Saturday, February 6, 2016


A friend, who's just been close to some horrific behavior, said "I'm really struggling to understand the evil side of human nature."

It's simpler and closer than you'd think. It's about desensitization. Ever laughed at a pratfall in a movie? Or while Groucho and his brothers disrupted one of Margaret Dumont's parties? Ever get so mad at someone that you visualized minor violence? Ever said "I’m gonna kill him"? It's not so huge a jump to actuating such thoughts. The potential's latent, or we wouldn’t do any of the above (i.e. no human would ever strike us as the least bit cartoonish). The seeds are sown!

We choose not to indulge those impulses moment by moment, but there are situations that would push the best of us to unthinkable action. You may have noticed that people discard their values when stakes raise.

When it comes to rising stakes, everyone has their price. And desensitization (we’re all at least somewhat desensitized) isn’t easily reversed. That’s the magic combo: stakes and desensitization. Evil isn’t something titanic, it’s the mundane escalation of drives we easily recognize in ourselves.

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