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Friday, December 2, 2016

It has always been that way

I remember back about twenty years ago, I didn't have a car and so I needed rides to and from work. My grandfather was kind enough to taxi me around. He always turned off the expressway, took a back street and then got back on the expressway a few miles down the road. One day I asked him why he did that. He told me it was because that was how you got there. "But why not stay on the expressway?" "Because you can't get there from here. It's always been this way. The expressway doesn't go anywhere. They haven't finished it yet. Maybe one day they finally will." (They'd finished the expressway a decade earlier.) I stopped questioning the route after that. If somebody has a way of doing things that you think isn't right, you have to first know a better way, and second a way that the person will understand and agree to.

We sometimes question the efficacy of a given procedure. We ask others, family, friends, God, anybody, why. Why? Why does it have to be done like this? Often if they have an answer it's simply that it is done this way because it has always been done this way. Allow me, please, to paint you a portrait of this concept in action. Consider this simple thought experiment:

The monkey cage and the firehose


Imagine that once upon a time there was a zoo. In this zoo was a cage filled with twenty or so chimpanzees. Also in the zoo was a zoo keeper who hated those happy chimps. Who knows why? Maybe he was hit too many times in the face with hunks of chimp poo. Maybe he was bitten. It doesn't matter. Leave it be. Simply believe that he hated those chimps with a single-minded passion that would brook no entreaty with logical concepts such as reason. In addition to this burgeoning obsession, he was also bent ... bent as in twisted emotionally ... perhaps even completely tipped over—as one might say—into stark-raving lunacy. And so, after much thought, hundreds of crumpled pages of doodles—not to mention a never-ending stream of high-pitched teary-eyed giggles—he eventually conceived of his diabolical plan to revenge himself upon these furry demons. He would succeed in torturing these chimps he so hated, from that day and onward into ...forever!


The zoo-keeper brought a hacksaw, rope, a large bunch of bananas to the chimpanzee enclosure. He carefully and with much fussing about cut a hole through the roof of the enclosure so that from the outside, he could lower the bananas down on a rope. The chimps jumped as high as they could, but they weren't even close to reaching those delicious looking bananas. They hooted and hollered for a while, signaling their displeasure at the so close but not close enough temptation. This made the zookeeper smile. Now then, you might think that this, what the zookeeper had done was a small and mean thing to do, but you see, in actuality he had only just begun!

The next day having tortured the hungry chimps with the sight and aroma of fresh bananas for a full day and a night, he attached the zoo's fire hose to a hydrant near the chimpanzee enclosure. Next he took in an A-frame ladder, one tall enough so that a chimpanzee climbing to the top could just reach the bananas. Then he left the enclosure, picked up the nozzle end of the hose and waited.

As sure as night follows day, eventually an enterprising young chimp became interested in the ladder. He grabbed a hold of it and began climbing. Soon enough he reached the top, looked up, and reached out with a hairy hand to grab a fistful of bananas.

"DENIED!" screamed the zoo-keeper as he let that chimp have it with a powerful blast from the fire-hose. "DENIED!" he screamed as he spent ten more minutes torturing every chimp in the enclosure. He rolled them ass over elbow, giggling his teary-eyed high-pitched giggle, as the chimps screamed and hooted and ran pell-mell about, climbing over each other, whimpering, crying a sad chimp cry. Yes the image painted here leaves little doubt that the zoo-keeper truly hated these chimps.

This went on for days. Eventually the chimps stopped climbing the ladder. They'd had enough. The bananas were as far out of reach as the moon in the sky. More out of reach it must be said, because after all you could grab fruitlessly at the moon and not end up being rolled ass over elbow by a maniac with a fire-hose.

So we pause here and consider the situation: cage, chimps, bananas, ladder, hose, and maniac. They were trained these chimps. You seriously DO NOT climb the ladder. Now we get to the truly diabolical part.

The zoo-keeper traded out a chimp. One trained chimp gone. One untrained chimp brought in. What do you suppose happened next? Yes! The new chimp went for the ladder! DENIED! He-He-He-He-He! Angry chimps beat the crap out of the new chimp. The new chimp figured out the deal in record time. Next the zoo-keeper did another trade. DENIED!!! Another chimp brought in. This time as soon as the new chimp set foot on the ladder, the whole troop beat him down without mercy. Trained without a drop of water. If chimps could talk I bet they would be screaming "DENIED!" Another trade. And another. And another. a couple of years later and there wasn't a single chimp left in the cage that had ever been soaked by the crazy zoo-keeper and his fire-hose. But still week after week, as brown bananas were pulled out and fresh bananas lowered down, not one chimp dared climb that ladder. None of them knew why they all still beat the living crap out of any upstart chimp who dared to climb too high. It had always just been that way.

The zoo-keeper allowed the chimps themselves—that he so hated—to exact vicious retribution in perpetuity for whatever crime it was which the original chimp had committed upon the person of the zoo-keeper.

I wrote this because I was trying to illustrate the stupidity inherent in our foreign relations with China and other countries. The news is full of how stupid Donald Trump is for daring to speak to the President of Taiwan. We don't want to make the Chinese angry! They might tariff our goods at rates of fifty to one-hundred percent or even higher! They might rattle sabers, build more nukes, threaten our friends, make deals with our enemies, hack our computers... oh wait!
President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone Friday with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. The call was the first in more than 30 years between an American president-elect and a leader of the semi-autonomous island.

According to a readout of the call from the Trump transition team, Tsai congratulated Trump on his victory, and the two discussed “the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States.”

But the Trump team’s description of the call belies the fact that the conversation has the potential to upset three decades of relations between the United States and its most important global trading partner.

China, the United States and most of the international community consider Taiwan to be a Chinese territory. But Taiwan, with its own elected government, constitution and military, considers itself an independent nation.

In recognition of China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, the U.S. cut diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979. Trump’s call will likely enrage Beijing, and stands to damage U.S. relations with Chine before Trump even takes office.

“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” Evan Medeiros, a former Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times, which first reported the call Friday afternoon.
Do the people complaining about the "provocative action" even know why we were so obsequious for so long? Has servile suck-uppery ever gotten anyone anything in the long run? Isn't it finally time to take those bananas?

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