Posts Tagged ‘Violence’

MILGRAM

5 June 2011

[Picture of Stanley Milgram]I first came across mention of Stanley Milgrams famous experiment from Peter Gabriel of all people.  I was at a Peter Gabriel concert, and Peter sat at his piano and took time to explain The Milgram 18 Experiment to us.

He told us that this was the meaning behind his song “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)” from “So, 1986”, which needed an explanation as the lyrics are very brief!

I remembered this when I did some sociology and criminology modules at Open University.

Pioneering social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, did a very controversial and famous experiment in the 1960s. It was designed to determine just how far ordinary people would go in obeying people in authority. “Following Orders”. Milgram was Jewish and wanted to understand how Germans could have persecuted the Jews and other groups during WWII.

A volunteer was wired up in a room, and in an adjoining room was a device that administered a varying electric shock to the volunteer.  Subjects were asked by researchers to administer the shock each time that the volunteer failed a word association test. The Subjects did not know that the shocks were fake and that the volunteer doing the word association tests was in fact an actor.

Over 65 per cent of the subject followed orders, even to the extent of delivering potentially lethal electric shocks “Carrying Out Orders“.  They simply felt that the moral responsibility did not lie with them, but with the authority figure telling them to do it.

It was all about who had the ultimate responsibility, and that each of us has a far greater capacity to be evil if the circumstances are right, and where there is a recognised hierarchy, or a clear ringleader.

The Milgram Experiment has had a profound effect ever since.  It means that we each have to be watchful of the context in which we act.  I am amazed at how often Milgram crops up in my life.

Not long after Milgram‘s experiment, Philip Zimbardo set up a new experiment where female subjects were asked to monitor a task and to give electric shocks to those who failed, but half of the female subject were dressed in normal clothes, the other half were in a disguise that rendered them anonymous. Those who could not be identified gave stronger and longer shocks.

Zimbardo showed that people are more viscous when masked, in disguise, unidentifiable, in a crowd, in a car, on the telephone, or through the internet. Anonymity is incredibly important, and when mixed with Milgram, such as with the army, or police force, where anonymity and authority / abrogated responsibility come into play, the de-individualisation and dehumanisation is maximised.

 

Ordinary, nice people can carry out acts of violence or cruelty that they would never believe themselves to be capable of.

§

IRREVERSIBLE

5 February 2004

[Picture of Video cover of Irreversible]Irreversible is a French film with two prolonged scenes of physical violence (but no explosions or guns), it is a film about ethics — justification, retaliation, revenge, reacting to events.

If the story was told in the normal direction or timeline, it would not be the same nor would it be as effective; it is constantly asking YOU ‘what would you do if…’ and it makes you see a single event in different ways. Therefore, it is more about what YOU — the viewer — bring to the film than the simple enough story.

It is more about what YOU bring to witnessing an event than the event itself.

For example, you see the homosexual club and the violence — and you may think it is about homophobia. Later on you find out that they are acting in retaliation for a sexual assault, and that they were affected by strong drink and drugs — and powerful emotions (they couple had just argued, there was sexual tension in that one man was the boyfriend and the other was a visiting ex-boyfriend).

As the each piece of information is revealed — in reverse order, your views on what you have just seen have to alter.

You change your mind about the attack on the homosexual, you change your mind about the ex-boyfriend’s emotional involvement, and so on.

The film works on many levels too — it is called IRREVERSIBLE (despite being played in reverse). the reason it is not called REVERSIBLE is that each new piece of information switches the characters’ lives down a route – each of which is irreversible, life-changing, undo-able… and important.

The script seems as erratic as the camera movement at the beginning (to suit the panic and giddiness of the end-game), but as the film progresses, everything becomes steadier – throughout, though, every single word is carefully considered… even seemingly meaningless asides take on importance when the earlier scene is shown.

Basically, you are challenged to rethink the events shown – as you go, time and again. You may feel disgusted at the two main violent scenes, but you are forced to re-appraise these scenes continually, (they are of fundamental importance to the story which is why they are so prolonged) so what you felt at the time of first viewing is not what you feel at the end of the film – something which would have been impossible to do if the film was not played in the reverse-style format.

It is not for everyone, but it is actually worth watching this gruesome film as it really challenges you where you need challenged. Having said that, I FFWD’d through the violence (I don’t need to dwell to get the impact). People can be so ugly.  This film’s approach is refreshingly meaningful! Undo unto others…

§