Posted on April 24, 2007 by zoeweil
I just finished The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo. It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it. The first half of the book describes Zimbardo’s famous Stanford Prison Experiment in which young male college students participated in a psychology study on the effects of prison life on prisoners and guards. Carefully selected, these bright young men had no violent tendencies and no histories of mental illness. Randomly assigned to be either prisoner or guard, within 24 hours the experiment had turned ugly. Several guards became abusive and cruel; most prisoners became impotent, powerless and despairing. I won’t go into detail here, but the take home point is clear: good people do evil things all the time, and they do so because of dangerous, inherently unstable and abusive situations and corrupt systems. Zimbardo discusses the Abu Ghraib abuses in this context – a perfect example of Zimbardo’s point – in which the perpetrators were dismissed too quickly as “bad apples” when, in fact, they had been perfectly good people in a situation and a system that brought out evil. The final chapter discusses how we can learn from these examples and inspire and motivate people to do good.
This is the very purpose of humane education, to raise a generation to actively, joyfully, consciously choose to do good and to fix corrupt, abusive, dangerous systems so that they will not relentlessly create evil. We’ve found that our 4 Element approach (1. Provide accurate information 2. Nurture the 3 Cs of curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking 3. Instill the 3 Rs of reverence, respect, and responsibility, and 4. Offer positive choices and skills for problem-solving) gives people the tools they need to make choices that are humane. If and when we raise a generation with these tools, cruel systems won’t thrive and good people won’t be compelled to do evil things. Instead, healthy systems will emerge and people will choose good as a matter of course.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: 4 Elements, Doing Good, humane education, Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo | 3 Comments »
Posted on March 24, 2007 by zoeweil
I’m very grateful for the comments posted to my last Equinox entry. They’re so thought-provoking and full of wisdom. One of them has inspired today’s entry: Freeman wrote, “we must address issues and actions from a place of selflessness and love for all involved. We should not ask ourselves ‘what is best for us?’ (for the answer to this will come unbidden), but instead, ‘what is best for all beings and the environment, including those who will be here generations after us?’”
How can we challenge ourselves to choose what is best for others even if doing so means sacrificing the satisfaction of some of our desires? I think one of the answers to this question is both simple and wonderfully positive: doing good for others is, itself, satisfying. This is hardly news, but in our materialistic culture, where we are bombarded by countless messages that things will satisfy not only our deepest desires but also our deepest needs, it is easy to forget that things don’t bring joy, but generosity and kindness often do.
The truth is that living a life in which MOGO is a guiding principle often offers the deepest satisfaction and the most profound happiness. When we forsake a desire for a thing or action that causes harm in order to satisfy a desire to live peacefully and joyfully, we may find that the challenge of choosing what is best for others turns out to be the greatest opportunity for ourselves.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: Altruism, Choosing what's best, Doing Good, Generosity, Joy, Joyful living, Kindness, Peaceful living, Satisfaction | 4 Comments »