Tuesday, April 9, 2013

466: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 31

The picture I draw of human nature is a rather positive one. As a confirmation of that I introduced you to the findings of the primatologist Frans de Waal  in my previous lecture.

Yet, there are people, who claim that this all sounds very nice, but that in fact we are vicious animals going for their own interests only, if you remove that thin varnish which we call morality.

They have arguments. On July 13, 1942 the 500 men of the Reserve Police battalion 101 from Hamburg were transported to a village named Jozefow in Eastern Poland..

Lots of middle aged family men under command of Major Wilhelm Trapp, a 53 year old policeman himself. 

To make it short: their assignment was to murder all Jews of the village and keep only alive men who were useful in labor camps.

Trapp then made an extraordinary offer to his battalion: if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out. Trapp paused, and after some moments, one man stepped forward. 

The captain of 3rd company, enraged that one of his men had broken ranks, began to berate the man. The major told the captain to hold his tongue. 

Then ten or twelve other men stepped forward as well. They turned in their rifles and were told to await a further assignment from the major. 

Twelve out of 500. The others were able to shoot 1,500 Jewish men, women and children within a day even when they had the option to opt out.

Does this confirm the "VARNISH" theory  about human nature. Am I completely wrong then? I don't think so.

One thing to consider is: what would have happened if Major Trapp had asked the opposite: "Those who are wiling to shoot Jews, step forward please." 

I won't elaborate in this idea further, but what we observe is that our instinct behavior is mainly focused on preventing harm and pain and certainly not on killing one another.

What has happened? Were ALL 488 remaining policemen fanatic nazis and anti-Semites then? Highly improbable. But then why didn't they stepped out?

Military obedience can't be the explanation either, because one was allowed to step out without further consequences.

It may be horrible to say, but the pressure of conformity  can be more  crucial in some situations
than any other social instinct and any fundamental moral value.

Moral standards and criteria, so we learn from this example, are flexible. This example shows that in moments of moral decisions we sometimes neither follow our moral principles nor our well understood personal interests.

We follow a social reflex. These policemen subordinated to the pressure to conform at the expense of a very high price. 

Legitimacy through conformity here is the maxim on which we base our moral behavior in everyday situations. What all do, can not be entirely wrong.

Just puberty, the age in which we free ourselves from the reference group of our family, is the phase of our strongest conformity  behavior  to our friends

Even children usually learn quickly that they succeed, if they behave reasonably compliant to the group.

Who steps out of line, gets quickly in trouble. So it is no wonder that we train ourselves to adjust our behavior according to the rules of our reference groups.

Our moral behavior is always marked by the reference group, in which we find ourselves, voluntarily or involuntarily.

Just as important as our inner beliefs is being accepted by our reference group. We anticipate the views of others on ourselves and modify our decisions and our actions accordingly.

Morally considered, this behavior can help us in the good sense to behave compliant  to the group.

Likewise it is also easily possible that we allow ourselves to be carried away by group behavior to actions that are inconsistent with our internal beliefs actually.

But how is that possible? Is our self-image not just tied to fairly constant values ​​of  what we keep as our principle of right, good and true? How do we manage to outwit ourselves?

The Discussion

[13:23] herman Bergson: These last questions are for the next lecture...
[13:23] herman Bergson: thank you
[13:23] Gemma Allen: ok
[13:23] Merlin: Yes, very interesting talk today Herman
[13:24] herman Bergson: I can give you an example of group behavior....
[13:24] herman Bergson: but first...your question Merlin
[13:24] Gemma Allen: wonders if in the case of the soldiers they thought they might be shot if did not comply with the orders
[13:24] Debbie DJ: I've got to break free... this group behaviour is so restrictive.....
[13:24] Merlin: Well I wondered if those soldiers knew what they were opting out of
[13:24] herman Bergson: no no Gemma,,,stepping forward was without consequences...!
[13:24] Gemma Allen: who could trust the leaders with orders like that
[13:24] Merlin: Did they know the task ahead of them?
[13:24] Debbie DJ: shopping, gizmos, and cars...
[13:25] Debbie DJ: is it a coincidence that tv adds make you want to conform, and have ONE?
[13:25] herman Bergson: There is no other example of WWII events where soldiers were allowed to step out...
[13:26] herman Bergson: This case has been thoroughly investigated....
[13:26] Gemma Allen: ah
[13:26] herman Bergson: Trapp was convicted by the Polish immediately after the war
[13:26] Gemma Allen: i still think half that army must have been mezmerized for all the things they did
[13:26] Gemma Allen: without conscience
[13:27] Gemma Allen: amazing stuff
[13:27] herman Bergson: No Gemma that is not necessarily true...
[13:27] Gemma Allen: why
[13:27] herman Bergson: Let me give you a recent example....
[13:28] herman Bergson: a 16 year old girl posted in invitation to her birthday party on Facebook...
[13:28] herman Bergson: because of some mistake it was a public invitation...not only to her friends
[13:28] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:28] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:28] Gemma Allen: yes
[13:28] Merlin: lol
[13:28] Gemma Allen: heard of that
[13:28] Gemma Allen: how many came??
[13:28] herman Bergson: in no time it was all over the net...on twitter and Facebook....
[13:28] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:29] herman Bergson: GO TO THE TOWN HAREN on that and that date...
[13:29] Gemma Allen: lots of guests
[13:29] herman Bergson: happened a few months ago here in the Netherlands...
[13:29] herman Bergson: the result....
[13:29] herman Bergson: a huge crowd of young people....
[13:29] herman Bergson: inadequate response of the authorities...
[13:30] herman Bergson: immense devastation of shops, windows..plundering....
[13:30] herman Bergson: and then the boys that were arrested....
[13:30] herman Bergson: At first in the press they said..yes hooligans came for the violence...
[13:30] herman Bergson: but nothing of that....
[13:31] herman Bergson: the arrested boys were just ordinary boys....average types...deeply ashamed of how they had behaved....
[13:31] herman Bergson: they had shifted their moral standards so easily being in this group
[13:32] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:32] Gemma Allen: mob mentality
[13:32] Debbie DJ: Was there a leader in the group, identified?
[13:32] herman Bergson: It was a disaster....traumatic for the people in that town
[13:32] herman Bergson: no Debbie....
[13:32] herman Bergson: no leader at all...
[13:32] herman Bergson: just beer
[13:32] Debbie DJ: so I wonder what triggered that random course of behaviour?
[13:32] louna: groups don't behave like individual people.
[13:33] Debbie DJ: beer - aaaaah
[13:33] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: shaming is part of the paradoxical injunction, herman.
[13:33] Debbie DJ: the weak spot in our group values.
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes,,,
[13:33] herman Bergson: individually we are moral people....
[13:33] herman Bergson: but in a group....there is the pressure of conformism it seems
[13:33] Gemma Allen: they were probably been drinking on the way and saw one person throw a rock
[13:33] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: in the soldier groups they were told that useless jew were killed, so the soldier who don't do the mission to kill, are than putting themselves as useless soldier
[13:34] Gemma Allen: and so it began
[13:34] herman Bergson: yes Gemma ...that simple....
[13:34] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: and that the good worker, are kept, so the good soldier, would be kept
[13:34] Gemma Allen: it does happen often
[13:34] Gemma Allen: large scale and small scale
[13:34] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: its a shaming message, but a paradox how can a soldier find himself good, if he do the killing
[13:34] herman Bergson: Yes Alaya....
[13:35] Dain Shan: Sorry that i interrupt here.. But our time in up. The diskussion was very ineterstng. Thank to all of you
[13:35] Oceane: thank you for a nice lecture.. herman, great discussion , bye every one :)
[13:35] herman Bergson: our evolution has not yet get that far that we can transcend such primitive resonses to situations
[13:35] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:35] Debbie DJ: bye...
[13:35] Gemma Allen: come again
[13:35] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: so by not wanting to be the useless he step in, but by doing so he also do against his consciousness
[13:35] louna: bye Oceane :)
[13:35] louna: bye Sir Dain
[13:36] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: so he has an inner conflict and he project unto the jew, all his impotence, as something problematic to get rid of
[13:36] Debbie DJ: OMG louna, there you are ;)
[13:36] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:36] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:36] Gemma Allen: you did not see her
[13:36] louna: raises arms and moves them furiously in the air
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie she didn't know the japanese seats are here in front of me
[[13:36] Gemma Allen: can't see them herman
[13:37] Gemma Allen: i cant
[13:37] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:37] Debbie DJ: on the floor -
[13:37] Gemma Allen: nope
[13:37] Gemma Allen: not to my viewer
[13:37] herman Bergson: You probably don't speak Japanese Gemma :-)
[13:37] Gemma Allen: not the point they are not visible
[13:38] louna: happy to see how much my way to sit is interesting people
[13:38] herman Bergson: ok...I confess..I was joking:-)
[13:38] Gemma Allen: WaaaHaHAhahAHA! AhhhhHAhahhAHhahHAH! haha!
[13:38] Gemma Allen: tsk
[13:38] Debbie DJ: *:-.,_,.-:*'``'*єєє ααααα ααααα єєє ααααα ααααα*'``'*:-.,_,.-:*
[13:38] louna: lol
[13:38] herman Bergson: Guess it is time to thank you all for your participation
[13:39] Gemma Allen: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:39] herman Bergson: Class dismissed but the fun goes on :-)
[13:39] Debbie DJ: I loike sitting on the floor too. I was just conforming to hermans expectations to use his new chairs ;)
[13:39] louna: group comformity ?
[13:39] Debbie DJ: Its a group thing
[13:39] herman Bergson: Debbie..plzzzzzzz
[13:39] Debbie DJ: yaeh :)
[13:39] louna: i see that, i use to be more individual and claim who i am without any shame
[13:39] herman Bergson: I put so much effort in building new seats here :-))
[13:40] Merlin: lol
[13:40] Gemma Allen: very nice
[13:40] Gemma Allen: can you rezz more if they are needed??
[13:40] louna: touches the sit .... i like the color but i'm alergic to leather
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Liona...go fot it!
[13:40] Alaya Chépaspourquoi: they are very interesting , i remarked them i wanted to tell you
[13:40] herman Bergson: Isn't leather....yuk...I dont like that myself

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