In last week’s column, I expressed a less-than-sanguine view about the apes known as Homo sapiens. I’d visited Cruise at Krut 2020, in which Wilma Cruise’s maudlin chess-playing baboons and gnomic pigs become characters in a cautionary tale, warning the viewer not to think too highly of the human animal. Paradoxically, art and abstract thought, the foundations of any exceptionalist claims made on behalf of our species, are also the means by which we can criticise such claims.

Scepticism about humanity is healthy and necessary, but it can all too easily slip into a kind of jaundiced cynicism. For long stretches of this annus horribilis, many of us have found misanthropy to be our default setting. But before we start thinking about 2020 as “the year that was” (as if a magic wand will be waved on New Year’s Eve and all of our problems will disappear), there are opportunities to remind ourselves of what can be salvaged from the wreckage...

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