Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Questioning Character

I got a rather ambiguous e-mail from a reader - someone who read an old post regarding Stanley Milgram's study on human behavior and then responded to it via e-mail. While I never post names on my site when posting an e-mail, I do not appreciate anonymous e-mail. I always include my name when responding to someone or offering a query. I am going to post this e-mail, simply because I find the questions interesting - otherwise, I would disregard it.
Congratulations on your reaction. Most likely you wouldn't have been a concentration camp guard or torturer. Maybe. You hadn't committed to this pseudo teacher. What if had been your regular teacher? What if you had no previous information on the Milgram study?
My response to this is simple: no one orders me around without a good reason - a reason determined to be good by me. For someone I trust, I'll do basic things without a reason, such as completing a (legal, safe) task, or keeping quiet in tense situations until the explanation is given. But to mistreat people? To expect me to change things about my external or internal person? Not a chance. And I can say that without qualm. Curious as to why? Because I have been there and done that. I came from that - and I determined to never do it again. I spent a good portion of my life watching those who were supposed to be examples use and abuse people, use and abuse me, without saying a word. And let me tell you, it leaves you empty and without pride. I can't stand here and say that I'll do everything right in a situation such as being a soldier in the Third Reich, but I can guarantee I'll be doing everything I can to avoid hurting people, and fighting those that do. It is the difference between being defined by life, or being defined by yourself. It is a choice we all make: too many of us, unfortunately, allow life to define us. We take the easy way out, try to avoid consequences and responsibility, always for our own advantage. As I've shown in many of my posts, I try to act in ways that are defined by who I am and who I have chosen to be. Regardless of who the "teacher" was or whether I had any previous knowledge of any psychological studies and/or experiments, I know who I am and what I am capable of. I am capable of great atrocity and great honor - it is all a choice of who I choose to be. I'll let my anonymous reader figure that out for himself.