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, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other 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 of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
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.
Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done around here.
(See note below)
MORAL FOR KENYAN MONKEYS
Most Luos have no idea why they hate the Gikuyu or vice-versa. Well, who cares. That’s the way it’s always been around here!!
And it’s not just in the above case of tribalism or racism that rational judgment is set aside, most human beliefs are deeply conditioned by dogma and tradition. Many seemingly rational people find it difficult to question or confront what are actually constructed belief systems. Most humans are in a mental cage much like the experimental monkeys.
(NOTE: The original author of the above story is unknown. Most likely it was not an actual experiment but an example of modern metaphors used for illustration purposes as in ancient folklore – a “literary device”. Another example of a literary device is the popular story of a frog stewing in slowly heated water. Was it an actual experiment? Does it matter anyway?)