Monday, March 03, 2008

BUT it's ALWAYS been done that way

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, all of the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result, and all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon the monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be attacked.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth.

Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not? Because as far as they know, that’s the way it’s always been done.

Do you believe that story? Would you tell it to someone else as true? I asked my source if the experiment had been ever done, and she did not know. So far as she knew, it was just a story that makes a lot of sense. If repeated enough times, soon "everybody" will believe it, and it will become part of the culture. Is that the way popular acceptance of the litany came about?

If you had lived in Caesar's time (d. 44 BCE), would you have believed in Roman gods because "everybody" did? (Actually, not everybody did).

If you had lived in France in 1572 (Bartholomew Massacre), would you have believed that everyone had to adhere to the same religion, or the nation would fall apart?

If you had lived in Italy in Galileo's time (1564-1642), would you have believed the sun moves around the earth?

If you had lived in Salem, MA, in 1692, would you have believed in witchcraft?

So, what's different about 2001 to present?

this was to present a myth in modern language.. we here in the modern world tend to equate fact with truth.. this study never has happened but it relays a truth about the world. so the follow up question is can something be true but not factual? for more on this, just check out the tag-link: Truth NOT Fact.

1 comment:

Carl Hex said...

I came across this post in researching a paper to see whether gaybashing can be explained by blind conformity. I think this parable that you present fits like a glove.

If it were so, what would be the analogue of the water-spray, the punishment which triggered the blind conformity? I would propose that it not only was, but still is, pronatalist pressure - stigmatising non-breeding lifestyles. Groups of people which set out to compete with other groups want to be as numerous as possible. Unfortunately the non-competitive groups tend to be wiped out. So to the extent that our culture is still militarist, it is homophobic.