Henry Bemis Wrote:
> Although I am not familiar with Alice Miller's
> writing, I am familiar with psychological theories
> generally that try to explain Nazi Germany and all
> of its nuances, including, of course, the
> Holocaust. (See, most recently, George R.
> Mastroianni, Of Mind and Murder: Toward a More
> Comprehensive Psychology of the Holocaust)
Henry, have you read this book? It's not available in the States yet, is it?
> reading of such writings left me very skeptical of
> psychological explanations that are clearly either
> gross over-generalizations, or gross
> over-simplifications, or both.
> Much of this work, including perhaps Millar, is by
> people who want to salvage human nature by
> appealing to unique environmental influences, or
> cross-cultural personality traits, that are
> supposedly linked to mass negative behavioral
That is an overstatement. I am not aware of anyone--they probably exist, but not Miller and the Attachment theorists--who is either trying to explain away genetics or to exculpate humanity.
With your argument, however, you run the risk of discounting the effects of child development and human trauma. If, like Bowlby, you are studying teenage sociopaths and you discover that well over half of them suffered extended separations from their primary caregivers in the first two years of life, are you to assume that there is no correlation? If you are Masterson and studying people who will soon be termed "borderlines" and you find that they tend to have had very similar childhoods and that they disproportionately commit themselves to extreme religions and political movements, are you to discount those connections? The point is that human behavior is on a bell curve, or rather a multi-modal distribution. The question is what changes the probabilities that certain groups of people will tend to cluster at different modes.
> well-known Milgram obedience experiments explain
> that there is a deep-seated human nature that
> dictates obedience to authority figures,
> regardless of personality or upbringing.
You go too far here. The Milgram experiments found that people tended to behave badly in certain circumstances but it did not say the tendency was the same "regardless of personality or upbringing." Moreover, since the experiments were conducted on American subjects with similar educational, cultural, linguistic, and social experiences, there was no attempt to compare differences across national or cultural boundaries. By construction, the study did not consider the international dimension.
> The Stanford Prison experiment confirms this.
Again, this was a study of American students--roughly the same age, generally the same gender, the same educational and socioeconomic levels, etc--and found that those subjects behaved badly in certain circumstances. We may infer a probability that all humans have that tendency but not that the degree of susceptibility is same across cultures or national and linguistic boundaries. You are claiming domestic experiments in support of your generalization about (the insignificance of) international cultural differences.
> In short, there was nothing unique about Nazi
> Germans, as a people, or its pre-Nazi culture, or
> for that matter Mormon culture (per se) that
> establishes an explanation as to why people follow
> authority figures when placed in an environment
> where the following of such leaders is deeply
> entrenched, politically or socially.
You have offered no evidence for any of that. The Stanford and Milgram studies examined neither international variability nor the specific characteristics of Germans or Mormons. Before you can make any statements about those groups, you would need to conduct an experiment comparing them to controls.
>That is just
> what human beings are inclined to do. Further
> psychological speculations are unconvincing to me,
> except perhaps as isolated factors in particular
Yes, humans seem to be susceptible to the sort of evil you describe. But you have presented no evidence that that rule applies equally to all societies and cultures. Have you lived extensively abroad? I ask because it is hard to believe that someone who had done so would discount the profound differences on these moral issues between different societies.
To put the point another way, you say that you would be willing to consider the possibility that "isolated factors in particular cases" could make a difference in how peoples react to authority. That is clearly correct. But--and this is critical--often the "particular cases" are specific cultures on which "isolated factors" work. Is not the group consciousness and emperor worship of Japan before World War Two relevant? Yes, it is. Likewise, the child rearing practices of post-revolutionary China had an immense effect on subsequent generations, as do the prevalence of poverty and broken homes in some segments of the US population and the suffering inflicted in war-torn regions of the world. Those are all powerful factors affecting the qualities of childhood experience and changing the distribution of probabilities for how children will develop over time.
> After extensive reading of the Holocaust
> literature, and grappling with the problem of
> human nature, I became convinced that most of us,
> if placed within the same social pressures of Nazi
> Germany, would have responded as did the German
> people. I take some solace in the fact that
> resisters showed that morality and freewill, and
> personal courage, are also part of human nature,
> and can, with effort, overcome and free someone
> from such influences.
Yeah, this is overstatement. I agree that all humans are to one degree or another capable of atrocities, and all societies also have those who will stand against such things. But the probabilities of both collective evil and individual resistance vary from culture to culture; the modes differ from culture to culture.
There is indeed a danger in making sweeping generalizations about different nationalities. Empirically, however, the probabilities of certain behaviors do differ across national and cultural boundaries. There is, furthermore, a countervailing danger of ignoring or minimizing the significance of culture as a force in deciding political and social outcomes.
I do not share your belief that Mormons have the same attitudes towards authority figures as non-Mormons. Nor do I believe that the legacy of World War One and the culture of Weimar Germany were immaterial to the rise of Nazism and the ways in which the German people interacted with their leaders during the 1930s and early 1940s.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2019 04:33AM by Lot's Wife.