Friday, February 19, 2016

Bad Apples or Bad Barrels? A Final Look at the Apple Meme with Philip Zimbardo

On Monday, Raw Story published an article written by Vyckie Garrison offering a critique of a meme that appeared online which likens girls to apples. Within a day or two and after much discussion, it came to my attention that the meme that appeared on the Patriarchal website called Let them Marry was actually a commentary on a previous meme.

A quote that allegedly originated with a member of the band Fallout Boy became a meme that likened girls to apples. Promiscuous girls were easy to obtain because they were said to be closer to the ground and often fell to the ground and spoiled. Those young men who were virtuous were encouraged to work to get to the top of the tree to get the pristine apple as a bride – one that was unbruised and unbroken. I don't think that it suggested that her station in life contributed to whether on not she was promiscuous but was rather an encouragement for young men and women to respect one another and themselves.

This contradicts the way a groom finds a bride within the Patriarchy Movement which concerns itself with male headship and responsibility for women. In hindsight, I hate to admit it, but I actually feel some compassion for the author of the second meme. I can imagine (and hope) that a loving father who follows this system would be grieved by the idea of a young man using his daughter. If that's the case, then the meme might actually be an effort to encourage others to value their children. It just goes awry when the pitfalls in the belief system so blatantly reveal themselves. I just have the sense, though that the author of meme two likely had a good motive.

This also demonstrates how difficult it can be to sort out what the belief system actually teaches. Parents who are highly motivated and many who are afraid for their families buy into the ideology to protect and love those in their care, but as the meme reveals, the ideology becomes more important than the people that it was meant to help. This is terribly painful and confusing to realize, especially when so many people who get involved with the religion mean to do well and hope for something so much better.

Bad Apples

The bad apple analogy has actually been used by Philip Zimbardo to describe the manner by which good people end up doing evil things, and I'm amazed at how this unfolding story of apple memes validates his findings.

I will let him do most of his own talking, as I've taken the liberty to edit video clips that quickly illustrate what research findings tell us about behavior that is influenced by social proof, authority, commitment, and those things which we believe will benefit others. The entire lecture appears below, and there are other lectures online that explore the topic in more depth.

Bad Barrels and Bad Barrel Builders

Both memes touch on the subject of bad apples, and both make some reference to how apples are procured – and that involves storage and transport. Could we find a more perfect example of a bad barrel than Patriarchy as portrayed in the second meme? How well it is illustrated – both through the process of how the farmer gets those apples from tree to consumer and the system for which the meme makes the patriarchal father entirely responsible.

And such closed systems which use formulas to control and limit bad outcomes do blame their failures on the followers. Neither the barrels nor the systems that provide for the barrels ever count themselves as the source of those bad apples which are said to spoil them all. It's not the apples. It's the barrel. And it's the system. Because girls aren't apples, and people are vulnerable in this life. Bad barrels do more harm than good.
But I would never....!

The Milgram Study illustrates so well that the best of intensions may produce the most regretful of outcomes, especially when we underestimate not only our own virtue or intent but our vulnerability to circumstances and social pressure. Two thirds of us will very likely do what we are pressured to do, but if we step forward as dissidents and refuse to follow the crowd, we can have a tremendous influence on what others will tolerate. When we stand up for what we believe, though we may stand alone, we actually have more power than we think. We create a safe place for others to step forward to go against the flow.

Lord Acton's Absolute Power: It corrupts absolutely!

As Zimbardo notes, accountability helps to prevent evil. We human beings quickly lose touch with healthy perspective when we have no oversight and fail to rightly attribute consequences to our behavior. So much suffering can result from our loss of perspective as we put the barrel before the apple were created for the apple. But it seems as though the apple was created for it.

What can we do?
If you follow the ideology of quiverfull, please consider that the influence of your peers and your religious authorities have a profound effect on what you do – and more of us than not fall into that 2/3 of those who will follow the crowd.

What price are you willing to pay to be honest with yourself? Are you willing to consider that perhaps disappointment with the foolproof formula of courtship and patriarchy might not be all that they promised? Is it you, or could it be that the barrel demands too much from you? Are you really that influenced by what others around you do? What your role models and your authorities ask of you? Is it worth it?

The line between good and evil is not external. It runs through every human heart. Every choice that each of makes matters, and the little ones add up.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE of the use of a “four letter word” that references the moniker used to describe a prisoner at Abu Ghraib immediately following the slide show in the presentation which features very disturbing photographs taken by US military personnel who served at the prison.