Simple Liberty  



To Alter Or To Abolish


Written by Darrell Anderson.

Start with a cage and add five apes. In the cage, string a cluster of bananas from the ceiling. Place a short stepladder under the bananas. Have a water hose handy connected to a cold water source.

Eventually an ape will venture toward the ladder and consider obtaining the bananas. As soon as an ape touches the steps, spray all of the apes with cold water.

Eventually another ape will attempt to obtain the bananas. When that ape touches the steps repeat the water act and spray all the apes with cold water. Then, turn off the cold water. Later, when one of the three remaining apes tries to climb the steps the other apes will attack and prevent the ape from continuing — although no cold water is sprayed on them.

Remove one ape and replace that ape with a new ape. The new ape will see the bananas and proceed to climb the stairs. To its horror, all of the other apes attack. After another attempt and subsequent attack, the new ape learns that if it tries to climb the steps, the other apes will attack. Replace one of the original apes with another new ape. The new ape proceeds to the steps and is attacked. The previously new ape participates in the attack and does so enthusiastically.

Replace another original ape with another new ape. The new ape moves toward the steps and is attacked. The two new apes attack and have no hint why they are not allowed to climb the steps, or why they participate in the attacks. Continue replacing apes until all the original apes that were sprayed with cold water have been replaced. No new ape ever approaches the steps. Why?

“I don’t know, that’s just the way we’ve always done things around here.”[1]

Turn the page to appreciate the meaning of this story.


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[1] Author unknown.