Lab Rats

In 1961 there was a very interesting psychology experiment done in America.  The name of the experiment was the ‘Milgram Experiment’

This is how it worked:

  • A volunteer went into a room and was given simple instructions.
  • Ask the subject in another room a series of questions
  • Each time that subject got a question wrong, press a button that would give him a mild electric shock
  • As the experiment went on, the electric shocks increased in intensity

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But there was a catch.  As the mild electric shocks got stronger, the subject ended up crying and begging for mercy, and the volunteer started looking for permission to stop (to no avail, a supervisor behind him insisted that the experiment had to be completed).  Eventually the subject ‘died’.  The volunteer in one case had been told that the subject had a heart condition.

Except that the real subject of the experiment was the volunteer.  No shocks were given, nobody died.  The purpose of the experiment was to show how people would continue to do something they didn’t like if they thought they were ordered to by authority.  You can read more about it here.

Now.  Let’s look at the mess that we are in at the moment.  We have a government telling everyone that the experiment (austerity) must go on.  The Troika demand that we get our financial house in order.  Many economists are advising us on how best to cut corners in Health, Education, and Justice.  The people who earn over €100,000 are telling the rest of us how we should manage to live on a lot less.

And we have the government telling us that they feel our pain.  That we must all make sacrifices.  That it’s for the good of the country.  Really?

I fail to see how stripping hospitals of nurses and doctors can possibly be the way forward for our health system.

I fail to see how cutting the grant to agencies who help homeless people can do anything to alleviate homelessness by 2016 (a government target)

I fail to see how reducing the health budget by 20% can do anything other than hurt people.  Perhaps we’re trying to make a big omelette and we just need to crack a few eggs.

I fail to see how it can be good for anyone when the organisation that represents our soldiers can state that 1,300 of their members claim social welfare supplements as wages are so low.

In the latest complaint over HSE overspend (?) the Department of Public Expenditure stated that “The pace of reform is set by management, not by unions”.  The implication being that unions are only worried about their own workers.

There is a lot to be angry about in Ireland at the moment.  A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are excluded, and a hell of a lot of people are emigrating.

In the Milgram experiment if the volunteer was hesitant, the following instructions were given:

  1. Please continue
  2. The experiment requires that you continue
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue
  4. You have no other choice.  You must go on.

Maybe it’s now time for us to end our own experiment.  Enough hurt has been caused.


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