I recently watched a talk by Phillip Zimbardo, author of 'The Lucifer Effect'. I'll attach the talk later if I can find it. (It had alot of graphic visuals... as in the Abu Ghraib pictures of prisoner sexual abuse... I myself didn't care to stomach those visuals and skipped em, so fair warning. They come in a solid easily skippable chunk with plenty of warning ahead of time.) But the essence of the talk, as I took it was this:
There are three types of reactions a person can have to a stressful situation.
(As a student of LDS theology, I found the threefold moral division to be significant and interesting.)
Reaction 1: The Villain response. These are the murderers, rapists, thugs, cheaters... your all around scumbags.
Reaction 2: The response of permissive inaction. These are the folk who close their eyes, and do nothing, who passively allow evil to exist unresisted and unprotested. They do not commit crimes themselves, but do nothing to protect victims.
Reaction 3: The Hero response. Should need no explanation. Ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
Zimbardo, in his talk, tells a true story about a man who in a crowded subway station collapsed, fainted onto the tracks, with a train only seconds away. 70+ people on the platform, all of whom froze, watching this man about to die. All but one. A father, his 2 children with him, shouts to a stranger in the crowd to watch his kids, and throws himself onto the tracks. With only seconds to spare, he drags the unconscious man, a man he does not know, into the center of the tracks and covers him with his own body. The train passes above them, clearing the pair of them by just half an inch.
He took Responsibility.
Last post I wrote about freewill, and the strong tendency I have observed, of people to want to surrender, to get rid of, their own animacy. Loki (in the Avenger's movie) was partly right. People do crave subjugation. It is a natural human state. But! We can rise above Nature. That is what becoming a human being is all about.
The reason people want to surrender their freewill, the reason people crave subjugation is because we are terrified at the idea that we may be Responsible for own lives and actions.
Zimbardo also discusses a study in which 9 out of ten people could be induced to push a button that they believe delivers near lethal voltage to another human being- even while they watch and listen to the victim of their actions scream, writhe and beg for mercy- if only an authority figure assures them that this is all just part of the experiment and- Key- the authority figure is taking full Responsibility for their actions.
The good news? One in ten ordinary people had the courage to refuse participate anyway.
One in ten people are people. One in ten Pinocchios are real boys.
May I quote Dune?
"You dare to suggest that the son of a duke is an animal?
Let us say I suggest that he may be human."
Have I seen this in real life? Does this surprise me? Man. How I wish it did.
Nope. Doesn't surprise me at all. I have seen it far far too often.I have seen far too many people choose the passive permissive response. The response that ignores the bruises on a neighbor's child, that turns up the TV to drown out the beating next door. That doesn't want to be involved. Doesn't want to meddle.
The Villains are not the problem in our world. Its the Enablers.
I have also seen a few Heroes.
Heroism, Zimbardo says, is misportrayed. Heroes, he says, are ordinary people, who Choose to Act. Ordinary people, I would add, who chose to feel, who chose to chose.