The Patty Hearst Story

I’ve been reading up on the story of Miss Patricia Hearst. For those who can’t remember the 1970s, she was the daughter of a rich man who lived in California. Her happy life as a college student came to a traumatic end when she was abducted by a gang of angry humans, who locked her up in a cupboard. The leader of the gang would let her out, from time to time, to lecture her about various grievances that he blamed on rich people. Being from a wealthy family herself, this made Miss Hearst feel rather self-conscious and somewhat abashed. He would then escort her back to the cupboard in order to mate with her in an unusual upright position. She later claimed that the sex had been forced on her, but she did not complain or resist at the time, perhaps feeling that she was compensating the gang leader for past wrongs he had suffered at the hands of the privileged classes.

Miss Hearst then became a committed member of the gang, participating in its bank robberies and other misdeeds. She was trusted enough to be given an assault rifle, and allowed herself to be photographed carrying it. She denounced her family as parasites who exploited the working masses and profited from their toil. She said that rich Americans were lackeys of imperialism who were feeding the furnaces of the capitalist war-machine with the bodies of innocent workers and peasants. She poured scorn on her former college sweetheart as a pampered little prince who knew even less about satisfying a woman than he did about the counter-dialectic of class struggle. She also complained about the transmission system of the car that her father had given for her 19th birthday. Stung by these criticisms, her family promptly distributed six million dollars worth of groceries to the proletarians and loafers of the San Francisco Bay area.

There is much in this story that would be familiar to wild gorillas. When a male gorilla takes over a harem, driving out the old alpha, the females quickly adapt to the new reality. A few of them may shed half-a-tear for the old male, in appreciation of prior services rendered, but there’s no point dwelling on the past. From now on it’s the new ape who’s calling the shots, so they may as well make the best of it by picking the nits from his fur and letting him sweep them off their feet when they’re in season. He may not have finesse of the old gorilla, but that doesn’t mean he won’t father sturdy infants or kick the shit out of any marauding baboons. “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on” is the ancient motto of the female gorilla.

But there is one important difference: the new male never lectures the females about class struggle or complains about past wrongs suffered at the hands of the ruling alphas. Having gained control of their bodies, he has no particular wish to rule their minds or convert them to his own ideological viewpoint. Gorillas, in fact, are remarkably relaxed about their political differences. As long as the food supply is plentiful and the predators are kept at bay, no one really cares about your position on the French revolution or the Communist Manifesto. These sort of debates are best left to the rainy season, when there’s nothing better to do while sheltering beneath the trees.

Patty Hearst was later caught, tried and convicted, failing to impress the court with a defence of brainwashing. But her sentence was soon commuted by the peanut-farming president, giving her the chance to put her side of the story to a curious public. The gist of her argument was that being cooped up with a bunch of headcases can make you behave in strange ways and say things which turn out to be complete balderdash. “It could have happened to anyone,” she seemed to be saying. Personally I have my doubts about this – a female gorilla would never have made such an ass of herself.
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