Outward from the Mind

A ring of cages with doors opening into a central common area, each has a monkey inside. A banana is dropped into the central area. The monkeys rush towards it, but all are doused immediately with cold water. Dripping and miserable, they slouch back to their individual cages. They soon learn that any movement by any monkey towards the dropped banana causes all the monkeys to be soaked. So now they stay still when the banana drops. They implore one another with eyes and signals and chattering voices: do not move towards that banana. Do not do anything at all.

Take one monkey away and replace it with another. The new monkey knows nothing of the collective danger of being doused. The banana drops and all are watching. The new monkey jumps forward, surprised that his peers do not do the same, not understanding their desperate shouts and gestures. He rushes back into his cage, confused and frightened, narrowly avoiding a soaking for them all. But soon he becomes used to keeping still and shouting with the others to leave the banana alone. This is tradition.

Replace another monkey. Then another. Each in turn learns to discipline the new arrivals. Each learns to enforce the ban on lunging forward, even though none have ever experienced the dousing. When the banana drops, they stay completely still. They discipline each other. They pull this ban against movement deep into themselves so it is part of them. This is religion, whether of God or Money.

A banana drops. Two monkeys look at one another and start to edge forward, ignoring the hissing and gesturing and encouraging each other to take that final step, now emerging into the central area. They eat the banana. The others fall silent, at last moving gingerly from their cages.

Working in the Trench

Lulled, she awoke Each morning, rubbing her eyes and then padding bare feet across the floor to the heater. She made tea, woke the children, did what was needed. At the Health Centre, she answered phones, dressed wounds, took details, but mostly just listened to the sick. Sometimes she swept her hair from her face and let out a long soft breath. Then back to work.

You can read a society by its attitude to those who are ill and in pain. The girl who had discovered the Democracy Device, now a women, worked against her society: organising food for the poor, trying – in her daily interactions – to alleviate their suffering. She gazed out over the lines of people waiting, listening to their coughing and soft weeping, the clasping of clothes against the cold, their breaths like white cones in the still air.

Those who hold power always say: ‘Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. If you say otherwise, you will be worked on. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. If you have a problem with your healthcare, you are mistaken. If you have pain in your arm, you do not have pain in your arm. Everything’s fine.  Honest. It’s fine.’

To SEGMENT 9: Tyranny as Teacher