Sunday, January 20, 2008

"They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?

From: Michael Busick
Subject: RE: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 20:42:35 -0800

Well, sure, but it works otherwise, right? :)

Subject: Re: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 09:41:44 -0500

One problem with your "Minutemen" allusion: our movement against the oppression of England started home-grown. Theirs, by virtue of the descriptor "insurgent", started as a turf-grabbing effort of ideological foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. to take over Iraq in the wake of Saddam's removal and establish a new base since Afghanistan wasn't hospitable anymore.

----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Busick
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 10:04 PM
Subject: RE: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?

I wish more people would view the Iraqi insurgents as "Minutemen". The nation is trying to become independent from a monarch/tyrant, after all. It might put this whole mess into a different perspective. :)

Of course, not all of the insurgents are home-grown -- and the weapons being used are a lot more advanced -- so this situation is a wee bit different. :)

Subject: Re: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 20:47:52 -0500

It's ironic, isn't it, that we have trouble with guerrilla conflicts, given that we invented guerrilla tactics in the 1770s?

----- Original Message -----
From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 2:08 PM
Subject: Re: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?

Yes, I believe all four of us are in agreement regarding more civic involvement.
The real trick is in discussing what separates us. We agree to a point, yet, we
probably do not agree on further military action, or course of action to fight
terrorism. This al-Qaeda brand of terrorism is guerrilla warfare on a global scale
with the kamikaze suicide element thrown in. US will most assuredly be victorious
vs. a warring state, but our record vs. guerrilla warfare is not at all encouraging.
This conflict we're embroiled in is more similar to the Northern Ireland conflict
that made UK suffer for all those years. And what was the ultimate solution to
that? Bringing all sides to negotiate w/o demonizing or villifying any one party.
Same could be said for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I'm not saying that we should legitimize al-Qaeda right now, but there are
diplomatic channels that can put pressure on al-Qaeda as an organization and limit
their recruitment vehicles. Demonizing Iran certainly is not what I mean.

BRM, in my previous email, I was not trying to slam you or anyone about the Iraq
War. I was just pointing out my observation of general partisan response from GOP supporters. I understand that you don't entirely support the Dubya admin actions in Iraq. I will, however, question any statement that comes across to me as needing some elaboration. I, too, immensely appreciate the time everyone is putting in to keep our conversation going. Thank you all!

--- Brian Menard wrote:

"'Who watches the Watchers?' The answer can be found by looking at a mirror..."

Agreed! I've been waiting for an opportunity to throw in one of my favorite
quotes from The Federalist. In Federalist #1, Hamilton (writing as "Publius")
says that the new Constitution is an experiment to test whether people actually
can govern themselves through reflection and choice or whether we are forever
doomed to be ruled by accident and force. Our governing system presupposes (and necessitates) involvement by the people. The power of sovereignty allotted to the people exists whether we claim it or not. If we do, that power is held in check
by us. If we do not, that power does not disappear, it merely gets claimed by
brokers happy to pick up and use to their advantage what we choose not to claim
because its responsibility is too onerous. This is one topic about which I am
passionate. That's why I've been involved in politics and governmetn most of my
life. That's why I started a civic education organization in the mid-90s. That's
why I became a government teacher. That's why I participate in e-mail exchanges
with others who care about the condition of our government even if we disagree
over how to care about it. Kudos to you for asking the question, and to all of us
for doing our part in answering it in our own ways!

----- Original Message -----
From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 1:20 AM
Subject: "They Thought They Were Free" - Milgram Experiment - Re: Human Nature?

Yes, of course, I believe we agree that there is evil. How we define evil may
be where we disagree, but if I may steer this thread to a slightly different
direction...The experiment you're referring to, BGA, is the Milgram Experiment.
(Not so much that I "rely" on Wikipedia, but it is a great source for quick
overview and as a starting point for further research. Footnote: Peter Gabriel has a
song on album "So" called "We Do What We're Told (Miligram's 37)", since only three out of 40 participants defied the experimenter in one variation of the test.) This experiment definitely grew out of the questions regarding Nazi Germany. Given the Iraq War and many examples in US history where we have hurt other nations or peoples more than we helped them, I feel that all Americans are no different than the Milgram subjects who not only did not refuse to continue with the experiment but did not ask about the release or the condition of the "person" supposedly receiving the shocks.

Americans feel or should feel safe about living here daily. However, we are all
complicit in the suffering and the deaths of the Iraqi people that have occurred
since the invasion. Same can be said for the plight of the Afghan people.
Political incorrectness alert, the tragedy of 9/11 does not even compare to the
deaths and injuries caused by the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. "We do what
we're told" whether directly or indirectly. America is very good at turning a blind
eye.  To be frank, I have no idea what freedoms or liberties I have lost since 9/11;
I'd argue that you'd be hard pressed to name examples that has affected you directly to the point where you say to yourself, "I am outraged! I need to do something about this now!" And it is in this sense that our nation is not that far from the early phases of Nazi Germany.

In deference to "They Thought They Were Free", America came for American
Indians, Blacks, Chinese, Japanese, Communists, Socialists, Gays and now Terrorists and radical Muslims. Attack against liberals have been happening for a while, so pardon me if I sound contentious and off-putting. To follow the now-defunct Fairness Doctrine, the conservatives and evangelicals also feel that they are under attack.  Perhaps this tension is what kept America from swinging too far to one side or the other. Hallelujah for the First Amendment!

Through it all America has marched on, so our country now continues in marking
out "enemies" in the broadest sense possible. The danger is already here; we need
to decide not whether to speak up but rather how loudly we need to speak. "Who
watches the Watchers?" The answer can be found by looking at a mirror...

--- Brian Menard wrote:

Two thoughts. First, to discuss evil it seems to me that we first have to
acknowledge that there is evil, which requires an absolute statement. Second,
another reading suggestion would be to hit some Cato and Cicero, who wrote as
the Roman Republic fell into disarray amid internal cult of personality conflicts
and then fell apart. Might be interesting to compare with current doom-and-gloom
predictions for the U.S. 

----- Original Message -----
From: Brian Adamson
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2008 4:08 PM
Subject: Human Nature?

It's Japanese 'soap' day. Eriko has the computer, so I'll make this short.
I sent the link about 'Nazi Germany' for the same reasons that you found it
interesting (Young). I've even read portions of the article to relatives
aloud over the phone, powerful stuff. It is a profound article because it makes
you think about human nature and about the nature of evil. It makes you think
about yourself. Would I recognize evil and would I respond to evil? Profound
questions? Not easily answerable, but worth debating. Remember that Hitler
was powerful because of what he was able to get others to do, because of
fear, ignorance, or whatever...In other words, he didn't physically kill millions,
he ordered their destruction, and others acted on those orders. Why?

Interesting why people feel compelled to follow orders, or to do nothing in
the face of things that are wrong.

You're right, the article is not just about Nazi Germany. Rather, the
article is one that should be read over and over again and reflected upon. How can good people be brought to do the bidding of evil people, and how can we recognize evil? Further, if we do recognize evil, are we likely to respond to it?
Fascinating questions and not easily answerable?

I thought about this a lot in the army. Most people there, will do whatever
they are told, because that is their job. The average soldier does not seem
to believe that questioning an order, be it an immoral or evil order or what
not, is within their job title. I remember being briefed about torture and the
Geneva conventions. Our drill sergeant left the class to the end of the day
and kept the information to a minimum. He said something like, "I'm supposed to
brief you about what the Geneva conventions dictate we do, or not do in war,
and all that crap...Like you're not supposed to kill someone while they're
trying to surrender. But, men-when the time comes you'll know what to do (he winked and laughed). Was I then surprised when I heard about torture at Gitmo? Hec, no!  Thoughts?

Also, although many soldiers went to church and were very religious and also
decent people; religion did not always combat this tendency toward obedience
toward authority.

Does anyone remember the famous 'shock experiment' where people would follow the orders of a perceived authority, even when they thought that it might cause intense pain, or worse?

I think that when someone does something moral, in the heat of war or
combat, or intense fear-it is the exception to the rule and not the typical response.
When at war, we tend to dehumanize the enemy. Shakespeare, described that rare 'goodness' that can be found in man under duress, as a "quality of mercy."
I hope that "quality of mercy" is growing and not declining in American
society. Nevertheless, our growing appetite for reality television, infotainment, sex,
drugs, and violence to name a few things on the internet and television-make me
wonder where we are going as a society?  Have we lost the ability to relate with
one-another and to sympathize/empathize with other humans hardship and pain? 
And, are we becoming a society that has lost its quality of mercy (empathy) and
are heading toward an ever increasing degree of barbarism?

"...remember the past
but do not dwell there,
    face the future
where all our hopes stand."
          -Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

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