“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
We like to believe we are good. Moreover, we want to believe that the conviction of our goodness would never allow for harm to happen to our fellow human beings. Yet history has shown repeatedly, just how people: fathers, mothers, children- have actively participated in atrocities against their fellow man, even when their own personal views were in conflict. One of the most significant quotes of all time is by Reverend Charles F. Aked. “It has been said for evil men to accomplish their purpose, it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”
Our history gives us strong examples of evil: Hitler’s Germany, The Rwandan Genocide, The Guantanamo Bay scandal, even today’s Haitian persecution. We all read the news and shake our heads in shame, “ I would never let that happen. Someone has to do something.” I wanted to share with you why this continues to besmirch our past, and how we can indeed change our future. After all, he who does not learn from his past is doomed to repeat it.
The answer comes from the findings of The Stamford Experiment. Set to run for two weeks, college students (well adjusted and normal,) were asked to volunteer in a prison setting. Some would be prison guards and others prisoners. In six days, three prisoners had quit; the guards had become expert and creative abusers and the man in charge sunk into the role of prison warden rather than scientist. It escalated quickly because those who were uncomfortable, those who did not agree with the brash and loud- chose to hide in silence, sacrificing personal responsibility to an assumed authority that would “fix it”.
The choice is simple. Choose the path of the few; refuse for history to count you among those swept up into something intrinsically wrong. Every one of us has the gifts of compassion and empathy. Voice it.