Communal Justice Network

The next meeting of the Port Philip West network is on Sunday afternoon, at the Dame Phyllis Frost Correctional Centre. We can’t take any more into the prison this Sunday, but if you are interested in being part of the ongoing work of the network, let me know. The network is working in three particular areas: advocacy [in government and communities], post-release integration [mentoring, housing and employment], and post-release support [metcards, phone cards, toothpaste, clothing…].

Word on the street is that the next state election [which is not due for a couple of years] will be fought on law and order.

We want to believe in the essential, unchanging goodness of people, in their power to resist external pressures, in their rational appraisal and then rejection of situational temptations… We simplify the complexity of human experience by erecting a seemingly impermeable boundary between Good and Evil. On one side are Us, Our Kin, and Our Kind; on the other side of that line we cast Them, Their Different Kin, and Other Kind. Paradoxically, by creating this myth of our invulnerability to situational forces, we set ourselves up for a fall by not being sufficiently vigilant to situational forces.

The SPE [Stanford Prison Experiment]… reveals a message we do not want to accept: that most of us can undergo significant character transformations when we are caught up in the crucible of social forces. What we imagine we would do when we are outside that crucible may bear little resemblance to who we become and what we are capable of doing once we are inside its network. The SPE is a clarion call to abandon simplistic notions of the Good Self dominating Bad Situations. We are best able to avoid, prevent, challenge, and change such negative situational forces only by recognizing their potential power to “infect” us, as it has others who were similarly situated…

Any deed that any human being has ever committed, however horrible, is possible for any of us – under the right or wrong situational circumstances. That knowledge does not excuse evil; rather it democratizes it, sharing its blame among ordinary actors rather than declaring it the province only of deviants and despots – of Them but not Us.

from the truly chilling Lucifer Effect: How good people turn evil, by Philip Zimbardo