On this Easter Day, I am actually going to write about evil, resisting evil. I have been reading The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. I will not digress into the Stanford Prison Experiment. If you don’t know what happened, Google it. Similarly, Abu Ghrab’s abuses stem from the same issues when humans adopt the assumed roles associated with positions of “power over” others. I did not buy the book to revisit these abuses and torture. I was more interested in what Dr. Zimbardo had to say about resisting evil.
I think we, the great American society, spin the wheels trying to assign blame, to “hold up a person as a sinner, culpable, afflicted, insane, or irrational” (Zimbardo, 2007, pg. viii), rather than look at the root causes of system failure. It is so much easier to blame the leader, the individual, the genetic issues, health behaviors, or etc. I think this is why I find myself reading a book about the roles allegedly assume to dictate how we may or may not behave towards others based only on assumptions and that innate evil is born from the situational forces in group dynamics.
How do I convey the urgency I have with the “politics as usual” or assigning blame for the lead poisoning of Flint, Sebring, and other American cities when we truly have a system failure of a grand scale when human health is the sacrifice made by America for capitalism? As I delve more into “why,” the more I see these incidents of cancer, starvation, illnesses, chemical and heavy metal poisoning as dehumanization on a grand scale. We no longer see that we are all culpable when we do nothing to stop it or point fingers at others. But, what happens when awareness to the devastating effects of capitalism on our physical environment is realized? Besides lead poisoning in the water, there is accelerated climate change (Hansen et al., 2016) with the continued use of burning fossil fuels.
Dr. Zimbardo (2007) recognizes, as we all do, that humans are most happy when fully engaged in open, trusting connections to others. He recommends a ten-step program to resist unwanted influences and encourage positive social models of positive action. First, admit a mistake has been made, cut bait when headed in the wrong direction. Admit you are wrong. Secondly, be mindful, get out of automatic pilot, and really start to listen, read, and leave your old scripts behind that have worked in the past. Third, take responsibility; recognize that following orders is not a “reason” for bad behavior, asserting your own unique identity (fourth step) in the situation. In the fifth step, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, as Jesus said. “Respect authority but rebel against unjust authority” (Zimbardo, 2007, pg. 454). Some states are actually banning community action against fracking. Acknowledge the power of group acceptance but also your own independence (sixth step). Be diligent assessing how others are framing a situation (seventh step). Remember how death committees were used to spread terror about healthcare reform? Be balanced on timing (eighth step). Do not look at the past but future liabilities associated with not acting in the present. Do not sacrifice personal or civic freedoms for the illusion of security (ninth step). Politically, do not be tempted to give up “small freedoms” for greater security. Lastly, oppose unjust systems. Right now, state governments take away community rights to ban fracking and sell water rights. California still fracks in spite of drought. I can’t tell you how devastated I was when a mother with a child with leukemia testified on the Methane levels in her house that exceeded permissible exposure levels (PELs) and fracking occurs next to schools. I left the hearing in tears after I testified as an occupational health nurse because I knew those levels exceeded PEL to health harming levels.
Learning to resist unwanted influences can be applied to many situations, whether environmental or a toxic work environment where bullying and mobbing occurs. It is the fight for safe staffing levels for nurses as they gather in Washington DC in May. Sometimes, we have to be diligent to those issues that surround us. And, these are system failures from capitalism over humans.
Hansen, J., et al. (2016). Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: Evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 degree C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discussion, 16, 3761-3812. doi: 10.5194/acp-16-37 61-2016
Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How good People Turn Evil. Random House Trade Paperbacks: NY, NY
Peggy Ann Berry, PhD, MSN, RN, COHN-S, SPHR-SCP received her doctorate from University of Cincinnati in 2015. She is a past NIOSH Education and Resource Grant recipient and American Nurses Foundation Scholar. She is a Founding Fellow with the U. S. Academy of Workplace Bullying, Mobbing, and Abuse and a past Graduate Nurse Intern to OSHA and Malcolm Baldrige Examiner. She can be contacted or followed through:
Website and blog: https://thrive-at-life.com/