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Elmont Online

Is man inherently good?

Will Cain says the people responsible for horrific events don't define the rest of us.

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0 # Aubrey Phillips 2013-04-18 05:25
I could not have said this better - different yes, but better - NO.
It's time to look beyond the traditional notions of evil. The traditional murderous and violent psychopath (even so, there are explanations for their predispositions) is a very, very small minority of the human race. The greater, more monolithic evil that we should be aware of are the corporate, religious and political sociopaths who exploit our human weaknesses and psychological blind-spots (some explained below).

There's the evil (I refer to evil as a social phenomenon as opposed to human wickedness) of ignorance. The mother who falsely thought that immunization leads to autism. The AIDS-denialist who thought that vitamin was the proper treatment. Caretakers who failed their loved ones by resorting to homeopathy instead of proper medical treatment. Parents who prevented their child from having a blood transfusion. The father who taught that an excessive beating was the only way to teach his child. The mother who failed to report the rape of her daughter by the father because she honestly thought it was the right thing to do (keeping the family together).

Next, the evil that caused honest, kind people to commit atrocities (if you can get people to believe in absurdities, you can get them to commit atrocities) - the 'Banality of evil. The thesis that great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal. The agents of such an evil: blind obedience to authority, deindividuation (of self), over-identification with a sub-group, dehumanization (of targets) etc. This phenomenon is explained in great detail in the book (and YouTube video) titled "The Lucifer effect' by Phil Zimbardo.

Other agents of evil:

Group polarization: tendency for groups to make decisions that are more extreme than the initial inclination of its members. Normal people with an initial (but moderate) hatred of a sub group may meet on an Internet forum and emerge as radical extremists. People who were mere opponents before are now mortal enemies.

Apathy & the Bystander effect: The case of Kitty Genovese. The people who walked by and ignored a toddler who was ran over by a car. Gamers who saw someone murdered in front of them and carried on playing. It is also proven that busyness (a hectic lifestyle) erodes empathy.

Most of these non-traditional evil can be explained by psychological blind-spots, ignorance and a lack of self-reflection.
Shane - CNN Commenter
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