Catholics and Orthodox Christians have days devoted to particular saints, and in these relatively secular times a stupefying variety of organizations exhibit a similar impulse by burdening the calendar with World Refugee Day (June 20), International Day of Action for South Korean Dogs and Cats (July 18), Global Day of Epilepsy Awareness (March 26), Malala Day (November 10 – a recent addition) and so on ad nauseum. The logical conclusion, a day dedicated to being aware of other awareness days, cannot be far off. Even when I’m more or less on board with a particular cause, the idea of associating it with a specific day of the year often seems a bit cheap and gimmicky.
However, one upcoming commemorative day that I can pretty much get behind is Primate Pride Day (November 24), which I discovered through Colombian atheist blogger David Osorio’s helpful translation of the original, Spanish-language manifesto in support of the Día del Orgullo Primate. The basic idea is to affirm that humans are products of evolution, taxonomically embedded among the primates, and there is also a welcome nod towards conservation of ape populations. The biological truth of our origin from among the apes seems profound enough to deserve a place on the calendar, although I’m not sure how one is actually supposed to celebrate. Perhaps join some nice chimpanzees for a tea party?
Despite his enthusiasm about Primate Pride Day, Osorio mentions one niggling misgiving:
Ok. I had a my reservations concerning this – primarily the fact that you can’t be proud of being a primate, because you had no involvement in how that turned out.
In my opinion this reflects an excessively narrow understanding of the concept of pride. Surely one can be proud of what one is, as well as what one has accomplished, although those types of pride may be (like the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla) separate subspecies.
Primate Pride is celebrated on November 24 because this is the anniversary of two events that should matter to primates everywhere: the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, and the discovery of the australopithecine fossil nicknamed “Lucy” in 1974. There’s already a Darwin Day (February 12, Darwin’s birthday) but in my opinion Lucy Day has more of a ring to it than Primate Pride Day does. An alternative would be to name the day after a more modern individual primate who has made a positive contribution to the cause of primate pride, such as Kanzi the bonobo or Thomas Henry Huxley.
Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Edgar Rice Burroughs would also fit the bill. James Ussher, in his capacity as Primate of All Ireland, would be an ironic choice, and Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov – who was, it must be admitted, a true believer in the noble cause of breaking down barriers between humans and other primates – would be a rather daring one. If I were Emperor of the World, November 24 would definitely be Ivanov Day, which is probably a clear indication that I should never be allowed anywhere near the reins of political power.