carried by our pinhead president, it seemed a propitious moment to have an extended conversation with someone much in the news recently, someone with a unique perspective on our species: Homo so-called sapiens.
Matthew H. Pan is a 26-year-old chimpanzee currently making his residence in Vienna, where he is at the center of a controversy concerning his status as a person. An animal-rights organization in Austria wants the government to confer personhood on the aforesaid Mr. Pan so that he can be rescued from his zoo where he spends long days gazing at gawking humans and occasionally lobbing a turd or two in their direction.
City Weekly assigned Dr. Aldeni Ensernos, the noted primatologist, to visit the infamous ape and pick his brain about a wide variety of topics. Ensernos sent us the following report, via e-mail, on his interview with Pan.
“Colleagues of mine who have had the privilege of conversing with this remarkable primate had told me of his sagacity, wit and his glossy coat. I refer, of course, to his deep-brown fur, not the satin dinner jacket he likes to don on special occasions. When I greeted him as Matthew, he was quite offended and insisted that I address him as ‘Mister.’ He prefers the English honorific to the German Herr—perhaps because it calls to mind his very hairy appearance, which is just one more barrier to his long-cherished dream of achieving personhood. We conducted the great majority of our interview in English; we started out in German, which I picked up during a tumultuous relationship with Helga Helmcke, the illustrious orangutan expert from Düsseldorf, in the early ’70s.
“But Mr. Pan made fun of my adjective endings and general grammatical ineptitude, which he compared to the American president’s difficulties with English. So we switched to English, which Mr. Pan spoke with far greater felicity than the American president. He did, however, speak with a heavy accent, somewhat similar to the guttural rumblings of Dr. Henry Kissinger.”
City Weekly: First of all, let me congratulate you on your linguistic abilities.
Mr. Pan: What, just because I’m a chimp, you expect me to be deficient in the language department? Besides German and English, I speak Portuguese, Latin, Norwegian, Krio—which is the Creole in my native country of Sierra Leone—and Korean. Of course, I speak several chimp dialects, and I can read Gorillean and Baboonean. I’m just now getting up to speed in Reformed Egyptian, which is close to an obscure baboon dialect, so I can read the Book of Mormon in the original. I like that Romney guy running for president—he has an appealing simian look to him—and I thought I should read his religion’s bible. But I don’t trust translations—especially so-called “divinely inspired” ones.
City Weekly: Is your attraction to Mr. Romney purely physical?
Mr. Pan: I don’t like your insinuations. No, he just looks a lot like a brother of mine who used to perform with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Besides, there are no homosexuals among chimpanzees.
City Weekly: Just like in Iran?
Mr. Pan: That Ahmadinejad fellow is full of it. But he’s a lot smarter and a lot better looking than the American president Bush, who, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to an idiot cousin of mine also named George.
City Weekly: Have you ever visited America?
Mr. Pan: That’s kind of a stupid question. They’ve got me locked up in a cage here. Do you think I could get a visa? Do you think they would let me through security? One look at me, and they’d think I was terrorist, even though we chimps are a peace-loving people.
City Weekly: Humans are of the impression that you are a violent race.
Mr. Pan: You’re thinking of the bonobos. We chimps make love, not war. Anyway, you guys don’t have a great record when it comes to war and peace. Just wait. It won’t be long before you all kill yourselves off, and then my people will have the world to ourselves—eating fruit, kicking back, swinging through the jungly tendrils, and watching HDTV.
City Weekly: Thank you, Mr. Pan, and good luck.
Mr. Pan: Screw you, pal.
D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.