Following Orders Against Our Morals Essay, Research Paper
PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO FOLLOW ORDERS THAT GO AGAINST THEIR MORALS
?Tearful day when, from ashes, man shall rise to be judged guilty.? These are the last words written by the great composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his “Requiem “, or “funeral mass”. These words also describe the day that the Nazi soldiers were declared guilty and sentenced to death at Nuremberg. In the Nuremberg war crime trials, the Nazis pleaded “not guilty” to charges brought against them regarding the treatment of Jews in concentration camps, by reason that they were simply following orders given to them by superiors. When most people look at this from emotional human viewpoints, it seems like a perfectly just punishment, and their reasons were simply excuses; but as we look at history, and especially at human psychology a little closer, it turns out that maybe they weren?t given a fair punishment after all…
Humankind has suffered from this type of misjudgment since the beginning of time. The Bible shows us the first time man had to choose between right and wrong was when the serpent tempted Eve with the
forbidden fruit. She knew that it was wrong, but she hadn’t been around for long, and the serpent seemed to know what he was talking about; and so was the beginning of manipulators and those who submit to manipulation. People are, indeed, willing to follow orders that go against their morals.
The underlying problem in this issue is not that the nature of man is to be brutal and without morals, but rather, that not enough people trust themselves with major decisions, and those who do, often use their self-confidence in evil ways, such as manipulating those who seek advice, or give bad advice. This is apparent in the smallest ways even today. One common, yet fairly insignificant situation may involve two women who are shopping together. The first may try on two dresses, and being insecure, ask her friend which dress to buy. The second woman happens to be envious of the first because she has a nicer car (or has another luxury the second does not), and recommends the less flattering or more expensive
of the two dresses, as a means of boosting herself up when she?s feeling down.
Another modern situation demonstrating this under-lying problem traces to children. It is a well-
known fact that almost all children feel extremely insecure and vulnerable because they are in such an awkward stage in their transition to adulthood. Therefore they find it necessary to seek large groups of other children to protect them from some undefined, yet powerful fear. They no-longer feel vulnerable, but instead want to demonstrate their new-found ?authority? to other children. To do this, they will choose an insecure child who isn?t included in a large group, and persistently torment her by calling her names while they are young, and, as they get older, single her out from social gatherings. Sometimes the child is accepted back into the group after she has received her share of emotional beating. But sometimes, if the child is insecure enough, and the group is fierce enough, she may never find her niche, and may suffer this haunting experience all the way through high school, or the rest of her life. This is a definite emergency because the agony lasts long after the tormenting has ceased. She will feel like she is an outcast from society for years, and will never be able
to fully recover. Yet children persist their cruelty even though they can imagine what it may be like to be on the other side; just because one influential child refuses to let up, the others must follow.
The examples are endless. One popular example that never fails to enrage people is the infamous My Lai Massacre. In the Vietnam War in the village of My Lai, Lt. William Calley received orders to raid My Lai. His forces then murdered 128 civilians; mostly women and children. All he had to do was refuse to carry this out, allowing 128 more people live, but war is often a stressful time, and people lose their senses, opening their minds so much that they will do anything someone tells them to.
All the examples in this paper follow the same equation:
V + M = E
Vulnerable person/people + Manipulator(s) = Evil deeds
If someone allows himself to be so freely manipulated in such ways, other people will find him an easy target for brainwashing. The best example of this is the recent actions of the Heaven?s Gate suicide cult. All the ingredients were there. The ?V? were the actual cult members, who were searching for a new direction for their lives, and were confused about which religions, beliefs, and values to hold as truth. The ?M? was Mr. Applewhite, who led thirty-eight confused, naive people to their death. He apparently had told them he was dying, and that the other members should also die for him, to join him on his ?spaceship?. The ?E? were the brainwashing of the cult members, and the actual suicides committed.
The lack of self-trust demonstrated in these examples can take its toll on one?s personality and inhibits his manner of thinking. The feeling that his life is out of control causes a man to lose self-respect, since he can no longer make decisions for himself. A man or woman without self-respect feels worthless, leading one?s self into a personal depression, and possibly suicide. The impact this could have on society and the work force could be devastating.
Employee morale could lower, reducing productivity; and our standard of living.
Going back to the World War II question, practically everyone on earth would say that what the Nazis did to the Jews was horrifyingly wrong. However, the wrong party may be to blame in this case. Most of the Nazi soldiers were young men between the ages of eighteen and forty. These men had been suffering a massive economic depression, putting thousands of people out of work, and into poverty. Unless they could find a job of any sort, being a Nazi soldier appeared to be a reasonably good move. Those men that had enlisted had little to no self-trust since they had lost all of their money and their jobs. Hitler seemed to have a plan for action to make Germany a great nation, so the Germans put all their trust in him, with hopes of winning back their jobs, their money, and their dignity; only to be led to shame, destruction, and the death sentence.
Most modern-day Americans don?t seem to understand the consequences that the Nazis would have faced if they hadn?t followed Hitler?s gruesome orders.
Soldiers that don?t follow orders may have been dishonorably discharged. This would have forced
those vulnerable young men back to the impoverished lifestyles that they had previously left. If they weren?t discharged, or disciplined in some other way, they could have even been executed. With all of this stacked up against them, they had no other choice, but to brutally torture innocent civilians. This presented the already confused and insecure Germans with a lose/lose situation, so they opted for the solution that would cause them the least individual harm.
This example demonstrates that people will even go to such lengths as to kill their fellow man simply if told to do so. An experiment was done to prove this point.
In the 1950?s, an experiment was conducted at a certain university to satisfy the question, ?Are most people more likely to follow their morals, or orders that contradict their morals?? Two volunteers and an experimenter would participate in each trial. The two volunteers each drew a slip of paper that either said ?teacher? or ?learner?. The volunteers were told that the experiment was to find out how much pain a man would have to suffer before they would remember something, or do as they were told. The ?teacher? stood in front of an electric generator, while the ?learner? sat in an electric chair. The ?learner? had to
memorize a list of words, and every time he got one wrong the ?teacher? was told to flip
a switch on the generator to give the ?learner? a shock. With each incorrect answer, the ?teacher? was to flip the next switch in sequence to increase the voltage. There were thirty switches with labels written above each group. The labels read: Slight Shock, Moderate Shock, Danger: Severe Shock, and XXX. A frightening 65% kept on flipping switches to the end. This was, in fact, against
their morals, because as the volunteers flipped switches, they sweated profusely, groaned, bit their lips, trembled, and dug their fingernails into their own flesh. However, this seemingly gruesome experiment does have a good end. As it turns out, there was no electrical charge at all, and the ?learner? was a stooge to the experimenter the whole time. Both slips of paper said ?teacher? on them, so the volunteer was sure to be the ?teacher?. The ?learner? screamed and pounded the walls on cue, to make the procedure even more horrifying to the ?teacher?, and to see to what lengths a person would go to follow commands. This demonstrates that the ?teachers? were acting as ?good German soldiers following orders.? This experiment
emphasizes the truth of the fact that people are willing to carry out these heinous deeds, and that there is much need for action.
There may, however, be hope for this latent, yet lethal problem. The necessary steps towards this call to the offensive are actually quite simple. The best strategy can be called a ?neighborhood intervention? program. This program involves hospitals, neighborhoods, schools, and governments working together.
The program starts with prenatal health care. This is important because it ensures that the baby is healthy both physically and mentally; therefore allowing it to be molded as a conscientious individual easily.
The next, and most important step is the infant development program. This consists of the actual intervention, which is explained as follows: Several (between three and six) families in the same neighborhood meet once a week to discuss problems, concerns, suggestions, and the progress that the child is making towards proper transition the infant to toddler stages.
The final step takes place in preschool and elementary school social studies which includes not only the conventional geography and history, but also education stressing self-esteem and problem solving. “The best pre-school programs address pyschosocial development of children and have long-term, multiple, beneficial outcomes.”
The proper administration of this intervention program will be provided by individual cities and hospitals, and supervised by each state government’s Department of Health.
Finance is not a big issue for this program. A program similar to this has recently been implemented in Seattle, costing a mere “twenty-three dollars per year, per household for a seven-year program, which has an assessed value of $100,000 through the city property tax levy.”
Enforcement of this plan is also a minor issue, since it has so many advantages that no one would want to oppose it. However, for precautionary measures, enforcement may be provided by state governments.
The best implementation date is January 1, 2000. It allows two to three years to explain this plan to the public and educate those directly involved, such as doctors, teachers and parents.
This intervention program has many short-term and long-term benefits to both the child and the parents.
Short-term benefits for the child include, but are not limited to better physical health and better nutrition because the intervention program provides for proper hospital care. Since the parents are educated and counseled, the child is at a lesser risk of being abused by his parents.
Parents have many short-term benefits as well. This plan is convenient, since each neighborhood can schedule meetings to fit their busy schedules. Working with other couples who are also raising a child provides social support to each family; just that they are all in it together gives them something to lean on. For apparent reasons it will also prove to boost self-esteem, improve parenting skills, and result in better marital relationships; all because the families will look after one-another.
Even more significant than the short term benefits are the long-term benefits. The child will
eventually be less impulsive and less hostile. This basically means the child will have good mental health, and will hardly be at any risk of suffering mental illness. The child will not be as easily distracted in school as other children who haven?t participated in the neighborhood intervention program. If a child is not easily distracted, he will be far more efficient once he enters the work force. Also among the long-term benefits of the child is better socio-emotional functioning throughout his life. He will not rely on the support of others, or feel that he has to answer to someone before he does something, but instead will be able to stand on his own two feet, and actually be more persuasive and rational in his thinking. Finally, he will have a more pro-social attitude, allowing him to be a better leader and follower alike. More people will respect him because he will be confident and pleasant to work with.
Long-term benefits of the parents will include larger percentages of mothers graduating from high school. Obviously we should see a large drop in percentages of teenage pregnancy and high school drop-outs. Families should expect to see higher rates of employment, and better jobs since families will always be there to help each other out in hard times.
Society shall also benefit. This plan particularly gives much needed aid to the poor, but will also help out middle and upper-class citizens as well. There will be an over-all drop in the crime rate, a better work ethic, and a general feeling of happiness and new found prosperity amongst all of us, and not just the few upper-class citizens who have reached the top.
In conclusion, I have explained why a lack of self-trust, the ease of brainwashing someone, a loss of self-respect, and the fact that people are willing to kill their fellow man are harming our society. I have also explained what a neighborhood intervention program is, how it works, who is involved, financial issues, enforcement of the program, and a reasonable implementation date. Finally I have told about all the wonderful things that this program could mean. I have laid out who benefits, how, and how long the advantages will last.
Finally I strongly recommend that you take a good hard look at who you are, what you do, and the results of your deeds. If we don?t make an effort to think before we do something, we may end up weeping for the end of innocence, and the blackness of man?s heart.
1Translated from ?Lacrymosa?, song No. 6 of Mozart?s ?Requiem?
2Elizabeth Hall, Why We Do What We Do p. 12
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