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can-rattling for beginners -
behaviour and sociology,
Georgia part 2

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can-rattling for beginners - georgia part 2
table of essential data on russia and georgia
some observations by goodall on chimpanzee behaviour
commentary by abelard
steady comment by limbic on serbia/georgia
map of georgia

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can-rattling for beginners - georgia part 2

The West should remember, when dealing with Russia, the words of Winston Churchill:

“In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnamimity.”

To read and listen to the fossil media, you might think that Russia is some mighty monster that should strike fear into the hearts of any sane person.

Instead, as you will see from the figures below, Russia is a pygmy, the remains of a dying Socialist empire, rattling its cans in frustration and defensive pride. Russia is a paranoid remnant with immense resources and an overblown military beset by problems on every side. There is an expansive China of more than a billion souls with inadequate resources gradually encroaching in the Russian orient. Many fractious and unstable Islamic crazies are to the south.

Russia is suffering a demographic meltdown, while the great concern of the advanced world must be whether Russia’s politicians can or will meet their agreements and responsibilities. Is Russia a reliable partner acting under the rule of law, or a criminal regime bent on international murder and the theft of assets developed by the likes of BP and Shell, with inadequate rule of law?

Russia’s only rational future is in cooperation with great might of the advanced democracies. Without the West, Russia is a vulnerable and dying dinosaur. For all the bluster, Russia needs the West at least as much as the West needs to stabilise and modernise Russia. As you see from the article below, the West is steadily drawing Russia into the orbit of NATO. NATO is no threat to Russia, however much Russian politicians may posture for their home audience or for the paranoid fantasies of an insecure ex-KGB man. There will be no resurgent Russian empire, there will be no return of the Cold War. The modern world of the twenty-first century is a whole new place.

Modern problems are far more concerned with burgeoning populations, the looming end of fossil fuels and how to produce sufficient food, not which empire will advance its borders. Empires are no longer economically rational and the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki made war between advanced societies irrational.

“ "In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century," US President George W. Bush said last week. "Now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions."

“A NATO spokeswoman said ministers would deliver "a very clear message of solidarity to Georgia."

“Meanwhile, reports regarding Russia's military activity in Georgia were contradictory. US officials said Monday that Russia had moved short-range missile launchers into South Ossetia since fighting ceased there last week and that there was no sign of a significant pullback of its troops from Georgia.

“Russia's defense ministry, however, on Monday announced the start of its withdrawal. The Russian NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, on Tuesday told France's Inter radio station that troops were pulling out of Georgia.”

“One obvious repercussion may well involve the NATO-Russia Council (NRC).

“Established at a summit in Rome in 2002, the NRC has often been defended by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as "a valuable forum for dialogue to resolve complex political issues.

“The NRC has also led NATO and Russia to cooperate on a practical level, such as with joint military exercises. But that cooperation looks increasingly at risk.” [Quoted from]

Russia has more than twice the population of Britain, but their economies are about the same size.

  GDP per capita GDP - purchasing power parity population of Georgian extraction land area
(sq. km)
United Kingdom $35,100 $2,137 billion 60,943,912 244,820
Russia $14,700 $2,088 billion 140,702,094 17,075,200
Georgia $4,700 $20.5 billion 4,630,000 83.8% 69,700
South Ossetia $ 250 $ 15 million (approx) 70,000 approx. 30% 3,900
Abkhazia     180,000 approx. 20% 8,600
(Russian) Ossetia $2,300   780,000   12,000
Source: mainly CIA - the World Factbook


  • While Russia claims to be recognising the independence of South Ossetia, I see no mention of including the greater proportion of Ossetia, north of Georgia.
  • These areas are crossroads with many remaining and competing minorities and enclaves, lending themselves to Russian and Georgian imperial manipulation.

Some observations by Goodall on chimpanzee behaviour

“Mike's rise to the number one or top-ranking position in the chimpanzee community was both interesting and spectacular. In I963 Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy. He had been the last to gain access to bananas, and had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other adult male. Indeed, at one time he had appeared almost bald from losing so many handfuls of hair during aggressive incidents with his fellow-apes.

“When Hugo and I had left the Gombe Stream at the end of that year, prior to getting married, Mike's position had not changed; yet when we returned, four months later, we found a very different Mike. Kris and Dominic told us the beginning of his story - how he had started to use empty four-gallon paraffin cans more and more often during his charging displays. We did not have to wait many days before we witnessed Mike's techniques for ourselves.

“There was one incident that I remember particularly vividly. A group of five adult males, including top-ranking Goliath, David Greybeard and the huge Rodolf, were grooming each other - the session had been going on for some twenty minutes. Mike was sitting on his own about thirty yards from them, frequently staring towards the group, occasionally idly grooming himself.

“All at once Mike calmly walked over to our tent and took hold of an empty paraffin can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place where he had been sitting before. Armed with his two cans, Mike continued to stare towards the other males and, after a few minutes, he began to rock from side to side. At first the movement was almost imperceptible, but Hugo and I were watching him closely. Gradually he rocked more vigorously, his hair slowly began to stand erect and then softly at first, he started a series of pant-hoots. As he called, Mike got to his feet and suddenly he was off, charging towards the group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, together with Mike's crescendo of hooting, made the most appalling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. Mike and his cans vanished down a track and, after a few moments, there was silence. Some of the males reassembled and resumed their interrupted grooming session, but the others stood around somewhat apprehensively.

“After a short interval that low-pitched hooting began again, followed, almost immediately, by the appearance of the two rackety cans with Mike close behind them. Straight for the other males he charged, and once more they fled. This time, even before the group could reassemble, Mike set off again: but he made straight for Goliath - and even he hastened out of Mike's way like all the others. Then Mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end and breathing hard. His eyes glared ahead and his lower lip was hanging slightly down so that the pink inside showed brightly and gave him a wild appearance.

“Rodolf was the first of the males to approach Mike, uttering soft pant-grunts of submission, crouching low and pressing his lips to Mike's thigh. Then he began to groom Mike, and two other males approached, pant-grunting, and began to groom him also. Finally David Greybeard went over to Mike, laid one hand on his groin, and joined in the grooming. Gnly Goliath kept away, sitting on his own and staring towards Mike. It was obvious that Mike constituted a serious threat to Goliath's hitherto unchallenged supremacy.

“Mike's deliberate use of man-made objects was probably an indication of superior intelligence. Many of the adult males had, at some time or another, dragged a paraffin can to enhance their charging displays, in place of the more normal branches or rocks; but only Mike apparently had been able to profit from the chance experience and learned to seek out the cans deliberately to his own advantage. The cans, of course, made a great deal more noise than a branch when dragged along the ground at speed, and, after a while, Mike was actually able to keep three cans ahead of him at once for about sixty yards as he ran Hat out across the camp clearing No wonder that males, previously his superiors, rushed out of Mike's way.

“Charging displays usually occur when a chimpanzee becomes emotionally excited; when he arrives at a food source, joins up with another group or when he is frustrated. But it seemed that Mike actually planned his charging displays - almost, one might say, in cold blood. Often, when he got up to fetch his cans, he showed no visible signs of frustration or excitement - that came afterwards when, armed with his display props, he began to rock From side to side, raise his hair, and hoot.

“Eventually Mike's use of paraffin cans became dangerous for he learned to hurl them ahead of him at the close of a charge - once he got me on the back of my head, and once he hit Hugo's precious film camera. We decided to remove all the cans and, for a while, went through a nightmare period since Mike tried to drag about all manner of other objects. Once he got hold of Hugo's tripod luckily when the camera was not mounted - and once he managed to grab and pull down the large cupboard in which we kept a good deal of food and all our crockery and cutlery. The noise and the thrall of destruction were unbelievable. Finally, however, we managed to dig things into the ground or hide them away, and Mike had to resort to branches and rocks like his companions.

“By that time, however, his top-ranking status was assured, although it was fully another year before Mike himself seemed to feel quite secure in his position. He continued to display very frequently and vigorously, and the lower-ranking chimps had increasing reason to fear him for often he would attack a female or youngster viciously at the slightest provocation. In particular, as might be expected, a tense relationship prevailed between Mike and the ex-dominant male, Goliath.

“Goliath did not relinquish his position without a struggle. His displays also increased in frequency and vigour and he too became more aggressive. Indeed, there was a time, towards the start of this battle for dominance, when Hugo and I feared for Goliath's sanity. After attacking a couple of youngsters and charging back and Forth dragging huge branches, he would sit, his hair on end, his sides heaving from exertion, a froth of saliva glistening at his half-open mouth, and a glint in his eyes that, to us, looked not Far from madness. We actually had a weld-mesh iron cage built in Kigoma and, when this had been set up in camp, we retreated inside when Goliath's temper was at its worst. One day, when Mike was sitting in camp, a series of distinctive rather melodious pant-hoots, with characteristic quavers at the close, announced the return of Goliath who, for two weeks, had been somewhere down in the south of the Reserve. Mike responded immediately, hooting himself and charging across the clearing. Then he climbed a tree and sat staring over the valley, every hair on end.

“A few minutes later Goliath appeared and, as he reached the outskirts of the camp clearing, he commenced one of his spectacular displays. He must have seen Mike for he headed straight for him, dragging a huge branch. Then he leapt up into a tree near that of Mike and was still. For a moment Mike stared towards him and then he too began to display, swaying the branches of his tree, swinging to the ground, hurling a few rocks and, finally, climbing up into Goliath's tree and swaying the branches there. When he stopped Goliath immediately reciprocated, swinging about in the tree and rocking the branches. Presently, as one of his wild leaps took him quite close to Mike, Mike too displayed, and for a few unbelievable moments both of the splendid male chimpanzees were swaying branches within a few feet of each other until I thought the whole tree must crash to the ground. But an instant later both chimps were on the ground, displaying in the undergrowth. Finally they stopped and sat, staring at each other. It was Goliath who moved next, standing upright as he rocked a sapling; when he paused Mike charged past him, hurling a rock and drumming, with his feet, on the trunk of a tree.

“This went on for nearly half an hour: first one male and then the other displayed, and each performance seemed to be more vigorous, more spectacular, than that preceding it. Yet during all this time, apart from occasionally hitting one another with the ends of the branches they swayed, neither chimpanzee actually attacked the other. Suddenly, after an extra long pause, it seemed that Goliath's nerve broke. He rushed up to Mike, crouched beside him with loud, nervous pant-grunts, and began to groom him with feverish intensity. For a few moments Mike ignored Goliath completely: then he turned and, with a vigour almost matching that of Goliath, began to groom his vanquished rival. And there they sat, grooming each other without pause, for over an hour.

“That was the last real duel between the two males. From then on it seemed that Goliath accepted Mike's superiority, and a strangely intense relationship grew up between the two. They often greeted one another with much display of emotion, embracing or patting one another, kissing each other in the neck, after which they usually started grooming each other. During these grooming sessions it appeared that the tension between them was eased, soothed by the close, friendly physical contact. Afterwards they sometimes fed, or rested quite close to each other, looking peaceful and relaxed as though the bitter rivalry of the past had never been.

“Indeed, it is one of the most striking aspects of chimpanzee society that creatures who can so quickly become roused to frenzies of excitement and aggression can, for the most part, maintain such relaxed and friendly relationships with each other.” [Quoted from In the shadow of man by Jane Van Lawick Goodall, pp.109-113]

commmentary by abelard
Rather than the quotation above being intended as a direct analogy with the current political hierachy, it is meant, if anything, to allude to human/monkey behaviour among individuals and states.

I am concerned to improve people’s understanding of the media kerfuffle surrounding police actions, such as Iraq or Georgia. A lot of the media kerfuffle is sound and music signifying nothing, a lot of it is the fossil media trying to grab the sheep’s attention by evoking emotionalism. It has very little to do with the real power structure and the hard, background ‘diplomatic’ work ongoing to sort out the playground fights.

My concern is to increase the psychological sophistication of society, to such a point that the emotionalism stops confusing and degrading communication/societies.

My longer term objective is to make this political sociology/pychology become a normalised part of the educational curriculum.

comment by limbic on serbia/georgia

This comment by Limbic is worth a look.

My own response:
I liked your good steady comments on the Serbia, Iraq and Georgia situations.

However, as a reader who has no great quarrel with any of these great power interventions, I maybe less ‘outraged’ than most, as long as Russia keeps to its word and gets out of any occupation act in independent Georgia.

It seems to me that it is legitimate for the advanced world to cease toleration of oppressive dictatorships.

The idea of treating Iraq under socialist Madsam Hussein as a legitimate regime is intolerable. Treating such dysfunctional arrangements as if they were sovereign states in good standing, let alone worthy of a vote at the UN is ludicrous. The UN remains a joke, or merely a talking shop, until some basic standards of freedom are demanded for full membership..

In my view, a far better context for justification, or otherwise, for interference in failed pseudo-states is the concept of the ‘just war’, modified by pragmatism.

Meanwhile, to me, the stickier problem is what to do about the outrages Limbic claims in the newly independent Kosova.


What is this?




Map of Georgia.

Map of Georgia. Image:


Goodall, Jane
In the Shadow of Man

First-class, ground-breaking study of some of our nearest neighbours by a worker who has devoted her life to studying them in the field. Everything she writes and everything she says is of interest, both then and since.

In the shadow of mzn by Jane Goodall

In the Shadow of Man
by Jane Goodall

$10.20 [] {advert}

Mariner Books, pbk, 2000
ISBN-10: 0618056769
ISBN-13: 978-0618056767


£6.99 [] {advert}

Phoenix, pbk, 1999
ISBN-10: 0753809478
ISBN-13: 978-0753809471

In the shadow of mzn by Jane Goodall

Marker at

For those who want it in full technical detail, try the following larger format book. It has over 600 pages, plentifully illustrated with colour and black-and-white photos, together with charts, graphs and tables. It is at second year level for university behavioural courses. It is readable by any keen, intelligent adult.

The chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall

The chimpanzees of Gombe - patterns of behaviour
by Jane Goodall /

Belknap Press, hbk 1986
ISBN-10: 0674116496
ISBN-13: 978-0674116498



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