Monkeys Playing the Guitar


When I was a young boy, I remember watching a television program about monkeys. The premise of the program evolved around the question to what degree can you train an ape. The first test they put the monkeys through was to see what would happen if they gave a group of ape’s guitars. One ape quickly trashed his, broke into little pieces and jumped on what was left of it for maximum effect. Another strummed it, generating a horrible sound, then broke his too. After seeing this, I figured the scientists must have concluded that music lessons were out of the question.

Sadly, I remembered this story after watching three different news videos this week. The first was a video where a group of Iraqi fundamentalists walked into a museum and trashed it as thoroughly as the monkeys demolished their guitars. Antiquities dating back to 3000 BC were destroyed by these animals because they came from an era where people worshiped false idols in the form of statues, and their message to the world was aimed at ending idolatry once and for all. The second was seeing a video of three Egyptians on a street in Cairo working in tandem to dismember a dog. Why? Well, in their world he was just a dog, so what of it? The final video, which took me over the top, was that of a cleric who went on TV to announce that the world was in fact not revolving, that it is stationary, and the reasoning behind his conclusion was if the globe was really rotating, if you left say New York for China, you would never get there. Yup, your plane would just fly helplessly at 30,000 feet never getting you to your expected destination because the world was moving under it.

On the subject of the Iraqi museum, it made me wonder what was next for Egypt if certain elements in our society got their way. What would they want to demolish to make a statement, religious or otherwise? Bomb the Sphinx? Destroy religious sites of worship other than their own? Trash the Cairo museum by say breaking the chin off Tutankhamen’s mask?

Yes, there are elements within Egyptian society today that are more than capable of doing just this. You can see those faces literally anywhere, and sadly now often on many news channels in the Middle East spewing their venom on a regular basis. It’s now common to watch what seems to be regular TV programming, only for you to conclude quickly that you are listening to someone mentally ill, with some form of schizophrenia staring you right in the face. They always look off, what they’re saying is crazy, and they present themselves as non-violent, but something in your gut tells you they in fact are not.

But, who is giving these crazies access to mass media where they can promote not only dangerous ideas, but potentially violent behavior under the guise of God, or righteousness? After all, how many times have we seen people distorting religion or nationalism and infecting others to such dangerous levels of folly that can quickly make an entire society behave in ways that can only be synonymous with mental illness? Do names like Hitler and Karadzic still ring a bell? What other crazies and hypocrites belong on a list today that have the ability to be accomplices to the lunacy of the aforementioned mad-men?

Yes, and let me be direct, current events in the Middle East are beginning to make me wonder whether the recent forms of religious perversion that we are now seeing is nothing more than a dangerously broad based form of unacceptable mental illness. Can anyone deny that killing other human beings because they are of a different faith is anything other than a phenomenon synonymous with mental illness? And, what we are now seeing day in and day out, is the misrepresentation of religious beliefs to promote outright murder, violence, racism, and various forms of homophobia. All of these things are keeping many societies in the Middle East today chained to the ground, one foot nailed to the floor creating societies where cruelty and brutality have become the norm and not the exception.

As for the now infamous dog murders, cruelty and brutality begin wherever someone looks at anything that walks and breathes and thinks: “it’s just an animal.” How easy was it for these three apes to dismember this dog? Did they ever show any mercy to the animal, or were they enjoying killing it slowly too much? Justifying the murder of a fellow human being would be easy too if we could relegate others into the category of being no different than animals.

Slaughterhouses for people would very quickly become OK like we saw in Nazi Germany, or on the streets of Srebrenica, and now off the shores of Libya. Murder is so easily justifiable for God, or country isn’t it?

And, as for our friend who doesn’t think the Earth rotates, his ability to go on television and say just this tells the whole story. If ignorance prevails, give a book of God to someone who can barely read or write and see what happens. It is reminiscent of the experiment I talked about earlier of giving a monkey a guitar. A fine instrument, like the words of God, are not safe in the hands of a fool, they cannot, and should not be left to the interpretation of those that are ignorant, or more dangerous yet, to those who are simply mentally ill.

After all, statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people who walk the planet we call Earth is suffering from some form of mental illness. I saw one of them this week try to explain gravity, another try to explain the need for the demise of museums, and yet a third try and justify the killing of a helpless dog. If all three of these people are okay, then the problem is me.

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© Khaled F. Sherif, 2020

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