01 July 2015

Keys to Resistance

The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo, 2007, Excerpts

The key to resistance lies in development of the three Ss: self-awareness, situational sensitivity, and street smarts.

I made a mistake: Encourage admission of our mistakes, first to ourselves, then to others. Doing so openly reduces the need to justify or rationalize our mistakes and thereby to continue to give support to bad or immoral influence.

I am mindful: We must transform our usual state of mindless inattention into mindfulness, especially in new situations. Ask for evidence to support assertion; demand that ideologies be sufficiently elaborated to allow you to separate rhetoric from substance. Try to determine whether the recommended means ever justify potentially harmful ends. Reject simple solutions as quick fixes for complex personal or social problems. Support critical thinking from the earliest times in children’s lives, alerting them to the deceptive TV ads, biased claims, and distorted perspectives being presented to them.

I am responsible: Taking responsibility for one’s decisions. We become more resistant to undesirable social influence by always maintaining a sense of personal responsibility and by being willing to be held accountable for our actions. Obedience to authority is less blind t the extent that we are aware that diffusion or responsibility merely disguises our individual complicity in the conduct of questionable actions.

I will assert my unique identity: Do not allow others to deindividuate you, to put you into a category, a box, a slot, to turn you into an object. Make eye contact. Anonymity and secrecy conceal wrongdoing and undermine the human connection. They can become the breeding grounds that generate dehumanization that provides the killing ground for bullies, rapists, torturers, terrorists, and tyrants. Never allow or practice negative stereotyping; words, labels, and jokes can be destructive, if they mock others.

I respect just authority but rebel against unjust authority: Work to distinguish between those in authority who, because of their expertise, wisdom, seniority, or special status, deserve respect, and the unjust authority figures who demand our obedience without having any substance. Doing so will reduce our mindless obedience t self-proclaimed authorities whose priorities are not in our best interests.

I want group acceptance, but value my independence: The power of that desire for acceptance will make some people do almost anything to be accepted and go to even further extremes to avoid refection by the Group. There are times when conformity to a group norm is counterproductive to the social good. It is imperative to determine when to follow the norm and when to reject it.

I will be more frame-vigilant: Who makes the frame becomes the artist, or the con artist. The way issues are framed is often more influential than the persuasive arguments within their boundaries. Moreover, effective frames can seem not to be frames at all, just sound bites, visual images, slogans, and logos.  They influence us without being conscious of them, and they shape our orientation toward the ideas or issues they promote. It is crucial to be aware of power and to be vigilant in order to offset its insidious influence on our emotions, thoughts and votes.

I will balance my time perspective: We can be led to do things that are not what we believe in when we allow ourselves to become trapped in an expanded present moment. Situational power is weakened when past and future combine to contain the excesses of the present.

I will not sacrifice personal or civic freedoms for the illusion of security: The need for security is a powerful determinant of human behavior. We can be manipulated into engaging in actions that are alien to us when faced with alleged threats to our security or the promise of security from danger. Never sacrifice basic personal freedoms for the promise of security because that sacrifices are real and immediate and the security is a distant illusion. Such as when a leader promises personal safety and notional security at the cost of a collective sacrifice of suspending laws, privacy, and freedoms.

I can oppose unjust systems: Individuals falter in the face of the intensity of the systems we have described: the military and prison systems as well as those of gangs, cults, fraternities, corporations, and even dysfunctional families. But individual resistance in concert with that of others of the same mind and resolve can combine to make a difference. Resistance may involve physically removing one’s self from a total situation in which all information, rewards, and punishments are controlled. It may involve challenging the groupthink mentality and being able to document all allegations of wrongdoing. Systems have enormous power to resist change and withstand even righteous assault.

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