The Caged Monkeys

There were five monkeys who lived in a cage inside a science lab. They awoke one morning to notice that a ladder had been placed right in the middle of the cage. Over the ladder, hanging invitingly from the ceiling, was a banana. Immediately, one of the monkeys raced towards the ladder, intending to climb it and grab the banana. As soon as he started to climb, icy cold water sprayed down on both the ladder climber and the other four monkeys. When a second monkey started to climb the ladder, he would again be sprayed with ice-cold water, and the same treatment applied to his four fellow inmates.

This happened each and every time one monkey started to climb the ladder. Very soon each and every monkey was on the lookout in case one of its companions would try to climb the ladder. How the monkeys hated that cold water. They hated it so much they quickly learnt to attack any monkey even touching the ladder.

One of the monkeys is removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him as he makes his way toward the stairs. No water is even sprayed. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

A second monkey is removed from the cage and replaced with a new one, with the events repeating themselves – new monkey runs towards the ladder, other monkeys beat him up, new monkey does not attempt to climb again. This removal of the monkeys one-at-a-time continues until all the monkeys are replaced and none of the five in the cage have any experience or knowledge of the ice-cold water treatment. The beatings continue every time a new monkey attempts to climb the ladder. Each in turn learns the lesson, even though they don’t know why, and none of them get the banana.

Over countless generations, we as a society have developed routines, habits, practices and culture. These customs and conventions can be remarkably different between societies, in terms of what sort of behaviour they value and what they penalise. Often though, nobody actually remembers why they were started in the first place. The routines and practices really don’t make sense in today’s society. The guy with the ice cold water hose has long gone.

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One Response to The Caged Monkeys

  1. Pingback: The Story | Shouldland

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