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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Quotes worth saving (18): 'Evil' by Roy Baumeister

Evil: inside human violence and cruelty by Roy F. Baumeister.
This edition published in, New York: W.H. Freeman & co., 1997.
This quote, p.385.

Citizens of the future will look back on us much the way people today look back on the slave traders or warmongers of past eras, with one twist: Future populations will be our victims, whereas relatively little of today's suffering is directly caused by the actions of our nefarious ancestors. When the oil really runs out, or when the water supply is fatally contaminated, or even when the national debt forces a major drop in everyone's standard of living, people will look back on our era as the culprits responsible for their suffering. Moreover, as we have seen, victim's perceptions tend to be especially stark and unforgiving. The future will have its own version of Satan, and it is likely to be you and me (and our governments). But, like most perpetrators, we do not see ourselves as doing evil.


Sean Jeating said...

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future. :)

god-free morals said...

Sometimes it most certainly is, but in this case I think not.

The author isn't predicting the unknown after all, but psychological factors he has spent his career analysing (and the entirety of that book I quote from too - it's worth a read btw).

I think that the environmental speculations he makes in 1997 are now considered scientific fact (we are affecting climate change, oil is running out), and that the collapse of the global financial market in 2008 led to many people blaming the older generation, the 'baby boomers', for causing this is the manner he suggested they would, but perhaps we will all be more forgiving in the future, perhaps...

This is always the problem with quoting from a larger work. I remove the context. Ah well, I think it's still worthwhile. At least as a placeholder for my memory.

Sean Jeating said...

Ah, I was – as often – cutting things short.
Personally / emotionally I do agree with Mr Baumeister like once I agreed with the Club of Rome' and its "The Limits of Growth".
But then: Prediction is very difficult, ...

god-free morals said...

All I can suggest then is to read the book, because it is not an economic-political prediction he is making (as in 'The Limits of Growth', which the authors noted in 2012 was not to be used as a prediction) but rather the outcome of an analysis of human socio-psychological behaviour, which he considers unchanging, or at least, incredibly slow-changing.

True, as a warning towards caution "prediction is very difficult" is very useful, but it also seems to be an easy way of dismissing anything that is not absolute fact - and those things number incredibly few. I would suggest any speculative analysis, even work that has had laboratory experiments to support it, could be waved away with "prediction is very difficult." So, yeah, it is, but there's blind speculation and conclusions based on scientific analysis.

Sean Jeating said...

I do see and appreciate your points, Chris.
Mr Baumeister has not detected anything new about hu(wo)man's socio-psychological behaviour, though, has he? Nothing able to blow the minds of people like the two of us, hm?
The peace of the night.

god-free morals said...

Well, I'm going to respond only because you asked some more questions.

I wasn't aware you were familiar with Dr Baumeister's work, I myself, have only read this book and actually it did make me question some of my own socio-psychological behaviours, indeed, some assumptions that I had been making. Namely about the habit of one to demonise or dehumanise the group that you consider the 'enemy'. In my case this is the membership of the conservative party in the UK. Indeed, he makes a very compelling argument about the social creation of the myth of pure evil as a way in which to dispel one's own personal failings. Finally, he shows over the course of the book the heightened perception of the victim in contrast to the lessened perspective of the perpetrator. I considered this, if not mind blowing, then really rather interesting. Hence why I posted a quote from the book.

"The night is dark and full of terrors." :)