As I have come to understand EVIL, I have realized that such transformations of human character are not as rare as we would like to believe. Historically “banality of evil” shows under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable.
We all like to think that the line between good and evil is impermeable—that people who do terrible things, such as commit murder, treason, or kidnapping, are on the evil side of this line, and the rest of us could never cross it. But is it that some people are on the good side only because situations have never coerced or seduced them to cross over?
To gain more understanding I studied the circumstances of imprisonment—to see what happens when you put good people in a dehumanizing place. For example after a prisoner rebellion the guards start using increasingly degrading forms of punishment and the prisoners became more and more passive. People tend to accept EVIL or often DO NOTHING to stop it.
This is true not only for perpetrators of torture and other horrible acts, but for people who commit a more common kind of wrong—the wrong of taking no action when action is called for. Whether we consider Nazi Germany a prison, there were many people who observed what was happening and said nothing. Stand around watching passively and observing human abuses and don’t say, “This is wrong! Stop it!” you give tacit approval to continue. You are part of the silent majority that makes evil deeds more acceptable.
For instance, there are the “good people” who maintained “the prison”. Good people watched when the worst abuses occurred and did not confront the abusers. The situation dictated their inaction, and their inaction facilitated evil.