There was always one key flaw in our species. Which is that someone always shags a monkey. I have expressed this thought fairly regularly in private, often to friends who don’t get the reference about the likely origin of Aids and look at me strangely ever after. Still, I find it a useful rule. We humans are — perhaps always have been — as weak as our weakest member makes us. And if just one of us chooses of an evening to force themselves on one of our simian cousins, then before long people across the planet start dropping dead.
I suppose the monkey-shagger rule will now have to be updated to take into account the fact that someone will always blend a bat. For however developed or progressive we fancy ourselves, however many mega-cities we manage to build, we will still never have 100 per cent certainty that there isn’t someone looking at some scrawny cave-hanger and thinking: ‘What a nice soup he would make.’
To contemplate these odds is to be filled with awe. It seems miraculous enough that our species can survive the stupidity of any one human being. The idea that in order to go on we need to survive the stupidity, gluttony and, I might mention, lustfulness of every human on planet Earth ought to put our chances at somewhere near nought.
Yet here we still are, for one reason alone. Which is that our species also possesses a set of virtues which, with an uncanny precision, sometimes more than adequately makes up for the rest. These virtues may be dwelt upon less often. Perhaps because we are embarrassed by them. Perhaps because we take them for granted, or prefer our performative negation of them.