Three positive monkeys

A Bizarro revision of the Three Wise Monkeys (“hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”):

Wait a minute! What are the three of them, taken together, saying to us?

Go back to the traditional monkeys. From the Wikipedia entry:

The three wise monkeys (Japanese: 三猿, san’en or sanzaru, or 三匹の猿, sanbiki no saru, literally “three monkeys”) are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil”. He may be shown crossing his arms.

The traditional three monkeys are each offering a piece of advice. Their joint advice is the logical conjunction of the three pieces of advice — and that is to behave generously (indeed, positively), in a Japanese version of the Golden Rule. In another interpretation, their joint advice can be understood as an injunction not to spread evil.

However, their joint advice can also be understood as recommending disregard for the immorality and evil around us, turning a blind eye to it — in a Code of Silence.

If you understand the advice of the three Bizarro monkeys as being logically conjoined, then their joint advice is to hear evil, see evil, and speak evil (and, if you throw in Shizaru, to do evil). Hearing evil and seeing evil can certainly be understood as positive: confronting to nastiness and exposing it (one sense of “speaking evil”). Or, however, as interfering snooping. And then the Bizarro monkeys can be read as advising us to spread evil (certainly if you include Shizaru), which is hardly positive.

“Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” is a proverb, and like so many proverbs can be taken in more than one way, even in opposite ways. Same with the Bizarro version, “Hear evil, see evil, speak evil”.

(Or maybe the Bizarro version is to be understood disjunctively rather than conjunctively, as offering us a choice between not hearing evil (while seeing and speaking evil), not seeing evil (while hearing and speaking evil), and not speaking evil (while hearing and seeing evil). Pick one, whichever suits you! That would indeed be bizarre.)

One Response to “Three positive monkeys”

  1. What is Trauma? – Ascending Psychology Says:

    […] The three wise monkeys […]

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