>Ordinary Killers

>What lurks in the human psyche? To what level of depravity would I personally descend given the right (wrong) situation? It’s a hard question to ask, but I believe it’s worth the effort if we let the answer lead us to a commitment to peace and nonviolence.

As an undergrad psychology major, I was astounded to learn about Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment and Philip Zimbardo’s prison experiment. “Normal” people would do amazingly disturbing things to other humans with shocking expediency. Unbelievable. (Read more on Milgram: Milgram Experiment, Would I Pull That Switch?, Perils of Obedience.)

Recently, CNN.com published an article that again looked at this issue–They killed their neighbors: genocide’s foot soldiers (Courtney Yager, 10 Dec ’08).

The article begins, “Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic. They are household names, infamous for masterminding genocide. But who were the foot soldiers who did the dirty work?”

“In many cases they were equally notorious in their communities because they were the friends, neighbors and co-workers of those they raped, slaughtered and buried alive.”

It continues, “Experts have reached a troubling conclusion: It was actually very easy for the architects of genocide to find more than enough ordinary people to do the killing.

“Genocide is often the result of a ‘perfect storm.’ A country reeling from political and economic turmoil, a fanatical leader promising to make things better and a vulnerable population targeted for blame — all combine in a blueprint for mass murder.”

Read the full article and think about it for yourself. What attitudes and commitments would keep you from taking the easy path toward violence? How can we work for peace and justice for those in need of advocacy today?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)
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