‘The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven’
-John Milton Paradise Lost.
The ‘Stanford Prison Experiment‘:
The Stanford prison experiment investigated how readily the average citizen conformed to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life.
The results of the experiment favoured situational attribution of behaviour rather than the dispositional attributions of ones being (a result caused by internal characteristics). In other words, it seems that the situation, rather than individual personalities caused the participants’ behavioural changes during the experiment. The guards began to behave like guards, the prisoners became submissive.
Imagine sacrificing your freedom and willingly participating for an ‘academic’ psychological prison experiment. Imagine being arrested and taken into custody by the police during a casual Sunday without warning, thrown into a place of seclusion, a state that voluntarily invites physical and mental torture.
‘In the confrontation of potential perpetrators and victims, like guards and prisoners there are processes that change the psychological make up of one or the other’ (Zimbardo 2007:295). You may be familiar with the terms; deindividuation, dehumanization, and the evil of inaction.
You must realise it depends on where you’re from and where you are. ‘In short, we can learn to become good or evil regardless of our genetic inheritance, personality, or family legacy’ (Zimbardo 2007). That is what the Stanford prison experiment proved.
They see you depending on what you receive from them, what they give you and what you take away from them. They use you accordingly; they use you to nurse their senses, they use you to fill a need, a desire, a frustration- which can be measured by their greed? Do you not see; the rich powerful and corrupted have a separate successful ruling social order; and the poor, weak and vulnerable communities are used and disposed of as scapegoats when the powerful wish to do so?
Nevertheless, let’s not execute the following point; ‘Heroism often requires social support… Such heroic seeds of resistance are best sown if all members of a community share a willingness to suffer for common values and goals’ (Zimbardo 2007:164).
I have no reason to act ignorant towards this, social support varies, it’s dependent on the number of people who are willing to support it in its every diverse situation. In majority of cases, simply several heroic social orders in one community may come to clash. A prime example of a clash between two opposing social orders (within the same geographical area) can be highlighted in regards to the Sunni and Shi’ite clash in the Middle East. Another example that demonstrates the powers of social support and its effects (in a separate geographical area) is evident with the practice of ‘genital mutation’ however on the opposing end of the scale we practice and provide ‘designer vaginas’ to our community.
It’s an agreeable fact that we’re selfish beings, it’s how we are- it all boils down to the survival of the fittest. But if we aren’t being preyed on and we’re all surviving then what do we look to? What do we fight for? – Gratification, self-gratification. Be sure that it doesn’t begin and end there, what of the levels of gratifications? The majority of us are fighting for either the wrong satisfaction or attaining the bare minimum. It’s called the law of attraction. If you want it you will come to live it. And if you live it you will come to be it. To sum up; systems, not just dispositions and situations must be taken into account to understand complex behavioural patterns.
It is when power is wedded to chronic fear that it becomes formidable. – Eric Hoffer The Passionate State of Mind.
Abu Ghraib’s abuses and tortures: understanding and personalising its horrors . If you’ve heard about it, think about it. If not then read about it.