You’re likely familiar with the Milgram Experiment, which found that many obey the orders given by someone perceived to be an authority, even when it’s believed to be at to the detriment of another, and especially when personal responsibility was said to be absolved.
The Stanford Prison Experiment echoed those take-aways, as study participants internalized their roles of prisoner or guard to an extent that researcher Philip Zimbardo noted had commonalities with the prisoner abuse that happened at Abu Ghraib.
Think about how that obedience to authority impacts us today. Someone caged in supermax facility obviously isn’t physically free. But are you, not behind the walls of a supermax, free? Truly free? Or is it more accurate to say that you are freer?
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We are living in an increasingly militarized society, and I would argue that this has a primarily psychological cause, not merely a political cause. If allowed to continue this could have disastrous consequences, as it has throughout history. . .
The militarization of society cannot be fought only with votes, or with cameras, or even with rifles, if the underlying impulses for compliance are not first addressed in the mind of every subject who slavishly accepts their subjugation. . .
The researched speculated that the vicious cycle of power and hypocrisy could be broken by attacking the legitimacy of power, rather than the power itself. . .
Human nature is essentially adaptive. If you take an otherwise good person and put them in a role that incentivizes evil they will adapt to the new role. And if you deeply internalize “obedience to authority” as a core personality trait you will become capable of the worst forms fo murder, and tolerant of the worst forms of abuse. . .
[W]hen atrocities are committed by militarized societies the perpetrators are usually a minority of the population, and the victims are usually a minority of the population, but the passive witnesses are the majority, and thereby the most capable of meaningful intervention