The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris

The Human Zoo by Desmond Morris

Author:Desmond Morris
Language: eng
Format: epub

That green-haired man is vicious.

All green-haired men are vicious.

Green-haired men will attack anyone.

There’s another green-haired man—hit him before he hits you. (The green-haired man, who has done nothing to provoke aggression, hits back to defend himself.)

There you are—that proves it: green-haired men are vicious.

Hit all green-haired men.

This progression of violence sounds ridiculous when expressed in such an elementary manner. It is, of course, ridiculous, but nevertheless it represents a very real way of thinking. Even a dimwit can spot the fallacies in the seven deadly stages of mounting group prejudice that I have listed, but this does not stop them becoming a reality.

After the green-haired men have been hit for no reason for long enough, they do, rather naturally, become vicious. The original false prophecy has fulfilled itself and become a true prophecy.

This is the simple story of how the out-group becomes a hated entity. There are two morals to this tale: do not have green hair; but if you do, make sure you are known personally to people who do not have green hair, so that they will realize that you are not actually vicious. The point is that if the original man seen hitting a child had had no special features potentially setting him apart, he would have been judged as an individual, and there would have been no damaging generalization. Once the harm has been done, however, the only possible hope of preventing a further spread of in-group hostility must be founded on personal interchange and knowledge of the other green-haired individuals as individuals. If this does not happen, then the intergroup hostility will harden and the green-haired individuals — even those who are excessively non-violent— will feel the need to club together, even live together, and defend one another. Once this has occurred, then real violence is just around the comer. Less and less contact will take place between members of the two groups and they will soon be acting as if they belonged to two different tribes. The greenhaired people will soon start to proclaim that they are proud of their green hair, when in reality it never had the slightest significance for them before it became singled out as a special signal.

The quality of the green-hair signal that made it so potent was its visibility. It had nothing to do with true personality.

It was merely an accidental label. No out-group has ever been formed, for example, of people who belong to blood group O, despite the fact that, like skin colour or hair pattern, it is a distinct and genetically controlled factor. The reason is simple enough— you cannot tell who is group O, simply by looking at them. So, if a known group O man hits a child, it is difficult to extend antagonism towards him to other group O people.

This sounds so obvious, and yet it is the whole basis of the irrational in-group/out-group hatreds we usually refer to as ‘racial intolerance’. For many it is hard to grasp that, in reality,


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