I watched TedTalks this weekend and one of the lectures was on the Psychology of Evil by Philip Zimbardo.
I’d seen a program Dr. Zimbardo had done some months ago on a ground-breaking study about human behavior done in the 1970s. In the study, normal average college students were put in the role of prisoner and guard. Within 3 days, the level that these students generated to was disturbing.
Dr. Zimbardo makes reference to the study in his lecture and shows disturbing photos of the abuse at Abu Grahib prison in Iraq.
In his work, he postulates the 7 steps to the rise of Evil (among every day folks)
1-Taking that first small step.
It’s really easy to think that little things don’t matter. To me, this is the equivalent of breaking a window at an empty warehouse or tagging a wall. Really, is it a big crime? Does it really hurt anyone? Honestly, this is where reality TV comes in. It’s just a game, right? Let’s vote so and so off the show. But look at the comments directed at these people. This isn’t innocent fun. How many of you watch TMZ? THere’s a slippery slope–all in the name of entertainment.
2-Dehumanization of others.
I’ll admit to this one. Those idiots who leave me bad reviews are less than human and deserve me cyberstaking them, locating their home on Google maps, Getting a streetlevel view of their vehicle and possible modes of entry into their house… Er, where was I? Oh, right. Who doesn’t think the person who disagrees with their brilliance is less than them? (Be honest) Read the editorials responses of any paper–look how many are personal attacks not about the issues. These things should not be printed.
Again, search the reviews of your favorite authors the number of folks who leave bad reviews (and I’m not talking about those who state their case) but the one or two lines that are repeated often. You know what I’m talking about. These trolls visit the boards and social media as well. After all, doesn’t cyberspace offer this?
4-Diffusion of personal responsibility.
This is a blend of if “I’m not caught did I do something wrong,” the “I won’t tell’ and the outright “it’s okay, I’ll take the blame.”
5-Blind Obedience to Authority.
Fairly self-explanatory. And this is a very real danger especially in this shakey economy where you need to keep your job. What are you willing to over look to put food on the table?
6-Uncritical Conformity to group norms
I hate to say it, but this is the ‘if everyone jumped off the bridge’ scenario. As social beings we crave acceptance and inclusion, what better way to fit in than to go along? Is it bad if everyone is doing it?
7-Inaction or indifference
The truth is Evil happens when good men do nothing. When you turn a blind eye to something you know is wrong, you are responsible for it happening. Despite what most of us would say 90% of us go along with evil or good.
Yet only 1% of us are the ‘bad apples’.
What is wrong with this picture? Can it be fixed?
Everything can be fixed, but the cost goes higher with each person jumping on the evil bandwagon.
The key: Deviant behavior.
Heroes are every day, normal people who act against the social norm (in this case doing something that is morally wrong, when everyone else is going along)
A three letter word that is very powerful. Because just knowing and acknowledging something is wrong, isn’t enough. You must act on that knowledge.
Does that mean deviants are heroes in training? Maybe so:-)