How Good People Turn Evil.

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Evil, Good and evil Pages: 5 (1733 words) Published: October 24, 2010
“How Good People Turn Evil”

Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil doer. Nothing is more difficult than understanding him. Dostoevsky

Understanding is not excusing. Though it may help to prevent wrong acts against humanity in the future (may it?). The world was created with the potential of sin. Looking at the theological approach, Adam and Eve, when were put into the situation of seduction by the snake, started to be driven by evil inclination giving birth to the first sin.

Why does it happen? Why do people go against normality and moral principals? Why do people do evil things? Psychologists-experimenters, philosophers, writers have been trying to answer this question. There will always be good and evil in our world. However there is a fine line between good and evil, sometimes it is so vague, that without noticing we can find ourselves on the opposite side. Zimbardo in his Stanford experiment proves, that not only is the line blurred, but also movable and permeable.

The Webster dictionary defines ‘good’ as ‘being positive or desirable in nature; not bad or poor’. ‘Bad’ is on the contrary ‘not achieving an adequate standard; poor; injurious in effect; detrimental’. We must keep in mind that it is not right to think about these notions as only about global ones, but good and evil are found in every person and dominance of one or another depends on different factors.

Good people can turn evil, as well as (thanks God) evil people can become good again. How does the transformation happen? After the abuses in Abu Ghraib the general wanted to know who is responsible for the inhuman treatment with the prisoners, who were those rotten apples ‘infecting’ others. However the question rather should be: ‘What is responsible?’ At first we have to look at the situation in order to understand the behavior. In the fight between good people and vicious situation the situation has won. Some may argue that it is not right, as far as the guards who were taking part in the crime in Abu Ghraib (as well as the ‘guards’ of Stanford experiment) were intelligent, normal, mentally and physically healthy people, who should have been responsible for their terrible actions. But could just ‘bad apples’ go that far?

The human transformation according to Zimbardo has several perspectives: ➢ Dispositional – internal factors. The evil starts in the person oneself. These are the bad rotten apples.

➢ Situational – external factors. The situation is the one to blame, which influenced people and helped evil to gain the guards over. ➢ Systematic – the power that is in a system (political, economical, cultural, etc). Those are the bad barrel makers.

‘A country is considered the more civilized the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.’ Primo Levi. Evil is the exercise of power. As soon as someone has the power to humiliate, do harm or destroy someone else physically or spiritually, the potential of evil may get to unreachable heights and it usually does (which was proved by the Milgram experiment). Starting the Stanford experiment, Zimbardo could not predict such a development of events, because the guards who were thoroughly chosen and tested to be normal people, in a couple of days turned into madmen, psychopaths and sadists. The main driving force that provoked this metamorphosis was power. First it had to be used as a tool for control of disobedient prisoners, but later the guards started receiving pleasure out of it, feeling their privilege and dominance and the right to exercise their power in every possible way. Personally I observed the same phenomenon in sports, a gymnastics girl’s team. A couch may use the power of a superior for too much, abusing children morally and physically, excusing it as a training and forming of tenacity. One more...
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