Are We Suffering From Boiling Frog Syndrome?

Jainab Tabassum Banu Sonali

5 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Are We Suffering From Boiling Frog Syndrome?

Humans and frogs are considered to be two most adaptable creatures on earth. They both have a tendency to adjust to almost every kind of situation. Although coping with different circumstances is a good quality, it can be harmful too! A frog does not know what kind of extreme hazard it has to face for being immensely adaptable. In the 19th century, some genius physiologists did several experiments on frogs. Finally, they came up with a conclusion after an experiment widely known as ‘boiling frog’. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger. The frog will invest all its energy to cope with the temperature. When the water begins to boil, normally the frog is supposed to jump out to save his life. But unfortunately, it does not happen as it has already lost all its energy to escape from this extreme situation. As a result, it gets boiled to death. Apparently, the reason of his death is the unbearable temperature of the boiling water. But, if we focus on the psychological aspect of the frog, we must notice that the frog dies for not being capable of taking the right decision on right time. This frog incident can be taken as a metaphor in human life too. Those who are fighting a lot against their own calibre just to adjust to the current situation are actually suffering from such ‘boiling frog syndrome’.


We have been taught and counseled since our childhood to get adjusted to the places we go and the people we meet. We are brain-trained, or let me put it this way – brainwashed - to tolerate everything, because we need to ‘live together in this society’. So, we must tolerate to co-exist. But sometimes, we tolerate harmful people and incidents for so long that we cannot get out of the extreme situation. Our psychology is deteriorated slowly. We cannot sense the danger. When we sense it, we become too critical of finding out any solution. As a result, we quit and start blaming our situation. Our inability to decide the right thing for ourselves makes our situation more toxic. The whole society becomes poisonous. Consequently we embrace death in a spiritual sense.


The boiling frog syndrome is seen in every aspect of our life. People cannot get out of an abusive conjugal relationship where the man dominates and the woman is subjugated. After all, it is a patriarchal society in which it is ‘normal’ for a man to rule and a woman to be ruled. We are just trying to adjust ourselves to the patriarchal norms and customs. For this reason, still the wives are getting beaten by their husbands. How many incidents of domestic violence are recorded officially? How many reports are published in the national dailies? The women are getting boiled alive in their living hells, because they cannot say- ‘enough is enough’! They only listen to the most common advice – cope with the situation. The privileged class can raise their voice, because they have overcome their syndrome with their education. However, the proletariat class is considered less important in our society. So, it does not matter which man is beating his wife. The man himself is subjected to boiling frog syndrome in other spheres of his life. Therefore, most of the women keep mum, because their hush-bands (husbands) are also unnoticed.


We have just celebrated International Women's Day which actually focuses on the rights of women. The educated working women are somehow aware of their rights and facilities. What about the less educated and uneducated ones? What about the subaltern working class women? They don't even know that their labour is being exploited. I will act partial if I only write about women. The working class men are exploited too. In a capitalist society, the masters create such a situation where the slaves remain enslaved. The unprivileged are given a little facility just to provide them a sense of belongingness. But ultimately, their rights are not conserved. As a result, the situation remains unchanged. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wrote in his autobiographical book The Unfinished Memoir, "I am not a communist; I believe in socialism and not capitalism. Capital is the tool of the oppressor". But it is shocking that we could not perceive this ideology from him. So, we are entrapped in a society where capitalism is slowly boiling the working class labourers and their families to death.


Boiling frog syndrome is like a cold war inside the psychological kingdom of human mind. It is like committing suicide by dint of slow poisoning. So, we need to overcome this syndrome. We must learn to say ‘no’ when a domestic violence is about to take place. We must learn to say ‘enough’ when a sexual harassment in a working place is yet to be happened. We must learn to be a little uncomfortable when we are close to any form of subjugation. Our silence will not protect us from getting exploited. Our tolerance will not save us from getting boiled alive. So, instead of adjusting to it, we must face it and jump out of it in time. Let's save more courage, energy and enthusiasm to do the right thing at the right time. 


(The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong.)