Europäisches Jugendportal

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Malicious people and everyday heroes – interview with Philip Zimbardo

I am sure most of us have heard about Philip Zimbardo and his famous Standford prison experiment. We interviewed him on this year’s Heroikon conference, where we could meet not just a superb scholar but an everyday hero.

You have mentioned in more of your studies that people cannot handle their relationship with time very effective. What do you think, what is the main problem of people’s time perspective?

 

First of all we must understand what personal time perspective is. Every single person live according to a different time perception. Our family, nationality and the culture we live in are also have an effect on us. Suppose that if you live in a country that does not have distinct seasons, you will have an entirely different sense of time than a person who lives in a country that has four consecutive seasons.

Most of the people are future-oriented, which means that they are workaholics and cannot enjoy the pleasure of the given moment. Nowadays everything is about tomorrow somehow: „Now I have to save for this”, „I really need a plan for the future”. Of course othe time perceptions have extremities too. People who live solely in the present, never think about their future thus they never become truly successful. Nevertheless people who stuck in the past cannot handle changes. They want no new friends, are not open for new ideas. They like the things the way they have always been.

 

How could we evolve a harmonic time perspective?

 

We have to accept all the various time perceptions, but should not emphasize any of them, and put it before the others. We need to remember the good things from the past, but should not stuck in the foretime. We need to have plans for the future, but should be able to enjoy the present. We need to balance like an acrobat who is juggling with three balls. If we hold any of the balls a moment longer, the other two will fall and the harmony collapses.

 

You mentioned the definition of maleficence several times during your works. How could we avoid becoming malicious?

 

It is important to relate consciously to the actual situation and to have sensibility to it. Sometimes the environment, in some cases other people prevail on us to do things for power and money. This is why young people should realise that they are valuable, because they are easy to manipulate with compliments and gifts.

 

Without this realisation any average person such as a college student can become malicious or a passive observer in no time. Unfortunately I have experienced this during my work.

 

What are the questions that you are interested in nowadays?

 

Experience of the years and multiple researches have revealed the things that can make a person malicious. It can happen easily if we act upon them different ways. Like putting pressure on them by a group or  dehumanizing them. It is a simple psychological process. Most of the researches are still observing if we can make good people vicious and vica versa. But I am over this question, and have another one on my mind: can we make a hero out of an average person? Previously everybody have thought that being a hero is something very special and somehow intagible, something that is decided when the person is born. However in my interpretation I am not talking about heroes like Gandhi, who devoted his whole to one monumental exploit. I am talking about people who are making the right call during their everyday life. Som y real question is: what are those steps, that can turn a person into an everyday hero.

 

You are definitely a hero of many, but who are Philip Zimbardo’s heroes?

 

As I mentioned before I had grown up in a ghetto in New York. My parents were Sicilian emigrants who never went to school. Not like the lousy ghetto, the school offered me a settled and clean environment. Our teachers were not mainly special for teaching their subjects, but they taught us how to live life. We were taught how to cook, how to wash ourselves and other stuffs like this. The teachers besides their work, have found time to raise us to be a good person. Although several years have passed I still remember the names of those who had changed my life.

 

Could you highlight someone who has affected you when you have already been an adult?

 

As my next example will reveal my real heroes have always been the women. At the time of the Second World War lived a polish woman, Irena Sendler. Wh

en the nazis invaded Poland Irena and her associates rescued more than 2500 children from the jewish ghetto. It is brilliant how she was able to organise a network that helped her to rescue this many children while risking their own lives. It is interesting that after the war had ended, nobody spoke about Irena any longer. Only when the aforementioned rescued children grew up and searched her did she get the World’s Truth award for her acts during the war. The thing that I wanted to express with this story is that Irena was just a regular person – although a great social worker – but still managed to complete extraordinary things.

 

What would be your message to the young people who are just about to start their own independent life?

 

Look at your own life as a series of serious challenges. Some of them may seem impossible, but remember, every problem has its own solution even when some of them do not seem clear. In such case you need more information, which you can get from people who have experience on that field. No matter how big change are you facing in your life, decide deliberately! Try to find that relevant knowledge around you, which will help you to get ready for your next big step.

 

Sometimes you have to take risks in life. If you are afraid of failing, you will never be successful. Take risks! Without venture, your life will be boring. But always pay attention not to be unthoughtful, think before you have a go on a new challenge! Find the hero in yourself, because you have everything that can make the world a better place!

 

wrote: Diána Oravecz

transleted: György Pethő

 

source images: http://www.bystanderrevolution.org/watch/Dr.+Philip+Zimbardo+|+The+Bystander+Effect/wW2xszD-zBM#

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