From my latest book "Debt en Penance”.
“If man should decide to erect a Nazi concentration camp in today’s America, then the deployment would be no problem at all.”
Why this appendix ? If you just had the opportunity to read Hannah Arendt, it is not so strange that Stanley Milgram popped up. Milgram was just like Skinner famous because of his social experiments concerning the human behavings under extreme circumstances. One of these experiments concerns the obedience of a leader and his or her follower. How far ~ under how much psychological pressure ~ will individuals go to obey, no matter how much harm and damage (s)he causes at other individuals as a part of the task of this obedience process ?
These individuals were questioned, wrong answers were punished by putting an electric shock to other individuals starting with lower ~ non-lethal ~ levels that was told to them at the start. The respondents experienced ~ heard ~ the pain that these shocks generated by the victims in the other room although the victims were actually acting and feigning these pain expressions.
The research was about authority and influence of the so-called leader or master and the level the psychological restrictions of the follower concerning obedience combined with the ethical values. His conclusion was pretty shocking to him; about 80 % of the respondents followed and obeyed their master till the lethal level of the victim.
Another experiment was about 4 groups of one hundred already addressed letters, which he lost by purpose. The potential recipients were 2 famous institutes, the other 2 were addressed as “Friends of the Nazi Party" and "Friends of the Communist Party”. About a quarter of the last 2 groups were posted afterwards ~ all to his own postal box. Of course it is obvious that it is important that the circumstances are known as well. What is the demographic composition, what are the cultures and subcultures and what was the mind-set at that time ?
Last aspects influent and determine also the results of such experiments. However Milgram demonstrated that while the observer is not observed or perceived by the “to-be-observed” the answers are more representative than when anyone would have asked such questions in case of face-2-face interviews. Think about “the cat of Erwin Schrödinger”.
The content of these 2 chapters ~ Hannah Arendt & Stanley Milgram ~ empower each other. They show us that ethical restrictions can and will be crossed when it is about individual benefit; a kind of unconditional sympathy for a leader no matter what the damage is that was caused by the decision being a follower or not. That’s Arendt’s story about Adolf Eichmann. It’s again about acknowledging bad sympathy to the one you know and no sympathy for someone you don’t. While ~ as mentioned ~ the psychological pressure was enormous for making that choice during the first experiment.
Self-survival ~ “élan vital” arises all and crosses almost all barricades and-or restrictions. Call it mass-hysteria dealing with the big names in history, where the dependent and histrionic aspects of mankind were activated till the level of hysteria as described. Where love and affection turned into hatred and evil.
Does true altruism allow you to prevent you to reach that stage of mind-set like the Christian world knows in the personification of Jesus ?