Once upon a time there was a huge monkey forest where a large band of monkeys roamed free. They swung from branches freely, played around in the shallow waters, and although food and monkey business were occasionally squabbled over, they were free and happy in their natural environment.
That is, they were free and happy until one day everything changed. Twelve unlucky monkeys were drugged and captured!
The group of 12 adults (six male and six female) dozily woke up again a few hours later to find themselves in a large metal box. It was not a cage as such, since there were no bars to climb or swing on. The box was totally smooth on the inside.
The only light that came into the box was through an open skylight. They could see their natural habitat clearly through it, but the ceiling was far too high for even the biggest monkey to jump and reach.
Then one of the bigger adult monkeys saw a metal chain hanging down from the skylight. It was quite high up but he realised that if he jumped really hard he could grab it and climb. Freedom!
He ran and jumped as hard as he could, grabbed the end of the chain, and started climbing excitedly up toward freedom as fast as he could. Then something happened.
The metal chain was electrified, and the monkey got a sharp, painful electric shock that made him fall back to the ground. Not only that, but at the same time the entire cage became electrified and all the other monkeys all got shocked too.
Another adult monkey tried to climb to his freedom a little later with the same result, and again all 12 monkeys got shocked.
After a few attempts the monkeys learned that trying to climb the metal chain meant everyone got nasty shocks, so they didn't try it again.
They all soon realised that the chain was electrified 24/7, since the background buzz of electricity could quite clearly be heard if they walked anywhere near the chain. It was a sound that never went away, day or night.
So they resigned themselves to their fate of living in the cage. It was not a very nice cage because there wasn't much to play with. There was a big cardboard box filled with handcuffs and handcuff keys in the corner of the cage, but what fun was that? What would the monkeys want with those? They were used to being free. Being trapped in a cage was bad enough for freedom-loving monkeys, so the handcuffs and keys went untouched.
Occasionally their captors would drop some bananas through the skylight, and there was a running tap in another corner for fresh water, so the monkeys were able to survive even though the air was not nice and fresh like outside and there was nothing to swing on.
Some monkeys beat their fists against the metal walls, but that was no use. Nobody ever escaped so they stopped trying and went back to their usual routine of eating and making monkey business and squabbling over who was the alpha male and who got first choice of the food and the females.
A few of the 12 monkeys became philosophical and religious about their fate. They took to gathering in one corner of the cage so they could discuss amongst themselves whether a great invisible sky-god monkey was somehow punishing them for some sins they had committed, and if so, what could those sins possibly be and how might they appease him?
After a week one of the adult female monkeys was replaced with a new adult female. This new monkey saw the metal chain and made for her escape. The other monkeys, not wanting to be shocked, leapt on her and beat her up before she could even reach the chain. The new monkey attempted to go for the chain a few more times before learning that going for the chain means that other monkeys will beat her up.
Still not realising why the other monkeys were beating her up, she developed a crafty plan. She waited until all the other monkeys were asleep and then tried to escape under cover of darkness!
Of course she got electrocuted in the middle of the night and the other 11 monkeys realised that the only thing they hate more than getting the electric shock is to be woken up from sleep by it. The monkeys became even angrier.
One of the monkeys came up with an idea. He grabbed a set of handcuffs and handcuffed himself to the new monkey to stop her trying to pull the same trick again whilst they were asleep (and also because he thought she was quite cute).
The religious monkeys declared that this was a sign from the great invisible sky-god monkey himself that all the monkeys must choose one partner and handcuff themselves to their partner; they also declared that any monkey who didn't would go to monkey hell.
The monkeys shrugged and even the ones who didn't actually believe in the invisible sky-god monkey decided to go along with it for the sake of a peaceful life and because it would make it easier to stop other newly-introduced monkeys from waking them up in the middle of the night with nasty electric shocks.
Besides, what if they were wrong and found out too late that monkey hell does really exist! They did not want to go there if it really existed (which they seriously doubted it did).
And so all the adult monkeys handcuffed themselves to their most preferred monkey business partner (with the alpha males getting first pick) and made baby monkeys with them.
The adult monkeys agreed to wait until the baby monkeys were almost grown up enough to be able to reach the metal chain before handcuffing them to someone.
There were some brief squabbles between some of the adult monkeys as to whether the parents of the baby monkey should get to choose who their baby got handcuffed to when they grew up or if the baby would get to choose for themselves when the time came.
They could not come to an agreement on that one, but they agreed that as long as everyone got handcuffed to a partner when they grew old enough, things would be ok.
Every week like clockwork, one of the adult monkeys got replaced by a new adult monkey (sometimes a male for a male and sometimes a female for a female), and the departing monkey would leave their descendants behind.
Because this happened so regularly, the new adult monkeys were soon being met by a welcoming committee and taught not to grab the metal chain, and to handcuff themselves to a partner. They learned that failure to comply with either rule would make the invisible sky-god monkey very angry indeed, and that he would send them to monkey hell.
Gradually over time, all of the original adult monkeys were replaced and none of their descendants were old enough to ever have received an electric shock from anybody grabbing the metal chain. This meant that, for the first time…
None of the monkeys in the cage had ever received an electric shock.
Gradually the causal connection between grabbing the chain and receiving electric shocks was lost, because no one left had ever received one or talked to anyone who ever had.
However, none of the monkeys wished to offend anyone else in the group by tarnishing the ancient teachings of the original 12 wise monkeys, nor to anger the great invisible sky-god monkey and go to monkey hell (which by now everyone was convinced was a barren, miserable place completely without bananas).
Everybody by this stage was a religious monkey, and they all took to pondering about the great question of the “outside"--- this place that the 12 wise monkeys called “nature" beyond the skylight. All agreed that it must be a wicked place without morals and correct rules and that only those on the inside were morally correct.
At this stage, the monkeys' captors brought the experiment to an end, switched off the current that electrified the cage and the metal chain, and left the facility.
One of the monkeys standing near the metal chain noticed that the buzzing sound of electricity had stopped, but decided not to say anything to the other monkeys. There was no point. He knew and everyone knew that touching the chain was forbidden. It would only make the group and the great invisible sky-god monkey angry. Anyway, those on the outside in “nature" were immoral beasts that lived in a world where proper and correct rules were not followed.
Anyway, pretty soon everyone in the group was far more concerned about another matter entirely. After several days without captors to bring food, the poor monkeys began to starve.
Although free to leave and return to nature, they remained handcuffed to each other in the knowledge that they were morally correct and that “nature" was a wicked place for those without morals.
The lack of bananas caused them to wonder if they had already been sent to monkey hell by the great invisible sky-god monkey. What sin had they committed now? Some religious monkeys decided that all monkeys must have been born with original sin. That was the only possible explanation.
Since the captors had left the facility, other monkeys in the outside world felt safe to approach the area around the facility once more, and they began to make the area their own again.
A rogue monkey in the outside world was out one day happily collecting bananas when he climbed onto the roof and peered into the skylight. He was amazed by what he saw.
He was greeted by the sight of dozens of emaciated monkeys, with a metal chain dangling from the celling offering them an easy way to escape. Being rather puzzled, he swung down, bananas in hand, to find out what was going on.
Of course all the monkeys gasped when they saw him touch the metal chain and swing down onto the floor. You are not supposed to touch the metal chain, they thought! Everybody knows that!
The rogue monkey, on taking a closer look at the emaciated monkeys and noticing that they were all handcuffed to each other said, “There is loads of food out there. That's your natural habitat too! Are you crazy? What they hell are you doing in here all handcuffed to each other and starving, especially when you have such an easy way to escape?"
As none of the remaining monkeys had any causal link between the metal chain and receiving electric shocks, they all angrily waved their fist in the air in unison and shouted the only thing they could think of:
“THAT'S JUST THEY WAY WE DO THINGS AROUND HERE!"
The rogue monkey shrugged his shoulders and scampered back up the metal chain and through the skylight into nature, before they could even blink.
The descendants of the 12 original monkeys looked on in astonishment. They had never seen a monkey do that before, and in their weak, handcuffed and surprised state, they hadn't even had time to stop the rogue monkey before he did it.
As they pondered the astonishing thing they had seen, the elder monkeys and the religious leader monkeys expressed outrage about the actions of the rogue monkey. They told themselves that they knew all along that nature was immoral. The fact that the rogue monkey so casually did the unthinkable and climbed the metal chain, not once but twice, only proved it!
Meanwhile, the hungry eyes of some of the other monkeys drifted towards the cardboard box in the corner, and they started to wonder which one of the keys inside would unlock their handcuffs.