Studies of atrocities show that evil is not committed by the fringe groups of evil people. Rather, evil is perpetrated by ordinary, “good” people.
Concerning people who worked in the Nazi concentration camps, Professor Jim Waller (the Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College), remarked, “Who are these people and how are they enlisted to perpetrate such extraordinary evil? These perpetrators are ordinary people in the majority of cases.”
Tina Rosenberg (author of “Children of Cain”) said about violence and corruption of Latin America, “I would have preferred them to be monsters. Coming to understand that this is not the case was disturbingfor what it taught me about these people, and ultimately, about myself. I did not want to think that many of the violent are ‘people like us’ so civilized, so educated, so cultured, and because of that, so terrifying.”
We would like to think we would not be capable of atrocities, but pushed, many of us would succumb to evil actions depending on how severely we are tested. Some might do evil at the slightest provocation. Some might require tremendous pressure. But it is during the tests of life that reveal who we really are. It’s easy to be good when we’re well-fed, have a good job, and live in our American suburb. But what if you’re living in the inner city, your father has abandoned you, your mom is on drugs, you haven’t eaten for days, and the only food for miles around is a Dollar store down the street. How many would resort to stealing? Or what if you are a manager and had to choose between firing a subordinate or losing your job? In my experience, all managers would choose to keep their job. What if you had to choose between losing a lot of money and hurting someone or losing a little money and killing someone? In my next exhibit, I’ll show people who chose the latter.