July 09, 2008


Lucifer in Gustave Dore's illustration of Paradise Lost.

One reason why we often fail to understand or counteract human evil is that we often think of it solely in individual, personal or dispositional terms. An extreme example of this kind of thinking has been supplied by the Bush administration, which holds the view that evil people do evil things because they are evil (it's no surprise that such folks are blind to the evil they have unleashed on the world).

As social psychologist Philip Zimbardo amply demonstrates in The Lucifer Effect, a great many evil acts are committed by normal individuals in abnormal situations which are created and maintained by systems of power.

According to Zimbardo,

Most institutions in any society that is invested in an individualistic orientation hold up the person as sinner, culpable, afflicted, insane, or irrational. Programs of change follow a medical model of dealing only at the individual level of rehabilitation, therapy, reeducation and medical treatments, or punishment and execution. All such programs are doomed to fail if the main causal agent is the situation or system and not just the person.

Rather than focusing solely on killing, warehousing, or treating individuals,

We need to adopt a public health model for prevention of evil, of violence, spouse abuse, bullying, prejudice, and more that identifies vectors of social disease to be inoculated against, not dealt with solely at the individual level.

SALUD! A national campaign to promote health care for all kicked off yesterday.

SPEAKING OF HEALTH, the economy doesn't have a surplus of that at the moment. Here's economist Dean Baker's analysis.



ORANGUTAN UPDATE. This great ape species is in danger of extinction. The Wired Science item linked here also notes that the Spanish parliament approved a resolution granting something like human rights (life and freedom) to the great apes. It is the opinion of El Cabrero that we should give them voting rights in presidential elections too. They couldn't do much worse.

GOAT UPRISING. Arcadia S. Venus, the caprine first lady of Goat Rope Farm denies any responsibility for the following news report. But she approves...


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