No man knows the nature of evil like Dr. Philip Zimbardo. In 1971, he transformed college students into brutal guards and traumatized prisoners in the horrific Stanford Prison Experiment. The abuse and humiliation that ordinary people could inflict on each other forecast Abu Ghraib, and warns us that even a little power without oversight can turn a decent person into monster.
Since the Stanford Prison Experiment, Dr. Zimbardo has worked instead on the nature of good. The virtues of heroism, such as ethical behavior, leadership, and courage, are not just for great crisis, they are part of the everyday actions of good people, the pillars of strength on which our communities rely. His research into the basis and nature of heroism has culminated in the Heroic Imagination Project, which seeks to inspire the civic virtue of everyday heroism. The HIP seeks to build a network of heroes to stand up to corrupt institutions and brutal leaders everywhere. Each of us, in our lives, will be confronted with moments of extraordinary tension. Hopefully HIP will help us make the right choice.
As Albert Einstein put it, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do bad things, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”