In 1971, Philip Zimbardo, led an experiment popularly labelled as the Stanford Prison Experiment. This study raises the fundamental question about human nature. Their empirical theory was to test whether there is a possibility that average, healthy, intelligent and even good people, can become perpetrators of evil, when placed in certain situations that will encourage aberrant behaviours.
The study was pulled out prematurely (initially designed as a 2-week long study, the experiment was terminated in six days); and other initiatives to duplicate it have been discouraged with the exception of a few, because of ethical reasons. Albeit most of the succeeding studies only substantiated what was already concluded from the Zimbardo experiment. Even the "best of us" can be coerced into becoming evil and perform evil acts under the right social circumstances.
Doesn't this make you think? Are you of the belief that people are naturally good unless proven otherwise, or otherwise? Do you know yourself enough to say you would never allow yourself to behave according to the circumstances? Are you a "cut above the rest"?
Are you immune to societal pressures and peer influences? Do you trust yourself enough to behave in accordance to what is deemed acceptable and respectable, even in the most trying, dire times? Do you allow yourself to be a victim of circumstances or are you able to rise above it, and manage it at all times?
Are you familiar with the "evil of inaction"? This is the new concept of evil in our current times; these are actions that support the perpetrators of evil, despite the knowledge of the wrong-doing, there is no action to challenge it.
I am reminded of my Catholic education under the Jesuits; the sin of Commission, and the Sin of Omission. Either way, it's a sin.
Do you know why it is called the Lucifer Effect? According to the Bible, Lucifer is one of the preferred angels, but he chose to defy and challenge God's authority. The study correlated its results to behaviours of people at war, of any type, where man justify being inhumane to other men just because.
I still believe, there are a few, rare and far between though, ordinary people in our midst, who refuse to yield to the power of social influence. It should be a tough ride to always choose to do the right thing; as some people would consider what is right, is wrong according to their own needs and perceptions. There are people who choose to take a stand and resist, the heroes and heroines; the ordinary "whistle-blower"; the guy who chose to stop and lend a helping hand; the people ready to do the right thing when the situation demands for it.
I end this post with a question, when the time comes for you to act as hero, are you willing to take it on?