Bulletin N°472



19 December 2010
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Warning, any resemblance to real persons or events in the experiment described below with animals in a manipulated environment is merely coincidental.

A few years ago William Blum, the distinguished author of the influential book, Killing Hope, sent me a report by journalist Per Fagerent on an experiment on animal behavior conducted in a psychology laboratory. Blum had served as an official in the U.S. State Department under the Nixon administration and had resigned his post in protest of the crimes against humanity by U.S. policy makers during the Vietnam War, and the Swedish-American journalist he introduced us to asks us to consider the following description of an experiment in the effects of environmental change on animal behaviour.

Dancing on  the electric grid
by Per Fagereng
Picture this standard experiment in psychology: A group of rats is placed
on an electric grid and the voltage is slowly increased. After a while the rats
feel a burning tingle in their feet. The experimenters up the voltage some more,
and watch the rats dance and bite each other.

The experimenters are seeking knowledge, and the rats' pain is presumably
worth it. The experimenters don't blame the rats for fighting each other, or
punish the more aggressive ones. They know that individuals react to pain in
different ways.

Now picture the economic terrain as a different kind of pain grid. Instead of
electric shocks, the inhabitants experience job loss, higher prices, less pay,
overwork, polluted neighborhoods and so on. Controlling the grid are not 
psychologists, but CEOs and bankers. Instead of knowledge, they are seeking
profit. And so they up the pain, but not because they want to hurt people. They
are really trying to up their profits, and the pain is a side effect.

After a while people on the grid do nasty things to each other, everything from
domestic violence to immigrant-bashing to crime. Unlike the rats, the people get
blamed for their misbehavior. We are told to point our fingers at the victims on
the grid, instead of at the economic rulers who keep increasing the pain.

You'd think that the CEOs and bankers would ease up on the pain, but think
again. They continue to demand more sacrifice from the poor, knowing full
well how they'll react. 

Would you call this a big conspiracy? Or the sum of many small conspiracies? 
Maybe it doesn't matter that much. I'm not a mind reader. The point is, the economic
rulers pursue their profits and they know the consequences. So to that extent, they
are choosing to inflict pain.


In this example of the electronic grid, we see the context of environmentally induced pain and a subsequent behavioural change in rodents, who quickly develop an illegitimate power hierarchy that is maintained by violence. Dominate/subordinate relationships materialize in new power pyramids; it would appear that the activity of chewing the ears and tails off individuals offers the possibility of eluding the pain induced by the electric grid, while others seek some alternative sort of "advantage". Any natural hierarchies within this rat population, which might have been based on survival instincts or on procreation, were effectively dissolved by the experimenters who were pursuing their own career goals, totally unnoticed by their animal victims.

On a happier note, we offer this Xmas-time invitation from GRITtv and The Real News Network to revolt against the injustices we are all now living:

No Millionaire Left Behind



South America's Participatory Activism Leaves Mark on the North


And finally, we invite our readers to visit the CEIMSA web site's Archives, Conferences, and Publications this Christmas season for possible forwarding to friends, including our recent Bulletin #471: "ON WOULD-BE PUPPET MASTERS AND CONVINCED MISANTHROPES IN A VIRTUAL WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES " at http://dimension.ucsd.edu/CEIMSA-IN-EXILE/archives/bull-471.html

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3