Philip Zimbardo talks about The Lucifer Effect, or understanding how good people turn evil. The process is actually easier than you think.
- frustrated individuals with no visible means of changing their circumstances
- political/religious leaders who add fuel to fire and give them negative models to follow
- communities who are then hanging on by a tight rope, so tight in fact, that one single word can prompt extreme acts
- individuals who are unable to use rational self-regulation and discipline
- whole groups who then become enslaved by a venomous word
- et voila!
you can now bask in your meal of anger, frustration, and confusion. You can now have your uncontrollable throngs. After all, you didn’t explicitly tell them to pull the trigger, but you carefully positioned the gun, gave them no second path to take, and clearly identified the villain.
Now you can sit back and claim that it’s the individuals who are exhibiting these “reactions”… while you try and restrain them.
It takes a lot more than that. It takes a whole system to create uncontrollable communities whose only means of salvation is through extreme acts of self-expression. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming the individuals aren’t responsible for their acts, but you can’t magically expect people to learn new tricks when their whole lives have been about scraping the bottom of the barrel, holding on to whatever works. After all, many were able to resist such temptation and actively know the meaning of constructive community building.
I am also not claiming one side responsible. Everyone contributes to the Lucifer Effect. Those who are so quick to add even more fuel, those who aren’t willing to listen, those who can’t help people come out of their desperation. Everyone. Sometimes all it takes is one positive word to bring someone out of their own personal hell whole. How many of us can claim to actively work towards that?
Gibran in The Prophet says:
- You cannot separate the just from the unjust and the good from the wicked;
- For they stand together before the face of the sun even as the black thread and the white are woven together.
- And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.
Zmbardo’s famous depiction of The Lucifer Effect is also in “black and white.”
So let’s start cleaning up! Don’t be too quick to consider yourself uninvolved in all this. Through saying the wrong word or keeping silent, we all have a stake in this, so let’s take the road not taken, at least less taken.
Zimbardo claims we can celebrate heroes just as easily as we can create monsters. So let’s focus on that. Let’s focus on our impact and take a positive step today.
Preacher reine at your service.