“The only thing I care about is whether a monkey will turn out a property I can publish,” Harry said. “I don’t have any love for them. I never have. I don’t really like animals. I despise cats. I hate dogs. How could you love monkeys?”—an excerpt from Lauren Slater’s Opening Skinner’s Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century (Norton, 2004).

Let me tell you about my precious son, Harry, who at one time occupied the body of a grown man and went to school where he was hailed as brilliant and ingenious by his peers. You should have seen my precocious little Harry writing up his laboratory protocol, selecting the best test subjects off his very own primate colony, and making speeches before the members of the American Psychological Association. Look over there: the soon-to-be hunched figure is my fine, fine boy.

See, now there’s my little Harry, his arms figuratively instructing his grad students to tread lightly each time they pass by his pit of despair. And there’s my little Harry before his enrapt audience. Every single member of Harry’s audience is unable to wince and unable to look away as he brandishes his rape rack, the one-of-a-kind rape rack that forces monkeys—monkeys initially driven to neurosis in the isolation chamber—to mate.

Oh, Harry, Harry, my boy is such a wonder to behold. He always talks about his subjects at the dinner table, and always, the tone is the same one he uses when asking to pass the potatoes or when telling me to finish up his school homework. It is the ever-distinct tone that imposes servitude, the tone that rings of self-entitlement and pride, the tone that sets apart a man-boy from those who are able to refuse taking more than they are willing to give.

Six years ago, his wire father—bless his soul—died coughing, twisting two life-critical wires in his ribcage in an excruciating case of rust. You may assume that has a bearing on how my boy came out to be with his pomp and hankering for cruelty, but I don’t think so. I know my boy. He is not a product of his circumstances. He is more like a creator. He creates circumstances to either entertain or to control. Everything else is just categorized under casualties.

[Continued in Confrontation 116]

 
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