Thursday 29 September 2016

What monkeys can tell us about the upcoming election

Published 05/02/2016 | 02:30

Leinster House: Can the natural world tell us anything about how politics works in this country?
Leinster House: Can the natural world tell us anything about how politics works in this country?

With the General Election on the way, consider the following psychological experiment.

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You start with a cage containing four monkeys, and inside the cage you hang a banana on a string, and then you place a set of stairs under the banana.

Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana. You then spray all the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt. As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray all the monkeys with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the hell out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment - with enthusiasm - because he is now part of the "team."

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new monkey, followed by the fourth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana. Why, you ask? Because, in their minds, that is the way it has always been!

This is how today's Dáil seems to operate, and this is why, from time to time, all of the monkeys need to be replaced at the same time!

Disclaimer: No disrespect is meant to monkeys.

Joe O'Neill

Naas, Co Kildare

We've heard it all before

We face another three weeks of listening, viewing and reading about something we've all had enough of.

In fact, you could call the whole election campaign 'the blame game'.

You're likely to hear comments like: 'Look at the state they left the country in.

'When we took over we were facing bankruptcy! We've created 130,000 new jobs.

'In the next five years, everyone will have their own home, and everyone will have a bed in a hospital of their choice!

'If you vote for us, the poor will become as rich as the rich!'

On and on the story goes.

The only certainty is that the worker will remain the worker, most likely working for the minimum wage.

And that goes for whatever party or parties get together to form the next government.

So, please, just for the next three weeks, give us all a bit of peace - no more political debates between candidates with that silly look on their faces, as if they knew what they are talking about.

Why not just toss a coin?

Fred Molloy

Dublin 15

The election made simple

Here's how to explain the General Election to kids.

"Basically, politicians are people who promise you pink unicorns if you vote for them. When they win, they show you a picture of a three-legged donkey and say that's the best they can do, as the bad guys before them took all the pink unicorn money.

"However, if you vote them in again, they will absolutely sort your pink unicorn for you. Unless you find out in the meantime that pink unicorns don't exist.

"And when you ask the politicians why they made that promise, they won't remember anything."

J Melia

Celbridge, Co Kildare

Marriage poll and funding

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that he may re-run the referendum on the powers of Oireachtas committees. Perhaps he should not stop there. There have been problems with other referendums also, and not just with their results.

Take, for instance, the recent referendum on marriage.

This issue was split in two. A Marriage Equality Bill was first put before the people in a referendum. The relevant bill was a short one, adding 17 words only (which related to marriage without distinction as to sex), to the Constitution. A bill setting out what was intended, however, was approved by the Cabinet (and the Oireachtas) after the referendum.

There never was a referendum on the consequential effects of the adoption of the Marriage Equality Bill. This particular bill was about the rights of adults. The rights of children did not come into this bill, yet children are believed to be greatly affected by the outcome.

Though perhaps legal, this arrangement had the effect of removing interpretation (and power) from the people and placing it in the hands of legislators. From a citizen's point of view, a change in the Constitution is the one real power the people have: in too many cases, candidates at election time feel free to conceal what they really intend, in order to maximise their votes.

It does not seem to be generally known that donations from Atlantic Philanthropies (a US organisation) over the 10 years of the civil partnership/same-sex marriage campaign, amounted to €3.6m (€3 per Yes vote) to the main Irish group involved. In addition (and apart from the participation of some members of the gardaí) the Government itself and HSE donated in grants at least €2.4m to the Yes side.

Applying the referendum voting percentages to this tax-funded donation, this meant that No voters contributed some €1m to the Yes campaign. This was probably greater than their contribution to their own No campaign!

It is not entirely surprising which side "won".

Donal O'Driscoll

Blackrock, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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