Monday, July 25, 2016

Green Monkeys, All

“Men’s acceptance of the cultural association of manhood with control makes them complicit in its consequences, including the use of violence. Acceptance need not be conscious or intentional. Individual men need not be violent themselves. Mere silence -- the voice of complicity -- is enough to accomplish the effect and to connect them to the violence that other men do.”
This needs to be said over and over and over again. Rephrase it, repeat it, reprint it, restate it until we all know it in our cells. Because the patriarchy has only one tool, only one punishment for failure: Men won’t like you if you don’t conform. Yep, that’s it. People won’t like you, specifically middle class white men, the standard to whom all beings are held, the measure by which we are all found to fall short. We are willing to beat each other into submission, to kill each other, to cage each other, to hurt each other, to use tools ranging from violence to shame, to avoid being ostracized.
The code begins in the school yard if we didn’t get the message at home: point and laugh at anything different; set the new kid apart and be actively cruel; define your inclusion to the group by standing together against the outsider; show your position of strength by how forcefully you can act in to perpetuate the idea of the norm.
Back in the Seventies, before there were rules governing such experimentation, a bunch of social scientists studying group inclusion and identity behavior had a collective of monkeys in an observation area. One day they decided to take a middling member of the community and dye his fur green, reintroduce him to the collective, and see what sorts of behavior was used to assimilate or address this surface change. The researchers expected actual behaviors by the collective, elements that they could study and from which they could draw conclusions and possibly write papers for the coming decades about skin color and its effect on the collective subconscious.
They certainly were not expecting what they got: The whole group came together as one body to shred the green monkey. Nothing was left of it other than small bits of fur. It was not merely killed; it was annihilated, evaporated, removed, violently and with one explosive, collective act.
In their confusion, these researchers concluded that there was nothing of value to be learned from the experiment.

Instead of dismissing the unexpected results, we should see what is really before us, presented in undeniable context and and written in blood: xenophobia is a survival issue. Love and belonging are the real currency of the group, and no health and wellness program, from gym memberships to soup kitchens, can hope to be effective if these elements are met as well.

Allan Johnson, “Fatal Distraction: Manhood, Guns, and Violence,” in Okun, Rob, ed. Voice Male, (Northampton: Interlink Books), 2014, p.377, emphasis added.