Conversations in Management: Monkey Man!

The macaques are very smart. They know when they have the advantage.

                Diljan Ali, Langur Handler

BananaPlanet of the Apes is a billion dollar franchise with a pedigree dating back to the 1963 novel, La Planète des Singes.  The premise is that in a few thousand years, humans, after having made a global hash of things, find themselves as primitive subjects to a race of cosmopolitan monkeys. Fans of the franchise are legion and as they settle in to watch this summer’s release, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, they rest secure in the conviction that it’s all just science fiction. Or is it?

Reports out of New Delhi indicate that bands of renegade macaques are seizing key positions in the city and the government is taking notice. Every morning a highly trained team of monkey catchers scours the Prime Minister’s residential compound to roust the rowdy simians. So far, the PM has remained safe. Not so lucky are the members of parliament and ministers who are attacked in various government buildings. The monkeys have ingeniously discovered hiding places that permit them to ambush the already wary government servants at will. Working in groups, the macaques destroy equipment, shred official documents and chase workers from their offices. Things are even worse at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s top hospital. Though monkeys have lived on the grounds for more than fifty years, they only recently learned how to operate the automatic doors. They’re now creating havoc by invading patient rooms, offices and labs. A recent attack on an operating theater was only temporarily repulsed by security. Everyone can agree that wild animals roaming through a hospital presents a public health risk—particularly since 90% of the macaques carry tuberculosis—but they also can be more directly lethal. In 2007, a band of macaques cornered the deputy mayor of New Delhi on the balcony of his home and tossed him to his death.

Now you might think that a city under siege by an army of homicidal, disease riddled, terroristic monkeys would warrant an extreme response from the government, but you’d be wrong.  You see, the macaques are revered by Hindus who associate them with the monkey-god Hanuman. Feeding the monkeys and tolerating their antics is considered a good way to garner favor with the deity. For a while, trained langurs monkeys—a more aggressive primate—were used to keep the macaques in check. It worked until concern over the well-being of the monkeys in captivity led to an ownership ban. The government is now addressing the problem by hiring costumed men to behave like langurs. Not surprisingly, the results have been mixed.

It’s a strange world indeed in which religion and government protect monkeys while seeing nothing untoward about hiring humans to impersonate them. Granted, it’s a New Delhi problem, but it’s emblematic of what happens when you don’t deal with problems head on. Our workplaces, schools and communities are ladened with rules that diminish our dignity and independence. Our behavior is proscribed, monitored and evaluated. Why? Because some scallywag took advantage of a situation or behaved badly. Instead of dealing with it, we end up with rules that punish everyone. In essence, the rowdies have made monkeys out of us. Well, the apes haven’t taken over yet and there’s still time for humanity to recover. Do your part by dealing with problems when they arise. Don’t make monkeys out of others and don’t let others make a monkey out of you. Resist the simian assault and then reward yourself with a banana!  —Ebert

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