Situational psychologist Philip Zimbardo was interviewed about a book he wrote that I’ve read and blogged, The Lucifer Effect.
Powerful power of story stuff.
We can’t stop it until we can understand the mechanisms that corrupt not just individuals, but whole systems and institutions like politics or finance.
The Lucifer Effect is about bad barrels, not just bad apples.
It helps my own understanding to sharply distinguish school as institutional place, from education as personal goal/ attribute. What we compel is showing up at the place, not becoming an educated person.
. . .“place” can win over “person” through concepts like institutionalization, escalating dehumanization, stress and stereotyping, the seduction of boredom, the evil of inaction and much more. Sounds too much like what’s gone wrong between school and education — we’ve institutionalized thinking and learning and productive work, and lost the individuals we meant to inspire and empower in the process.
It all starts with “semantic distortion.”
Which leads to “moral disengagement” to detach from the human connection without really being aware of it and then finally, outright “demonization” of Other people.
Maybe words and ideas are repeatedly distorted to call the Other a cockroach, until you come to see that Other as sub-human, not your kind, literally insects to be squashed. It worked in Rwanda, telling Hutus that their neighbors the Tutsi were “cockroaches” and then giving them weapons to kill the bugs.
About 30 years ago, Zimbardo and his colleagues began to do research on dehumanization.
“What are the ways in which, instead of changing yourself and becoming the aggressor, it becomes easier to be hostile against other people by changing your psychological conception of them?” he asked.
“You think of them as worthless animals. That’s the killing power of stereotypes.”
It’s working on C Street, Doug Coe telling some well-connected elected white men that they’ve been chosen by divine will to be better than ordinary people, even their own wives and children much less their constituents. That they answer to a higher morality and aren’t bound by ordinary accountability . . .but it works even better if you keep really secret! I’m wondering if the cockroach trick will work for Rush Limbaugh, to turn enough of us against our president that someone will treat him like a bug?