Don’t want to be a monkey…

Before I jump to what I want to say, I’d like to narrate a small experiment thatI once heard and one that has stayed with me. Here it goes:

In some faraway land, eight monkeys were put in a room. In the middle of the room there was a ladder, leading to a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook on the ceiling.

Understandably, the monkeys wanted to get hold of the bananas. But, each time a monkey tried to climb the ladder; all the monkeys were sprayed with ice-cold water, which made them despondent. Every time a monkey tried to climb the ladder to get those bananas they were all sprayed with ice-cold water. This went on for a period of time. And so, whenever a monkey attempted to climb the ladder, all of the other monkeys, not wanting to besubjected to the chilly water, caught hold of him and beat him up. And so, all of the eight monkeys stopped trying to climb the ladder.

Now, as there was inactivity in the room, one of the original monkeys was removed and he was replaced by a new one.  Seeing the bananas and the ladder, this new monkey, true to his nature, set after the bananas. On seeing him scamper after the bananas all the other monkeys, who knew what was about to happen, caught him and thrashed him up! Much to his dismay, the poor thing had no idea why he was being beaten up. After a few attempts he stopped his quest for the bananas.

Once again, there was inactivity in the room, and so the experimenters remove a second original monkey and replace him with a new one. The new monkey again attempted to climb the ladder, but all the monkeys, including the one who was just replaced start, beat him up. The previous new monkey did it because he was glad that he was not the one getting beaten up. However, he had no idea why he was attacking the new monkey.

One by one, all the original monkeys are replaced and then the experimenters did not intend to spray ice water even if anyone tried to get hold of the bananas. The eight new monkeys who were now in the room, have never been sprayed by ice water. In spite of that, none of them attempt to climb the ladder. But, all of them enthusiastically beat up any new monkey who tries, without having any idea why.

The moral of this experiment is: We have a habit of doing things that have been done over the ages, without knowing why. And along the way, have come down such ‘rules’ and most of us follow them without question. It may not even occur to us to question, why; because they are ingrained in us like speech is right from birth. After many years of such a ‘culture’ travelling down the ages, we are told how things ‘should be’ and how they have ‘always been done’. As a person, I vehemently disregard anything that ‘should be done’ or any practice that has ‘always been done this way’. Somehow, because of following such schemes of my own design, I’ve turned out to be quite a rebel much to the displeasure of a lot of people around me. But, I want to ask, why? Why is it that we are expected to follow the ‘must-dos’ and ‘should-haves’ in our society? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is convention so overrated? And why is non-convention such a matter of shame?

Why can’t we just live and let live? Instead, we just are told to follow all that has been done in a particular manner for all this while. How boring! What’s wrong with change? What’s the big deal if people don’t believe? What is the problem if someone wants to believe? What’s the big deal if someone wants to be an atheist? Why should one be ashamed if she wants to ‘not wear’ a veil? Why is it necessary to aim to get into an IIT even if you don’t want to? Who the hell said it was necessary for a woman to cook for the house and a man to fend for a living, why isn’t it the other way round? And even if someone did, why should it be hard and fast? I ask, and I answer. Because, we have been conditioned to a certain scheme of things! Always have and always will be. We will pass it down to our children, because we are made of that stuff! I’m not saying it is wrong to imbibe a culture in children; all I’m saying is that if someone wants to live their life in a pattern that you don’t approve of, that’s your problem. It’s their life. I am a staunch believer of live and let live. You don’t mess with me, I don’t mess with you. Just don’t be a ‘new monkey’ and beat me!

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