Here's the story:
Start with a cage containing five monkeys. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put 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 monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey will make an attempt with the same response -- all of the monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Keep this up for several days.
Turn off the cold water. If, later, another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.
Now, 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 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.
Replace the third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat 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 the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs.
"Because that's the way it's always been done around here."
Interesting huh? That lead me to think about not just small scale issues, but laws, traditions, religions, drugs, politics and growth and development of individuals and society in general. Here are my observations on those subjects:
It irritates and angers me greatly that people persist in following laws or traditions because that's the way it's always been done. Don't get me wrong - some of the lighthearted traditions are quaint, fun or have some other redeeming value. As long as they are optional for all I do not have a problem with them. Optional being that the people involved can see all the alternatives and are offered free and equal choice between them all.
Take, for example, alcohol or tobacco. If either of these drugs had been discovered recently they would have been classified as being worse than cannibis (say) for the health and social disorders it causes, but are either of them outlawed now? NO! Because it would be too difficult to change. However: I enjoy drinking as much as the next person (some might say a bit more) - I'm not arguing to see it banned - I'm striking at the hypocrisy of modern society.
Just this morning kissycat1000 sent me a link to a website appealing for the adoption law in Florida (or was it Canada) to be changed to allow gay couples to adopt. Modern (1st world) democratic governments and laws seem to be incapable of changing at the same pace as modern (1st world) cultures and societies.
If religion wasn't seen as a cornerstone of people's cultures then it too would be banned and outlawed as causing bloody civil wars. Who is to say what free will is? Is free will the right to choose if and what you believe? Or is free will what you lose when you decide (or have the decision made eg. by being born into) to follow a religion?
The problem is of course that people feel the need to identify themselves as part of some community, whether through defining by religion, fashion, culture or some other means - you can see this in any level of social group from schools, universities, communities up to countries in the world at large. As the world becomes ever more advanced in terms of communications and transport (especially at a global level) it is effectively destroying the barriers that segregated people and cultures and allowing them to mix more freely. People fall back on the few remaining vesteges of community left to them. Resentment brews and the fight for identity begins...
Britain itself seems in recent years to have been forming a 'nanny state', seemingly caused by the need for modern society to 'protect the stupid from themselves'.
A small point should be mentioned here that anonymous communication in whatever form (mobile phone text messages, emails, forums, internet in general) has been welcomed with open arms. This has of course offered numerous benefits - the ability to judge people only by what they write (erm - self-referencing here?!) rather than looks or clothes or physical disability or any other form of discrimination, freer speech (people are less easily identifiable and therefore persecuted for their ideas), the ability to reach many many people easily (eg. web pages). It does however bring with it the negative side that people can be nasty/spiteful without recrimination - you must surely have heard of the stories of school children harassing each other with text messages.
Remember the tv advert with the water flooding representing information, with specific reference to the internet? It was by The Times newspaper wanting people to see it as making sense of the flood of information. Hah - another wasteful tradition whose use is quickly coming to an end.
If you look at the movement in America that no legislation must have religious overtones; the article on public schools being asked to not have religious content in their assemblies - similar things are happening in Britain. People feel that certainly Britain and possibly other first world (god I hate that term) countries are losing their own cultures and identities. It has lead to apathy in the upcoming generations for politics and law and order. Admittedly traditions and religions in general offer far more in terms of discipline and order than the current 'faceless' Britain for example.
Some of the traditions followed in religion don't seem to have any functional purpose - they may once have done but now they're seemingly just blindly followed. Up until recently for example I believe it was common practise for the majority of Christian male babies in America to be circumcised. I read a post on the subject in a livejournal community of all places. The post was admittedly one-sided in favour of banning it (what isn't?) as it contravenes basic human rights to make a decision on behalf of someone to perform non-essential sugery without their consent.
Breaking down the communication barriers (let's face it - people are happier in ignorance) causes the dilution of people's sense of identity, and human nature dictates that they will react strongly and clump together to form a defense against this attack.
So where does it go? What is the answer? Well I certainly don't know. This is just a whirlwind tour of the sorts of thoughts going on in my brain. But basically this is why I think tradition and people who refuse to think for themselves are bad, that governments and politics lack the sense of identity that gave them purpose and direction before and have also not been able to keep up with the pace of change in society brought on by the exponential increase in communications.
I could prattle on at length on all of this and much more but I really can't be bothered and I'm sure you can't be bothered to read it, so does anyone have any comments to make?