Go flip on the radio. Listen to the conservative talk about "The Government" as if it were some huge, lurking dragon ready to eat you and your paycheck whole. Never mind that the government is made up of people and that all of that money they take goes into the pockets of human beings. Talk radio's Rush Limbaugh is known to tip 50% at restaurants, but flies into a broadcast tirade if even half that dollar amount is deducted from his paycheck by "The Government." That's despite the fact that the money helps that very same single mom he had no problem tipping in her capacity as a waitress.
Now click over to a liberal show now, listen to them describe "Multinational Corporations" in the same diabolical terms, an evil black force that belches smoke and poisons water and enslaves humanity. Isn't it strange how, say, a lone man who carves and sells children's toys in his basement is a sweetheart who just loves bringing joy at Christmas, but a big-time toy corporation (which brings toys to millions of kids at Christmas) is an inhuman soul-grinding greed machine? Strangely enough, if the kindly lone toy making guy made enough toys and hired enough people and expanded to enough shops, we'd eventually stop seeing it as a toy-making shop and start seeing it as the fiery Orc factories of Mordor.
And if you've just thought, "Well, those talk show hosts are just a bunch of egomaniacal blowhards anyway," you've just done it again, turned real humans into two-word cartoon characters. It's no surprise, you do it with pretty much all six billion human beings outside the Monkeysphere.
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.
That's why they don't mind stealing your stereo or vandalizing your house or cutting your wages or raising your taxes or bombing your office building or choking your computer with spam advertising diet and penis drugs they know don't work. You're outside their Monkeysphere. In their mind, you're just a vague shape with a pocket full of money for the taking.
Think of Osama Bin Laden. Did you just picture a camouflaged man hiding in a cave, drawing up suicide missions? Or are you thinking of a man who gets hungry and has a favorite food and who had a childhood crush on a girl and who has athlete's foot and chronic headaches and wakes up in the morning with a boner and loves volleyball?
Something in you, just now, probably was offended by that. You think there's an effort to build sympathy for the murderous fuck. Isn't it strange how simply knowing random human facts about him immediately tugs at your sympathy strings? He comes closer to your Monkeysphere, he takes on dimension.
Now, the cold truth is this Bin Laden is just as desperately in need of a bullet to the skull as the raving four-color caricature on some redneck's T-shirt. The key to understanding people like him, though, is realizing that we are the caricature on his T-shirt.
Listen to any 16 year-old kid with his first job, going on and on about how the boss is screwing him and the government is screwing him even more ("What's FICA?!?!" he screams as he looks at his first paycheck).
Then watch that same kid at work, as he drops a hamburger patty on the floor, picks it up, and slaps in on a bun and serves it to a customer.
In that one dropped burger he has everything he needs to understand those black-hearted politicians and corporate bosses. They see him in the exact same way he sees the customers lined up at the burger counter. Which is, just barely.
In both cases, for the guy making the burger and the guy running Exxon, getting through the workweek and collecting the paycheck are all that matters. No thought is given to the real human unhappiness being spread by doing it shittily (ever gotten so sick from food poisoning you thought your stomach lining was going to fly out of your mouth?) That many customers or employees just can't fit inside the Monkeysphere.
The kid will protest that he shouldn't have to care for the customers for minimum wage, but the truth is if a man doesn't feel sympathy for his fellow man at $6.00 an hour, he won't feel anything more at $600,000 a year.
Or, to look at it the other way, if we're allowed to be indifferent and even resentful to the masses for $6.00 an hour, just think of how angry the some Pakistani man is allowed to be when he's making the equivalent of six dollars a week.
It doesn't matter. It's just an issue of degree.
There's a reason why legendary monkeytician Charles Darwin and his assistant, Jeje (pronounced "heyhey") Santiago deduced that humans and chimps were evolutionary cousins. As sophisticated as we are (compare our advanced sewage treatment plants to the chimps' primitive technique of hurling the feces with their bare hands), the inescapable truth is we are just as limited by our mental hardware.
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.
This is why I think it was with a great burden of sadness that Darwin turned to his assistant and lamented, "Jeje, we're the monkeys."
If you think about it, our entire society has evolved around the limitations of the Monkeysphere. There is a reason why all of the really phat-ass nations with the biggest SUV's with the shiniest 22-inch rims all have some kind of representative democracy (where you vote for people to do the governing for you) and all of them are, to some degree, capitalist (where people actually get to buy property and keep some of what they earn).
A representative democracy allows a small group of people to make all of the decisions, while letting us common people feel like we're doing something by going to a polling place every couple of years and pulling a lever that, in reality, has about the same effect as the darkness knob on your toaster. We can simultaneously feel like we're in charge while being contained enough that we can't cause any real monkey mayhem once we fly into one of our screeching, arm-flapping monkey frenzies ("A woman showed her boob at the Super Bowl! We want a boob and football ban immediately!")
Conversely, some people in the distant past naively thought they could sit all of the millions of monkeys down and say, "Okay, everybody go pick the bananas, then bring them here, and we'll distribute them with a complex formula determining banana need! Now go gather bananas for the good of society!" For the monkeys it was a confused, comical, tree-humping disaster.
Later, a far more realistic man sat the monkeys down and said, "You want bananas? Each of you go get your own. I'm taking a nap." That man, of course, was German philosopher Hans Capitalism.
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. This is perhaps how Ayn Rand would have put it, had she not been such a hateful bitch.
Then, some time in the Third Century, French philosopher Pierre "Frenchy" LaFrench invented racism.
Above: The French
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.
It's not all the French's fault. The truth is, all of these monkey management schemes only go so far. For instance, today one in four Americans has some kind of mental illness, usually depression. One in four. Watch a basketball game. The odds are at least two of those people on the floor are mentally ill. Look around your house; if everybody else there seems okay, it's you.
Is it any surprise? You turn on the news and see a whole special on the Obesity Epidemic. You've had this worry laid on your shoulders about millions of other people eating too much. What exactly are you supposed to do about the eating habits of 80 million people you don't even know? You've taken on the pork-laden burden of all these people outside the Monkeysphere and you now carry that useless weight of worry like, you know, some kind of animal on your back.
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.
You can do that by following these simple steps. We like to call this plan the T.R.Y. plan:
First, TOTAL MORON. That is, accept the fact THAT YOU ARE ONE. We all are.
That really annoying person you know, the one who's always spouting bullshit, the person who always thinks they're right? Well, the odds are that for somebody else, you're that person. So take the amount you think you know, reduce it by 99.999%, and then you'll have an idea of how much you actually know regarding things outside your Monkeysphere.
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.
So just remember: T-R-Y. Go forth and do likewise, gents. Copies of our book are available in the lobby.
David Wong is the editor of Cracked.com and the author of the dong-filled horror novel John Dies at the End.