A couple of days back, a friend of mine narrated a story to me,that left me numb. It was about two very good friends. One of them is a barber, let us call him Ahmed; and other a daily wage labourer, Kumar.
Kumar was to get married, and he came to Ahmed to get himself groomed. Ahmed started joking about how Kumar’s life was going to change after the marriage. They continued chatting with each other with Ahmed doing his work leisurely.
It was delighting to hear the chumminess that they shared. Meanwhile a fight broke out in front of the shop, about a dozen men started beating two men who seemed to be muslim from the head gear they wore.
They were being beaten cruelly, the reason for the fight wasn’t audible for the ones in the shop. They could only see it from the distance, the plight of the two helpless men infuriated Ahmed, and Kumar was in utter shock looking at what was happening. When the fight grew out of control, one among the dozen took out the knife and stabbed into the two men.
Kumar and Ahmed were sweating profusely, trembled with fear. When the men stabbed the two for the second time, Ahmed couldn’t control himself, he was further infuriated, he thought it wouldn’t take long for those dozen men to spot him too and he didn’t even think for a second, and slit the throat of Kumar with the same straight razor that he was using to shave Kumar and then, he was quick to close down the shutter of the shop before the mob outside noticed it.
Meanwhile, outside, came the voice, “That was a good shot, well done guys” from the director, and asked them to pack up for the day.
The story left me thinking about the human nature. How did a friend turn evil at sight of the religious indifference without even thinking of the reasons of the fight?
It is not just about this, it could be a subtle one as well, another very dear friend of mine, turned almost hostile towards me when I mocked a certain politician for his dumbness and dumb policies. He started hot debate which had a rude tone.
Did your friendship turn into animosity over silly debates? Imagine over a difference in faith?
What made Ahmed turn evil towards Kumar?
A few decades ago, a famous experiment was conducted by a renowned psychologist Philip Zimbardo called The Stanford Prison experiment. Zimbardo gave an advertisement in the newspaper inviting applications from students for taking part in an experiment as prisoners and guards for a fortnight and they would be paid $15 per day.
From a number of applications 18 mentally strong men were selected.
Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard. Prisoners were arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station and then blindfolded and jailed in real-looking prison created in one of the buildings of Stanford. Here they were treated like every other criminal. They were fingerprinted, photographed and ‘booked’, stripped naked, deloused, had all their personal possessions removed and locked away, and were given prison clothes and bedding.
Guards were also issued a khaki uniform, together with whistles, handcuffs and dark glasses, to make eye contact with prisoners impossible. No physical violence was permitted.
There were 3 guards to the 9 prisoners, taking shifts of eight hours each..
Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. They behaved in a brutal and sadistic manner, apparently enjoying it.
The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time.
One prisoner had to be released after 36 hours because of uncontrollable bursts of screaming, crying and anger. His thinking became disorganized and he appeared to be entering the early stages of a deep depression. Within the next few days three others also had to leave after showing signs of emotional disorder that could have had lasting consequences.
Zimbardo had intended that the experiment should run for a fortnight, but on the sixth day he closed it down. There was real danger that someone might be physically or mentally damaged if it was allowed to run on.
The experiment showed that people would readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play, even when all the time they knew that they were just playing roles, especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped as those of the prison guards, or in the case of the first story that I narrated.
Imagine how would people in react to real life situations.
I am writing this to let people know the need to think about the situation they are in before jumping on to counterparts.
Whenever you feel dejected, angry, furious, sad, or seem to grow any sort of a negative feeling on others, think about this question.
“What is responsible for this?”
rather “Who is responsible?”