Beyond Nine-Eleven – Enabling My Evolving Hopes

I started writing this in late 2001 and have not revisited if for quite some time. I’m posting it with some 2007 updates and have added guidelines on how to enable these hopes.

May our leaders use all sources of information to help them make broadly based decisions.
May reaction recede and pro-action proceed.
May our leaders speak of this terror as against all nations – not just ours.

May the loss of life from 86 countries be not in vain.
May our successes in Afghanistan continue throughout the war.
May those who support the war, allow for those who can’t.

May all citizens recognize the real enemy by its actions – not general labels.
May the silent majority of Islam become its true voice and replace the madness that has hijacked their beliefs.
May western understanding of eastern issues help nurture more understanding from both sides.
May the example of members of the FDNY on their visit to Kabul to deliver aid show the world we are as caring and sharing as we are strong and determined.

May we all change to meet the challenge of terrorism.
May each of us have the courage to take on terrorism in our presence.
May future terrorist acts be minimized by our vigilance.
May our vigilance remain steady and strong until terrorism is minimalized.
May our tendency toward instant gratification yield to patient endurance.
May reductions in ‘their’ civil liberties not extend to us all.
May each of us listen, pause, and recognize when fear is an appropriate response.
May our paranoia and delusions of grandeur be replaced by the realization that terrorists are after high impact targets, not ‘me’.

May we all become better neighbors and citizens, and
May our children and grandchildren be proud of our actions 60 years hence as we are proud of The Greatest Generation.
— C. Andy Hailey

Here are my 2007 hopes:

  • May we all be ever vigilant for leaders who would use war dogma and misinformation to scare us into giving up our rights.
  • May we all realize that power corrupts – even democracies.
  • May we all learn, soon, that the neocon authoritarians use Noble Lies to lead us into war and take away our rights
  • May we raise our standards to where they once were and learn that accepting torture only opens Pandora’s box and endangers us all.
  • May the rule of law by our Constitution and independent judiciary hold ground over the mob rule of dynamic public opinion.
  • May our fear of the right to council for our enemies be replaced by confidence that our judicial process works well and sets the standard for the world.
  • May we come to realize that giving up our rights in hope of improving our chances against terrorism only jeopardizes our own liberties.
  • May we learn, before it’s too late, that we can’t continue to spend and borrow – the rest of the world is growing tired of financing the debt of an imperialist nation and we must start to pay our own way.

 

Relative to my hopes, I offer the following quotes from The Psychology of Power and Evil by Philip Zimbardo. This paper explains how evil can happen and how you can avoid falling into its grasp. I see his guidelines for succumbing to or avoiding evil as applicable to enabling or disabling my hopes.

Killing My Hopes

The first set of quotes lists ten procedural steps for “creating evil traps for good people” or how to get “many ordinary citizens to engage in … apparently harmful behavior.”

  1. Offering an Ideology so that a big lie provides justification for any means to be used to achieve the seemingly desirable, essential goal. [Like weapons of mass destruction.] … Most nations rely on the same ideology of “threats to national security” before going to war or suppressing dissident political opposition. In the Unites States, the fear of the threat to national security posed by terrorists has led too many citizens to accept torture of prisoners as a necessary tactic for securing information that could prevent further attacks.
  2. Arranging some form of contractual obligation, verbal or written, to enact the behavior.
  3. Giving participants meaningful roles to play (teacher, student) that carry with them previously learned positive values and response scripts.
  4. Presenting basic rules to be followed, that seem to make sense prior to their actual use, but then can be arbitrarily used to justify mindless compliance. Make the rules vague and change them as necessary.
  5. Altering the semantics of the act, the actor, and the action, (from hurting victims to helping learners by punishing them)—replace reality with desirable rhetoric.
  6. Creating opportunities for diffusion of responsibility for negative outcomes; others will be responsible, or it won’t be evident that the actor will be held liable.
  7. Starting the path toward the ultimate evil act with a small, insignificant first step ….
  8. Having successively increasing steps on the pathway be gradual, so that they are hardly noticed as being different from one’s most recent prior action.
  9. Changing the nature of the influence authority from initially “Just” and reasonable to “Unjust” and demanding, even irrational, elicits initial compliance and later confusion, but continued obedience.
  10. Making the “exit costs” high, and making the process of leaving difficult by allowing usual forms of verbal dissent (that make people feel good about themselves), while insisting on behavioral compliance (“I know you are not that kind of person, just keep doing as I tell you.”)

 

 

 

Fostering My Hopes

Professor Zimbardo introduces this list as his, “11-steps toward promoting civic virtue that are in opposition to the 10-steps toward evil that I outlined [above] ….”

  1. Encouraging admission of one’s mistakes, accepting errors in judgments, being willing to say that you were wrong. Openly doing so reduces the need to justify the mistakes, to continue the wrong or immoral action. It undercuts the motivation to reduce dissonance by asserting or believing in the public commitment when it was a bad decision.
  2. Encouraging “Mindfulness” (Langer, 1989) in which people are reminded in a variety of ways not to live their lives on automatic pilot, but to take a moment to reflect on the immediate situation, to think before acting, to not go mindlessly into situations where angels and sensible people fear to tread.
  3. Promoting a sense of personal responsibility and accountability for all of one’s actions, making people aware that conditions of diffused responsibility merely disguise their own individual role in the outcomes of their actions.
  4. Discouraging even the smallest transgressions, cheating, gossiping, lying, teasing and bullying. They provide the first steps toward escalating downwards to ever worsening behaviors.
  5. Learning to distinguish between Just Authority, to whom respect and even obedience may be appropriate, and Unjust Authority (as in the Milgram study), to whom disrespect and disobedience are necessary to oppose and change that tyrant.
  6. Supporting critical thinking from the earliest times in a child’s life and maintaining it throughout life. Asking for evidence to support assertions, demanding that ideologies be sufficiently elaborated to separate rhetoric from reality-based conclusions, to independently determine whether specific means ever justify vague and harmful ends.
  7. Rewarding social modeling of moral behavior, elevating for societal recognition those who do the right thing, with rewards for “whistle blowers,” such as the U.S. army reservist, Joe Darby, who exposed the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and those who expose wrong doing in government and corporation, and by the Mafia.
  8. Respecting human diversity, appreciating human variability and the differences among people as a fundamental way to reduce our in-group biases that lead to derogating others, prejudice and the evils of discrimination.
  9. Changing social conditions that make people feel anonymous, instead supporting conditions that make people feel special, so that they have a sense of personal value and self worth.
  10. Becoming aware of when conformity to the group norm is counter-productive and should not be followed, when independence should take precedence and be adopted regardless of social rejection by that group.
  11. Never allowing one’s self to sacrifice personal freedoms for the promise of security, it is always a bad deal because the sacrifices are real and immediate and the security is a distant illusion. This is as true in marital arrangements as it is in being a good citizen in a nation where the leader promises to make everyone safer against a current threat by giving up some of their personal freedoms so that the leader can have more power. That bad bargain usually translates to more power Over Them, as well as over the enemy. It is the first step in creating fascist leaders even in democratic societies, as Erich Fromm (1941) reminded us about Hitler, but is as true today in many nations.

Please help fulfill my hopes by being more aware of our collective situation and applying the above 11 step program.

 

Professor Zimbardo is also the author of The Lucifer Effect.

 

 

This entry was posted in Authoritarianism, Enemy/Scapegoat, Human Rights Abuse, Obsession with National Security, Personal and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.   |   Email This Post Email This Post   |  

About Andy Hailey

Vietnam Vet, UT El Paso Grad, Retired Aerospace Engineer, former union rep, 60's Republican now progressive, web admin, blogger.

Comments are closed.