I re-read the Law of the Monkeysphere last week. I’ll get into what prompted me in another post, but I want to urge everyone who has not read this 2 page article to go do it now. If you read this and think about it just a little bit, it might change the way you see your world.
…at one point or another we all have limits to our sphere of monkey concern. It’s the way our brains are built. We each have a certain circle of people who we think of as people, usually our own friends and family and neighbors, and then maybe some classmates or coworkers or church or suicide cult.
Those who exist outside that core group of a few dozen people are not people to us. They’re sort of one-dimensional bit characters.
We are hard-wired to have a drastic double standard for the people inside our Monkeysphere versus the 99.999% of the world’s population who are on the outside.
We all go a little insane, though, when we get in a group larger than the Monkeysphere.
“So I’m supposed to suddenly start worrying about six billion strangers? That’s not even possible!”
That’s right, it isn’t possible. That’s the point.
What is hard to understand is that it’s also impossible for them to care about you.
The primary difference is that monkeys are happy to stay in small groups and rarely interact with others outside their monkey gang. This is why they rarely go to war, though when they do it is widely thought to be hilarious. Humans, however, require cars and oil and quality manufactured goods by the fine folks at 3M and Japanese video games
and worldwide internets and, most importantly, governments. All of these things take groups larger than 150 people to maintain effectively. Thus, we routinely find ourselves functioning in bunches larger than our primate brains are able to cope with.
This is where the problems begin. Like a fragile naked human pyramid, we are simultaneously supporting and resenting each other. We bitch out loud about our soul-sucking job as an anonymous face on an assembly line, while at the exact same time riding in a car that only an assembly line could have produced. It’s a constant contradiction
that has left us pissed off and joining informal wrestling clubs in basements.
The good news:
As long as everybody gets their own bananas and shares with the few in their Monkeysphere, the system will thrive even though nobody is even trying to make the system thrive.
Some bad news:
This was a way of simplifying the too-complex-for-monkeys world by imagining all people of a certain race as being the same person, thinking they all have the same attitudes and mannerisms and tastes in food and clothes and music. It sort of works, as long as we think of that person as being a good person (“Those Asians are so hard-working and precise and well-mannered!”) but when we start seeing them as being one, giant, gaping asshole (the French, ironically) our monkey happiness again breaks down.
First, train yourself to get suspicious every time you see simplicity. Any claim that the root of a problem is simple should be treated the same as a claim that the root of a problem is Bigfoot. Simplicity and Bigfoot are found in the real world with about the same frequency.
So reject binary thinking of “good vs. bad” or “us vs. them.” Know problems cannot be solved with clever slogans and over-simplified step-by-step programs.
Note from Brian: I have a basic problem with rejecting “good vs. bad” thinking. I am convinced that there is absolute good and absolute evil in our world, and it is extremely important to know this.
So a simplified, 3-step program is the answer:
First, TOTAL MORON. That is, accept the fact THAT YOU ARE ONE. We all are.
Second, UNDERSTAND that there are no Supermonkeys. Just monkeys. Those guys on TV you see, giving the inspirational seminars, teaching you how to reach your potential and become rich and successful like them?
You know how they made their money? By giving seminars. For the most part, the only thing they do well is convince others they do everything well.
No, the universal moron principal established in No. 1 above applies here, too. Don’t pretend politicians are somehow supposed to be immune to all the backhanded fuckery we all do in our daily lives and don’t laugh and point when the preacher gets caught on video snorting cocaine off a prostitute’s ass. A good exercise is to picture your hero–whoever it is–passed out on his lawn, naked from the waist down. The odds are it’s happened at some point. Even Gandhi may have had hotel rooms and dead hookers in his past.
And don’t even think about ignoring advice from a moral teacher just because the source enjoys the ol’ Colombian Nose Candy from time to time. We’re all members of varying species of hypocrite (or did you tell them at the job interview that you once called in sick to spend a day leveling up on World of Warcraft?) Don’t use your heroes’ vices as
an excuse to let yours run wild.
And finally, DON’T LET ANYBODY simplify it for you. The world cannot be made simple. Anyone who tries to paint a picture of the world in basic comic book colors is most likely trying to use you as a pawn.
This is the first installment in a series of posts that will hopefully have some congruency and logic as a whole.