In his brilliant book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."
Masson asked a group of farmers, "What do you with sheep who can undo the latch?"
"We shoot them," came the reply, "so they can’t pass on their knowledge."
"Others nodded in agreement," Masson continued. "They all had anecdotes about particularly intelligent sheep who were shot as a reward for their cleverness."
While this excerpt stands alone as a telling indictment of human behavior in general and the treatment of animals in particular, it additionally reminds one how important it is to not only undo the latches on the gates that keep our minds imprisoned…but to pass on that knowledge.
Of course, those who have learned to undo the latches in human society are "rewarded for their cleverness," too. Deported (Emma Goldman), murdered Gestapo-style (Fred Hampton), framed and imprisoned (Leonard Peltier)…the tactics vary, but in America, these tactics are typically more subtle than overt terror.
"If you come from the more privileged classes, if you’re a white middle-class person, then the chances that you are going to be subjected to literal state terror are very slight," says Noam Chomsky. "It could happen, but it’s slight. What will happen is that you’ll be marginalized, excluded. Instead of becoming part of the privileged elite, you’ll be driving a taxi cab. It’s not torture, but very few people are going to select that option, if they have a choice. And the ones who do select it will never be heard from again. Therefore they are not part of the indoctrination system. They don’t make it. It could be worse, but it’s enough to discipline people."
To a point, it certainly is more than enough to discipline people…but even the most conditioned of societies can be pushed too far and that’s when the latches get undone, the knowledge passed on, and the gates fly open.
These gates (usually unrecognized) can lock us into a limited way of seeing things…a concept Masson also touches on in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon. He spoke with some women who worked with cattle…asking them about the cows’ feelings. "They don’t have any," the women agreed. "They are always the same, they feel nothing."
"At that moment," Masson writes, "we all heard a loud bellowing. I asked why the cows were making that noise."
The women shrugged it off as "nothing," explaining that cows that were separated from their calves were calling them. "The calves are afraid," one woman said, "and are calling for their mothers, and their mothers are afraid for their calves and are calling them, trying to reassure them."
"It sounded to me," Masson stated, "as if these people were suffering from… confirmation bias, which involves only taking into account evidence that confirms a belief already held and ignoring or dismissing evidence that disproves that same belief."
Think about that. Even the evidence of their own senses cannot convince them.
There’s an important lesson lurking in there for us all: The gatekeepers-often using confirmation bias as their lock and key-are not limited to the elite players in the corporate/government nexus.
Pass it on…
MICKEY Z. is the author of two upcoming books: "A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense" (Prime Books/Library Empyreal) and "the Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda" (Common Courage Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.