History Repeats Itself

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The Impact of Studying Abroad

After travelling in Europe for 2 weeks the group learned a lot and felt a lot of emotions that were new to them. I made a video of impacting moments that the participants had, enjoy!

Click this link to watch the video: STUDYABROAD

Good People Capable of Evil

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Far-Back: Dr. Jane Wood, Center-Back: Mr.Franz Mueller

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, photo courtesy of: blogscientificamerican.com

Is Human Nature Evil?

 By, Brittanie Propes

A professor of literacy, a professor of psychology, and a survivor of a Nazi resistance group all claim to have the potential of doing evil.

“Conforming to group-thinking is how many people fall into the trap of evil. The situation a person is in can change their morals and values possibly to a point where they are willing to inflict pain on another human being” Dr. Jane Wood said.

Dr. Wood is a professor at Park University. She is currently teaching a Literary Holocaust course. Through books she teaches her students that when put in certain situations most people have the capability to do evil things.

Phillip Zimbardos’ book “The Lucifer Effect: How good people turn evil” poses the question, “Am I capable of evil?”.

In his book he writes that “In a group we feel able to share responsibility and this may lead to reduction of effort to stop action”.

Zimbardo claims that when in this situation, group thinking makes the individual feel less responsible for their actions since they are not partaking alone. The idea of group thinking is how many psychiatrists explain how people are capable of taking part in genocide.

“The simplified accounts of genocide allow distance between us and the perpetrators of genocide. They are so evil we couldn’t ever see ourselves doing the same thing. But if you consider the terrible pressure under which people were operating, then you automatically reassert their humanity- and that becomes alarming. You are forced to look at the situation and say “what would I have done? Sometimes the answer is not encouraging” said Zimbardo.

 Wood asked her students a similar question, “Are you capable of combating evil?”

She pushes students to critically imagine themselves in the shoes of the guards at Abu Ghraib prison, the Hutu militia when fighting the Tutsi, or the Nazis enslaving Jews in death camps.

Many people insist that they would never do such acts of hate but without being in that situation Zimbardo claims they will never know the real answer. The situation allows for people to do things outside of their character by the “us-them” way of thinking.

The “us-them” ideology is that we are good and they are evil or we are right and they are wrong. People underestimate their ability to do evil because the “others” do that. In the same way, the people doing the acts of evil discount the victims by thinking the “others” are not worthy of life.

Franz Mueller, a surviving member of the White Rose Society, laughs while saying “Today, young Germans ask how could it be possible in our country, such nonsense, such terrible things.”

Mueller points out an example of people not realizing their potential to do evil.

“People use to refer to it as the “other Germany”. They would say not “our Germany” that was “Hitler’s Germany” said Mueller.

Mueller was active in the Nazi resistance group. He helped throw out leaflets at the University of Munich. He was able to stand up against his country and even his family to support something that he believed in.

He never blamed people for not joining the resistance.

“I was young. I didn’t have a wife or family to take care of” said Mueller “some people couldn’t afford to lose what they had. I don’t blame them for that.”

Mueller has never regretted his decision to stand against the Nazis but realizes that if he were in a different situation that even he may have given into the pressure to conform.

The possibility of an evil situation arises all over the world. Prior knowledge about the “us-them” and situational ideologies gives hope for overcoming the potential of doing evil.

Zimbardo gives this advice,” You are alerted to watch for demons along the path, but you may be disappointed by their banality and their similarity to your next-door neighbor”.

For more information visit:  

Franz Mueller & The White Rose Society

WhiteRoseSocietyPodcast

Mueller with Park University students

Auschwitz Slideshow

Auschwitz Slideshow

“Those who do not learn …

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

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