Diffusion of Responsibility, Group Crimes and the Golden Rule

Dear Friends,

It seems to me, if something is immoral for an individual, it is many times more immoral for a group of individuals, but here’s the rub, despite a group’s sin being orders of magnitude worse, the distributed blame is far more bearable. The person who pushes the button is just following orders, the person ordering him to push that button, well, he isn’t the one pushing the button, it is all merely theoretical. This is the way the greatest crimes against humanity happen. While the crime may be many times worse, those involved find the burden of that involvement much easier, due to the blame being distributed, and human beings having an innate way of passing the buck, even in our own minds, will wash away any personal sins, dissolving them into the group. I wonder how many Nazi death camp guards actually had Jewish friends before the war? The litmus test however, is that which is wrong for the individual, is then also wrong for a group of individuals.

Genocide would be impossible if not for people’s ability to let their personal culpability for crimes dissolve into the crowd. Otherwise imagine for a moment what a burden that would be to an individual. Such a burden would crush the normal human psyche. War is the most obvious example of how human beings can be coaxed into acting inhuman. PTSD is the manifestation of those who don’t effectively divest themselves of guilt at their own actions. At least at the time the burden of the responsibility for the immoral actions, ordered by government and carried out by individuals, is distributed back into the group, later the mind recognizes the magnitude of it’s blame. No one has to take on the conscious totality of his or her actions… unless their sense of right and wrong force them to. This ability allows people to be animals. Distributed responsibility is the lubricant for the most heinous machinations.

Other, more easily “justifiable” immoral actions, that if the individual did them, they would be called stealing, racketeering, home invasion, etc… are done by government, (a group of individuals), all the time. Most of us allow it and take it for granted, considering it is justified, because government is doing it. To say that something is justified because government is doing it, and that since government says it’s just, so must it be just… is begging the question. What is just can be summed up by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By simple logical extrapolation, we can conclude… that what is just, is that which we would have others do unto us, and what is unjust, is that which we would NOT have others do unto us. We are the subjective standard. Despite there being a multitude of us, the bell curve of the limit of what we would personally accept, and therefore what is just… is very narrow.

Dating back to Aristotle, the idea of “right” government was, that government who served the interests of the whole body of the people in it’s territory, and “wrong” government served only the interests of the rulers, usually at the cost to the rest of society. Clearly, a wrong form would regularly violate the concept that what is wrong for the individual is much worse for a group of individuals, because they lack a conscience, as is displayed by their selfishness in serving their own narrow interests ahead of those they are supposed to serve, and because getting the crowd to steal for them, is very very lucrative. The fiend can manipulate others into violating other people’s Rights, in the most personal and violent ways, and everyone involved can get a good night’s sleep after. Well… except for the victims. Oligarchs and democrats also experience the purifying distributed blame not available for autocrats.

Human government will never be human hearted, until it embraces the fact that what is immoral for an individual, is more immoral for a group of individuals. Not just the elite but all of society has to hold fast to the concept. Then after it is inculcated it must be protected on the level of a societal myth. Far from being a myth however, the enlightened idea that, what is inadmissible for the individual is more inadmissible for a group of individuals, frees Mankind by removing our government regulated shackles. Shackles that were forged by us, yet don’t restrict our baser instincts and instead restrain our ability to act, while our complicity in great evil is removed by diffusion into the group. Every instance of oppression, cronyism, usurpation and state violence can be traced back to violating the precept that, what is wrong for the individual is more wrong for a group of individuals, and that the test of what is just for the individual and even more so for the group… is the golden rule.


John Pepin

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