Skip to content

The Monkey Master

February 24, 2011

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?

  1. February 24, 2011 2:37 am

    The metaphor is very appropriate.
    It actually provides me with a sense of relief.
    Good job.

    Dantalion Jones

  2. Joe Howard permalink
    February 24, 2011 3:19 am

    The Wall Street bankers and their kin overseas are breathing easy that the ire of people is being directed at their governments . . . for the time being.

    But, Jeff, I have to ask, are you implying that Scientologists are not even as smart as monkeys?
    Not that I am disagreeing, mind you.

    • Fidelio permalink
      February 24, 2011 11:23 am


      in analogy I would say:

      The LRH disciples and their kin are breathing easy that the ire of people is directed at the CoS government DM and his ilk… for the time being.

      There is no way around the recognition of the RTS (Real Trouble Source) at the long run since Scientologists were smarter than monkeys before SCN – recovery is inevitable once ignited.


    • February 25, 2011 3:37 am


      I wouldn’t say that on an average Scientologists aren’t anymore gullible than the average American which isn’t saying much since 80% are still convinced that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 911 and those who still dearly belief that George Bush will be vindicated by finding WMDs in Iraq.

      Probably close to same number who seen Elvis in a shopping mall and are convinced that their lives are guided by angels.

      That is if they are not worried about the Government’s secret agreement with Gray Aliens.


      Anyway Jeff thanks for the link to Gene’s book.

      I have it on my must read list.

      Not to be contrarian or anything but never viewed Miscavige as any kind of *Leader* even when I was in.

      I mean what does an Organization that preaches the virtues of Self Determinism need with a quote leader unquote?

      Personally I thought it was the last position that needed to be filled.

      Right up there with Chalk Eraser I/C or that dipping bird that sits at the edge of the glass.

      Was never big on authority figures.

      On that note thought a song by John Mellencamp would suffice regarding my view on things:

    • DagnyLT permalink
      February 25, 2011 4:38 pm

      It’s an allegory and a metaphor. It’s not meant to be LITERAL comparison between monkeys and people. The story is just a fable, anyways – it isn’t even real. Monkeys don’t talk.

  3. Marta permalink
    February 24, 2011 3:22 am

    So apropos. Dictator and Oppressed, Master and Slave are both sides of the same coin. Interdependent on the other to continue the game. The assumed power is really a bluff, except that others allow it. Bending to the power helps convince the dictator or master that he has power and so more and more power. While his ever strengthened conviction convinces the slaves more fully and so perpetuates the “bluff”. And so on and so on. Cause and effect switch sides back and forth as the play continues, or one is yin to other is yang, then back the other way.

    One of my favorite things when still “in” was, when being bullied by another member (they’d assume a position of authority or altitude “over” me), staff or not, was to envision them playing the part on a stage as an actor. Sometime they were very convincing, others not so much. But, it always helped give me some perspective and objectivity. I think one of the things that helps them come off convincing is that they don’t believe their acting or bluffing or pretending. Got themselves all puffed up with a fancy title and bestowed authority. Just because they don’t know it’s a bluff doesn’t mean I have to agree 🙂

    Think about it. Finance Police, indeed. Inspector Generals, good grief. We went along with some wild stuff, alright.

  4. February 24, 2011 4:58 am

    Critical Thinking – Question Everything (5:13)

    • brendon permalink
      February 24, 2011 3:23 pm

      That was great…thanks for sharing it.

    • Cool Observer permalink
      February 24, 2011 6:55 pm

      I agree, excellent video. It shows very clearly what’s wrong with Scientology.

      From “Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary”

      CRITICAL THOUGHT, 1. a symptom of an overt act having been
      committed. (SH Spec 37, 6409C01) 2. a critical pc=a withhold
      from the auditor. (HCOB 23 Aug 71)

      Apparently manlind’s greatest friend had other ideas.

      • plainoldthetan permalink
        March 2, 2011 6:27 pm

        And apparently “random, carping 1.1 criticism” is the same as “critical thought” is the same as “critical thinking”. (not!)

        The next definition in the tech dictionary is: CRITICISM, 1. most criticism is justification of having done an overt. There are rightnesses and wrongnesses in conduct and society and life at large, but random, carping 1.1 criticism when not borne out in fact is only an effort to reduce the size of the target of the overt. (HCOB 21 Jan 60, Justification) 2. a criticism is a hope that they can damage, and that’s what a criticism is, with an inability to do so. (SH Spec 119, 6202C22)

        There are plenty of other places where LRH talks about criticism without it being a sign of an overt, such as in HCO PL ETHICS, REVIEW.

        And in HCOB STANDARDS (20 Mar 82R) LRH says “Anyone can always be criticized for something — it all depends on what standards the critic uses.”

        It’s the mechanism Miscavige uses to justify his criticism of and striking of others.

        The Pope of Scientology no doubt says “HE WHO SETS THE STANDARDS GETS TO STRIKE THE SUB-STANDARD”.

    • sherrymk permalink
      February 24, 2011 11:06 pm

      Monte, great video which I intend to watch a number of times and share with others. Exactly to the point. Thanks!

    • February 25, 2011 9:38 pm

      Thank you, Monte!

      When I see yellow here, I pay attention.

      Critical thinking is ESSENTIAL for a being to be a Being.

  5. Fidelio permalink
    February 24, 2011 9:20 am

    Hihihi, Jeff,


    You certainly got the sharpest pencil in the can! Like it!


  6. Pete Sagi permalink
    February 24, 2011 11:17 am

    The flip side of the monkey master …

    I’m sure I saw this once in a Gary Cooper western. If Gary Cooper wasn’t in it, some other big star was, perhaps John Wayne.

    The big star, the hero, is the sheriff. He has a prisoner in his jail cell in some small western frontier or mining town. The prisoner isn’t all that popular with the local folk, and is being held in the jail overnight either awaiting transport to a larger city or waiting on a judge to show up. Either way, he is accused of a murder and is awaiting trial, and it doesn’t look good for him … he will plead self defense, but the odds are he will hang. The town folk want to dispense with the formality of a trial and would like to just get the necktie party done. Of course, the scene is at night, and they show up with torches, and call out the sheriff.

    The sheriff walks out on the porch with his repeating rifle, and the town folk demand that he turn the prisoner over. He refuses. The leader of the town folk point out that the rifle only has 2 bullets left after the rounds the sheriff shot in the air to get everyone to shut up. This is when the sheriff replies that it is true, he only has 2 rounds left in his rifle … never the less, he will defend, and he asks the crowd who wants to be first. They all back down, one at a time, and walk away. Of course, the day is saved, trial is held, and the accused has witnesses who show up to testify that it really was self defense, he is aquitted, gets the girl, etc.

    Of course, reality is a different story here, analogies always break down at some point, and DM is certainly no brave sheriff. But what remains true is that it always takes someone willing to standup and take the consequences to lead the charge.


  7. Brenda permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:21 pm

    Excellent point. Noam Chomsky has a book called Manufacturing Consent. He makes the same point that we consent to the very forces that work against our interests. Deception is the tool of choice to create this consent, and critical thinking is the antedote.

  8. AMY'S MOM permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:29 pm

    Well done, Jeff.

    It’s amazing how closely the church of Scientology is following the political scene in America! It truely is all about the willingness to look, looking and then acting on what you now see is true.

    Thank you once again for a good helping of kickass.

  9. February 25, 2011 9:33 pm

    This film is very close to the needs of those who want to see the truth as it is:

    • February 26, 2011 3:22 pm

      Vad! Thanks so much for posting this clip. For the last day or so I have been trying to recall the name of this movie (such a great movie – an such a pertinent metaphor – a must see) so that I could find clips from it to add to my “Media messages” playlist on my youtube channel. BTW, my name is now linked to my YT channel. All are invited to come by for a visit. Just click Monte. 🙂

      FYI: Leaving Scn and Marty’s blog are the only two exscn blogs I read anymore and if I comment, which I don’t do much anymore, I only comment here on Jeff’s blog. One other exscn source I subscribe to is the ToryMagoo44 channel on YT. Tory is such a veritable and charming soul. Love her style! And every few days she’ll upload a new video wherein she speaks to another slice of the scn pie. Always telling it like it was/is.

  10. February 26, 2011 3:02 pm

    Here is a good video to couple to the video re critical thinking. Scn is not talked about but the correlations are easily made.

  11. February 27, 2011 5:39 pm

    Monkey masters also have another trick. They collect up the more radical and power hungry, blind and obedient, young and inexperienced and make them “flying monkeys”. They also hire mercenary monkeys from outside the group. The flying monkeys over see the monkeys and watch for any monkey that starts getting wise. Its their job to quickly remove, silence and even destroy any such monkey.

    • Idle Org permalink
      February 27, 2011 9:38 pm

      Brilliant paragraph Mat!

      Brilliant article Jeff!

      I’ve often thought about why the Tom Cruise’s of the world have any fame, money or power and I believe it aligns with the Monkey Master story.

      Cruise is only famous each and every day because people continue to hold that agreement in their minds. He is only wealthy because his PR machine keeps people going to his movies. (Well…..people USED to go to his movies before he showed the world that he’s in a crazy cult, that is).

      DM is only where he is because a select group of people keep him there IN THEIR MINDS through group agreement. His PR machine worked on me for twenty years, I hate to admit.

      These men AREN’T famous. They are MADE famous, each and every minute, in the minds of others. That’s the only place where their “fame” actually resides. In the minds of others.

      I’ll take the risk of saying the same thing about God. God exists in the MINDS of PEOPLE, through agreement and a lifetime of PR about GOD. And boy does the opinion on God differ from person to person and group to group, even within the same general religion. People quite literally kill one another over what they hold as “truth” in their own minds about God.

      Santa Clause exists ONLY in the minds of children because of the PR their parents, the media and Toys R Us pound into them from early November through late December each and every year.

      Fame isn’t even a real, tangible condition. The universe doesn’t give a shit about movie stars, cult leaders, Santa Clause or even God. But in the minds of people, and ONLY in the minds of people, it is VERY real. And very different from person to person or group to group.

      Plants, animals, rocks, stars, planets……..they probably don’t think about God or movie stars all that much. but PEOPLE definitely do.

      For it is PEOPLE who decide which person gets to hold the title of “famous” or not. It is PEOPLE who decide that someone is powerful or not. It is PEOPLE who decide whether someone gets to be wealthy or not.

      And the key to all of this is being clever about obtaining AGREEMENT. Thus the need for PR. Thus the fancy buildings. The styrofoam columns. The vomit-inducing, over-the-top, Pomerantz voice-overs at “events”.

      It’s a PR world. Quite literally, this world and its “authority figures” are ONLY what we first must agree to make them.

      Monkey Master’s be gone!

      • February 28, 2011 6:53 pm

        It’s all about PR in the “church of scientology”

  12. February 28, 2011 12:59 am

    One could argue that if you agree to practice Scientology (inside or outside the organized Church), you are following the monkey master. From my viewpoint, LRH is Ju Gong. Of course, now the master has died, and is not around to collect the fruit, but that hasn’t stopped the monkeys from continuing to live in his house rather than go out on their own and seek freedom.


  13. Summer Wind permalink
    February 28, 2011 9:19 pm

    Love this article. Just pulling out ones support of a despot can destroy him.
    It is my belief that we get what we put our attention on and if we no longer give attention to evil men or women they will cease to exist. The only the power they have is the power we give them.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: