So, my all time favorite movie is the “Emperor’s New Groove” and I would very much like to marry Kronk someday soon. It’s my go to when I’m getting ready for school, and I’m proud to say I can recite the entire script. (Don’t tell me…I know you’re jealous).
Anyhoot, I was thinking about this today because Kronk, when he’s in some moral predicament, has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and he’s forced to figure out which one to choose. (By the way, he always chooses the angel!) Actually, this is a great illustration of Freud’s 3 parts of the personality: the id (the devil), the ego (Kronk himself), and the superego (the angel).
I’ve also had a lot more time to read now that I’m teaching completely online, and one book that fascinates me is “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo (the book is excellent and I recommend you take a look-see). After much study, he has determined that all people, given the correct circumstance, can cross the ‘line’ to being bad or evil. Dr. Zimbardo believes that so-called line isn’t solid but permeable and we all have the capacity to be Mr. Hyde. He looks at the nature of good and evil and it’s scary to think how truly evil we have the capacity to be.
So, can I be bad? Can I cross that line? Of course, but it would take a lot to make me do it and I often feel guilty sometimes for NOT crossing that line when I think I should have. Let me explain.
Even though I WANTED to maim him, I learned very early on to be good to R, ma’s abusive 2nd husband. I had to be. I lived with him for 4 years and had to see him often for the next 24, and if I got him angry because I wasn’t on his side with an issue, he’d take it out on ma. I didn’t care that I had to push down anything and everything I wanted to say or emote…protecting her was worth it. But, to be honest with you, part of me wishes I would have done something ‘evil’ to him so my ma wouldn’t have had to live like she did for so long. That’s something I ruminate on. I don’t know exactly what I’m talking about but, I feel like I didn’t do enough in that situation. Does that make sense?
When it came to that psychologist who sexually abused me, I had horrible thoughts as to what I could do to him after the abuse ended. I envisioned myself slashing the tires on his precious (very expensive) car and taking a baseball bat to the windows. I picked up the phone more times than I can count so I could call his wife and set her straight about what she was married too (actually, I think she already knew), and I wanted to get in his precious ‘deans office’ and destroy it. Once again, I did nothing since I would have been arrested, and the real culprit seen as the so-called victim. BUT, would it have made enough of an impression that he wouldn’t have risked hurting anyone else? I don’t know.
And then I had my son. I figured the first time I held him, I would be awash in love. And I was! Yet, I was also flooded with a fierce protectiveness I have never felt before. Like a ‘tiger mom’, I felt these instincts rise up in me and knew I would safeguard him no matter what. And I know I still would. There is absolutely no question in my mind that I would kill (not just harm) someone who was directly threatening my sons life. I think all parents can relate to that. Just ask a parent if they’d take a bullet for their kid. They won’t even have to think about it: the answer is yes.
What other bad things do I think I have the capacity to do? I think so much of that depends on the actual situation. We really don’t know what we’re capable of until faced with it. One of my all time favorite books is: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. In it, a 9 year old girl (who you fall in love with after the first few paragraphs) gets lost after leaving a path on the Appalachian trail she, her mom, and her brother are hiking. The story is about how she handles being alone in this vast wilderness. Anyhoot, a line in the book says that there’s a time when you can go from living to surviving.
I think that’s such an interesting sentence. I’ve never had to just survive by any means possible. I’ve never been hungry. Homeless. In a war. People will say things like “I’d never be able to hurt anyone.” Really? What if your kid was hungry and starving…you wouldn’t fight until the end for the last of the food? What if your enemy was holding a gun in front of you…you wouldn’t shoot first? What if you were sleeping on the street out of necessity and someone started attacking you? You’d let it happen? Hmmmmm.
It’s almost going back to the age old question of whether we are born inherently good or bad. I do know this: we have to teach kids to share…teach them to apologize and show remorse…teach them not to hit, etc. Maybe we all have bad in us that’s suppressed most of the time, but is still accessible to us in the right circumstance. And, maybe a specific situation could push a person over that line to evil, where they stay. Maybe I’ll find myself in such a situation where I cross over much more easily than I ever imagined, and for no good reason other than I could. I just hope to never find that out.