The Monkey Master
I ran across the following fable in a book by Gene Sharp, called From Dictatorship to Democracy (available as a free download here).
Sharp, Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is known for his extensive writings on nonviolent struggle, which have influenced numerous anti-government resistance movements around the world. Known as the “Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” Sharp has influenced resistance organizations around the world, most recently the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt as well as the movements in Tunisia and Libya. This fable, a Fourteenth Century Chinese parable by Liu-Ji, offers insight into the nature of political power.
In the feudal state of Chu an old man survived by keeping monkeys in his service. The people of Chu called him “ju gong” (monkey master).
Each morning, the old man would assemble the monkeys in his courtyard, and order the eldest one to lead the others to the mountains to gather fruits from bushes and trees. It was the rule that each monkey had to give one-tenth of his collection to the old man. Those who failed to do so would be ruthlessly flogged. All the monkeys suffered bitterly, but dared not complain.
One day, a small monkey asked the other monkeys: “Did the old man plant all the fruit trees and bushes?” The others said: “No, they grew naturally.” The small monkey further asked: “Can’t we take the fruits without the old man’s permission?” The others replied: “Yes, we all can.” The small monkey continued: “Then, why should we depend on the old man; why must we all serve him?”
Before the small monkey was able to finish his statement, all the monkeys suddenly became enlightened and awakened.
On the same night, watching that the old man had fallen asleep, the monkeys tore down all the barricades of the stockade in which they were confined, and destroyed the stockade entirely. They also took the fruits the old man had in storage, brought all with them to the woods, and never returned. The old man finally died of starvation.
Yu-li-zi says, “Some men in the world rule their people by tricks and not by righteous principles. Aren’t they just like the monkey master? They are not aware of their muddleheadedness. As soon as their people become enlightened, their tricks no longer work.”
The lesson is clear: dictators only rule because we allow them to rule. Dictators require our assistance to maintain their power. We go along with dictatorships because we believe, for whatever reason, that their authority is legitimate, and that we have a moral or ethical duty to support them. Some obey them because of fear of punishment, imprisonment, exile or even death.
“On the other hand,” Sharp points out, “withdrawal of popular and institutional cooperation with aggressors and dictators diminishes, and may sever, the availability of the sources of power on which all rulers depend. Without availability of those sources, the rulers’ power weakens and finally dissolves…Over time, the withholding of the sources of power can produce the paralysis and the paralysis and impotence of the regime, and in severe cases, its disintegration.”
So, Scientologists, ask yourselves, what do you really need your monkey master for?