What drives good people to do evil things without blinking?
Please read this short article and then think for a minute on how this apply to those amongst the Jehovah's Witnessses who enforce organizational policies that harm people (such as shunning, for example, but there are others, such as blood, rejection of higher education etc), and those who blindly comply with such pratices - both of them otherwise "nice, good people" in every other regards, and who apparently don't see anything wrong in doing something harmful, even evil, to their brethren.
What is this? The "banality of evil", or, instead, because there's such a strong identification with a cause, people just accept they are doing the right thing simply because the authority that is regarded as legitimatly representing such cause has instructed them to do so?
Interesting thought - and this question too: If one ceases to see such "authority" as the legitimate agent of the cause, will that simple change cause the blind to finally become aware of the evil they've been enforcing / complying to?
Yes Eden, it begs the question
Is it OK to use the excuse
"I judged you, turned my back on you when you needed me, and shunned you for years,
because the ' faithful slave told me to".
Is it ok? I don't think it is.
...."we were just obeying orders.." the line used by so many nazis at their Nuremburg trials.
This is a Question with Multiple semi-unrelated Levels..
The First level is, what is a "Good Person"? Sure there are plenty of people that appear as good, but when they are placed in a certain situation their true Nature Shows..
A simple example of this can be seen in observing others playing a Competitive Sport. With Witnesses as an Example, you might have 3 brothers that are known as being kind and sweet in the congregation, however once they get onto a Basketball Court these same brothers are throwing Dirty Elbow Shots, and they are trying their best to bridle their rage towards each other.. After observing this you have to ask.. "Did the Sport Change these Men?" OR "Did the Sport simply show who these men Truly are?" It is my view that The SPort removed the Fine Tuned Facade, and gave a Glimpse of the True Nature of these men.. Conclusion.. There are not too many "Good People" when it comes down to it.
The Second level is a bit more complicated - All Humans posess 4 Qualities which can compliment or oppose each another..
The Qualities are Love,Justice,Wisdom,Power.. all four of these qualities are regulated by two other qualities.. Pride & Humility.
We would think of a "Good Person" as someone that has a great deal of Love, however when this person is put into a situation where he has to decide between Love & Justice, humility is the Deciding Factor. If he is a Proud person, most likely he will take the route that favors his Perception of Justice, if he is a Humble person he will realize that he himself is also flawed, and for this reason he will take the route that Favors Love (Forgiveness).
The same applies when this "Good Person" faces a situation where he has to decide between Justice & Power.. If he is not Humble, he may choose to Display his power so as to teach any onlookers a lesson.
The Third Level involves Self Confidence and Insecurities -
In a Group Setting, an Insecure person subconsciessly places a great deal of Value upon being accepted Socially.. This leads him to make decesions based on the perceived consequences relating to his peers accepting him or rejecting him. The study mentioned in the Article is a Prime Example of this.. The Test subjects that were responsible for Increasing Voltage at the request of the Supervisor, did so because they were insecure and they feared dissapointing the Instructor.
This becomes even more powerful when you have a leader or instructor whom has mastered the Art of Rhetoric..He Promotes him self as someone who deserves respect and devotion / He convinces you that by following him, you will be accomplishing a worthy deed / He manipulates you to think that his Plan is Logical and thus Correct.
Humans are feable, and gullible.. If a Human does not have a STRONG belief system, coupled with True Humility he can be convinced by someone, or himself to do anything.
Religion, especially Islam.
You've made a few good points that I'd like to address.
What is a "good person" indeed? In my personal view it's someone who not only refrains from harming others, he/she endeavours to do good to others, primarily his own kin (provide love, education, shelter and sustenance), then his neighbours / friends (affection, assistance), and, if possible, the community (assistance, relief, community work) where such person is inserted. Therefore, a "good person" isn't a flawless person. Such person may have inconsistencies, even outright contradictions and weaknesses. But that person at least tries to overcome or mask its own shortcomings for the common good. The broader and more inclusive are his/her efforts to encompass more people, the better that person is. This is my general notion of what makes a "good person" - it's my idea of it, it's subjective and not everyone will agree with it, of course. Works for me, at least.
I think it's an interesting notion that the way we balance love with power with justice with wisdom, and how we use pride and humility as wheights, defines us as people. However, there are other factors at play - such as mental impairments, emotional damage, upbringing, etc...so it's far more complicated than that.
As for "self confidence" and "insecurities", I agree that they have an important part to play, and help explain how some are inclined to act in compliance with an authority, but i think you've missed an important component of the said study:
The study mentioned in the Article is a Prime Example of this.. The Test subjects that were responsible for Increasing Voltage at the request of the Supervisor, did so because they were insecure and they feared dissapointing the Instructor.
While the above is partially true, you should also notice that those who believed in the superior value of science were also the ones who were more keen to inflict pain on others in the name of advancing scientific knowledge. That had little to do with fear and insecurity - it had to do with a creed in the intrinsic superiority of a cause [in this case, science]. They were willing to inflict a potentially deadly voltage discharge on the test subject because they believed it would help advance the superior cause they believed in. The more intense was this belief, the less objections they posed in administrating suffering to others.
Military and Nationalistic fervor are started early.
Eye drops help...
Instead of attempting to dismantle the elaborate [albeit fragile] doctrinal construction of the JW's, with its admittedly very attractive notion of eternal life in a paradise on earth, isn't it more effective to expose and discredit the leadership that supposedly is the 'legitimate' agent of such ideology - and the rest would naturally follow? Because that is what eventually worked for me, reading Raymond Franz's "Crisis of Conscience" made the myth of the Organization and its Governing Body break into pieces very quickly. From that moment on, I could never again regard this organization as being from God. That has opened a lot of new alleys for research.