Planet of the Apes has a special appeal to justice

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Planet of the Apes has special appeal to justice
By Ray Hanania — There is a reason why the movie series and the Planet of the Apes sequels do so well. It carries a popular theme, telling the story of the unjust and violated standing up to the violators and the oppressors.

Though they are animals, all animals have intelligence and the arrogance of human beings sometimes is disturbing. Worse is the apathy of humans for their own oppressive ways.

I want the  Apes to win and punish the humans as a breed, not as a specific people. Humans are capable of the worst kind of brutality and injustices. There are so many good human beings, though. And yet, there are so many who are cruel. Cruelty is the worst character of the human race, which has evolved over many millennium from an animal-like existence itself.

Maybe that is the real irony. People treat other people the way they were treated. It’s a distortion of the Biblical saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The saying is so common sense was it really handed down to us by a God, or do we simply believe that humans are incapable of being able to experience the pain and suffering of others, to show compassion rather than cruelty or to be considerate rather than apathetic?

It’s actually in the Bible twice, both references in the New Testament, as if the second effort by Christians to respect God would be any more successful than the effort by Jews. It is quoted in both Matthew and Luke. A simple concept that people can identify with. Not because it is about principle or anything, but rather about self-pity. Those who are downtrodden are the most likely to cite the phrase, far more than those who are magnanimous and seeking redemption for human ways.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is merely a reminder to the oppressor from the oppressed to stop being cruel and to be generous in life. Help others, do not hurt others.

But that’s not what happens in real life. The weakest among us who manage to step in to positions of power end up becoming the most brutal to compensate for their lack of intelligence or their lack of true leadership skills. Cruelty and oppression are means of disguising inadequacy. So we see, so often, human beings who are failures in life, becoming the most cruel in circumstances where their subservience has put them above other life forms, usually animals. The worst among human beings are the ignorant and talentless who react to their failures in life by seeking to oppress those who are below them. Animals. The closer to humanity the animal the more ruthless the human oppression by these mentally deficient human beings.

Cruelty is a mental deficiency, not merely an individual choice.

I remember the very first movie, The Planet of the Apes. It was a novel in 1963 by the French author Pierre Boulle. Yes, it took a French mind to conceive of the popularly inconceivable. And then in 1968, Hollywood turned it into a movie starring Charlton Heston. The original appeal seemed to be the science fiction quandary that was the secondary theme of the film. That humans has destroyed the Earth and it was the Apes, our closest cousins who saved our planet.

But the theme of oppression and conquest and conflict between two species of animals — and human beings are an animal species of sorts — was overpowering and fueled all of the popular sequels. The back and forth power struggle between Man and Ape is a natural story. The sequels were typical. Beneath, escape, conquest and then battle for the Planet of the Apes. The Hollywood films flowed, although they dipped like a typical bell curve in human society where the attention span wanes and then returns to mom.

Then in 2001, before the Sept. 11 American cataclysm, the warped mind of Tim Burton produced a truly stunning adaptation that addressed the conflict of how humans and, as it turns out, Apes mistreat each other when given the chance. Intelligent life is stupidly cruel no matter who is barking out the orders. This film took the film away from the early awkward costumes into a higher technology.

But the Burton film may have focused too much on the cruelty. And yet another film came out this past week, by Rupert Wyatt. This re-do of the popular first film is phenomenal. The technology makes the Ape actors more realistic, giving the Apes truly human facial features, although General Thade (Tim Roth) in the Burton film was very realistic and the beautiful Helena Bonham Carter plays Ari, the caring Ape-ress who fights for the rights of the humans against her Ape-society’s disdain and abuses.

This latest film sets up our imperfect current world for the obvious sequels to come. The opportunities are there, but they may be pointless. At the end of the film, humans experience a devastating man-made virus that destroys them, while the Apes flourish under the leadership of Caesar, the Ape who is the child of an experimental monkey given mind enhancing drugs intended to find a cure for alzheimer’s disease. It started out with good intentions, but the best intentions always go awry. No good deed goes unpunished.

This latest attempt at retelling the story of human weaknesses and cruelty, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, does a masterful job. Those fighting against injustice are always portrayed as terrorists. I wonder if in the Bible there is a saying that goes “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

When it comes to the foibles of human existence, there should be.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Reach him at

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania