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The Lucifer Effect raises a fundamental question about the nature of human nature: How is it possible for ordinary, average, even good people to become perpetrators of evil? In trying to understand unusual, or aberrant behavior, we often err in focusing exclusively on the inner determinants of genes, personality, and character, as we also tend to ignore what may be the critical catalyst for behavior change in the external Situation or in the System that creates and maintains such situations.
a detailed chronology of the transformations in human character that took place during the experiment I created that randomly assigned healthy, normal intelligent college students to play the roles of prison or guard in a projected 2 week-long study. I was forced to terminate the study after only 6 days because it went out of control, pacifists were becoming sadistic guards, and normal kids were breaking down emotionally.
Anydeed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us—under the right circumstances. That knowledge does not excuse evil; it democratizes it, sharing its blame among ordinary actors rather than declaring it the province of deviants and despots—of Them but not Us. The primary lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment is that situations can lead us to behave in ways we would not, could not, predict possible in advance.
There was a good Brother I once knew who was born to a psychotic father and an alcoholic mother. His father was violently psychotic to the point where he beat his wife on a daily basis. This is why she turned to alcohol, to slip into a comfortable oblivion after the beatings. One day my Brothers mother had enough and she fled the family leaving my Brother behind as the sole focus of his fathers rage. Every day my Brother faced beatings that would make most people fall into a state of dementia. His fathers prefered choice of torture was a steel chain that he kept hanging on the wall for the occassion. There were plenty of signs in the community that this was going on, but no one cared. Rather than investigate, he was constantly judge unworthy by society simply because he became aggressive himself. When he became a teenager my Brother took Jujitsu under a true Master. There he learned to control the rage within him and focus it to more noble pursuits. He built his body up until it was hard as steel and deadly. Eventually he was strong enough to throw down his tormentor.
After beating the snot out of his father, he was thrown out on the street. Rather than become a common criminal he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Though he always had a problem with authority which prevented him from gaining rank or recognition, there was not a Marine around him who did not know his back was covered in a fire fight. My Brother believed in the Brotherhood the Marines claimed to be and here he found the family he never had growing up. During one deployment to Iraq he was providing security for a sniper team. They lead sniper offered him the chance to take the shot after he sighted the rifle in. My Brother took the opportunity. He aimed in, squeezed the trigger, and the shot rang out. Seconds later the target took off into a building and 6 feet to the right, a pregnant Iraqi woman fell dead in the road. The rifle was slightly off mark.
On his return home he discovered there were many rumors flying around the neighborhood about his wife having illicit affairs. So, he took her for a ride out into the woods. There he held a shotgun up to her head and demanded the truth on the matter. She told his command of the incident and this resulted in his court martial and dishonorable discharge from the only family he knew and loved.
To battle all the demons that his life had brought upon him, he turned to marijuana. This eased his pain enough for him to function normally in society. He got a job working in a rock quarry and things were going well for him. One day he was hit with a random urinalysis. He informed the boss that he smoked marijuana regularly and for his honesty, he was given a grace period to clean up. He tried his hardest to clean up. I was there with him through it all. After the first week he had become extremely angry, he could not sleep for the constant nightmares, and he was contemplating suicide to escape it all. So, we fired up a joint and kissed the job good bye.
I walked with this Brother through all kinds of hell. I was let into his world because I came without judgement. I was allowed for a brief moment in time to see the world through his eyes. I tell you this is a GOOD Man. All he knew since birth was hell and torment and still he always yearned to do the right thing. As a reward he was met with constant judgement from the school system, the law, the Corps he loved, society at large, and even the Freemasons, the Brotherhood who promised to him that they would always have his back. No one loved this Brother enough to not judge him, to love him, and to try to help him. No one save me.