Monday, March 13, 2006

The Power of a God

Pictured: A t-shirt featuring Larry Hoover leader of the Gangster Disciples. Also known as "King Hoover" and "The Chairman."

The Milgram Experiment / The Power of the Man in Charge
In July of 1961, Stanley Milgram created a series of experiments that demonstrated a human being's willingness to "follow orders." In short the experiment involved having individuals send an electric shock to another human subject when he gave wrong answers. Milgram proved that when someone in "authority" directs a person, that person is likely to do things he would not normally do. In these experiments the person receiving the shock was only an actor and the shock was not real. However the other participant did not know this.

37 out of the 40 participants followed orders. And delivered what would have been fatal shocks with relatively little prompting...from "the man in charge."

More from Milgram:
"The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation."
"The Perils of Obedience" (Milgram 1974)

If "normal" people can be led so easily into "killing" another human being because of the authority influence imagine how much more destructive the outcome could be if the follower is of an anti-social background. Imagine a kid who is already mad at the world. One who is looking for someone else or some group to project his pain, rage, or hate on. Provide that kid or young adult with a manipulative and skilled leader with a deadly agenda and imagine the potential outcome.

Now imagine the leader of a gang such as Larry Hoover. The leadership influence of people like Usama bin Laden. The leadership power of people like Jim Jones. Former El Rukn leader, Jeff Fort. Crip co-founder, Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

One does not need to look at higher profile names like those mentioned. Local leadership in gangs (often adults leading young people) wield tremendous psychological power over their followers. Slavery is outlawed. But gang leaders lead thousands of young people in a volunteer slave army.

I've seen gang kids "pray" to their leaders for forgiveness when having to eat "forbidden" food in lock up.

That is power.

When that power is corrupt how much more deadly it becomes. Add to that the influence of religion and politics and the influence can become god-like.

If said "god" is a devil then the potential for hell to be unleashed is unparalleled.

Everyone is a role model. Even if they think they are not. Someone is always watching.

Full account of Milgram experiment: