If I had control over the curriculum of high schools in the U.S., two videos, the 2012 film Hannah Arendt and the documentary “Stress,The portrait of a Killer”, would be shown in a course all students would have to take called “Human Behavior” or “Things everybody should know about how humans behave”. You could have high school students read Arendt’s book about Adolph Eichman’s trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, but that’s a lot of heavy reading for teenagers and they would not get to see the very normal overreaction from the media and academia to her work, which is also a lesson in human behavior, the messenger bearing bad news is almost never welcome especially when she is saying in a holocaust even the victims behave badly. Basically, she points out that human beings who cannot think independently often provide service to those who think up the evil ideas and put them into motion. Even when they are not about to go out and persecute someone actively they cannot refuse to do their little bit to keep the machinery of the atrocity moving. It has happened throughout human history. It is happening today. Everyone in their lifetime will most likely be presented with the opportunity to make a choice while doing some routine task that contributes to some bad thing happening in the world. Thinking is the way out.
The second video is about how we as people work on each other to create hierarchies which produce increasingly stressful conditions the deeper down the pecking order a person is placed. It is also about how bad stress is for bodies and minds and how the whole thinking thing doesn’t work in lower more stressful parts of hierarchy, the place where Eichman did his dirty work. The two videos don’t seem to be related on initial inspection as one is about a German philosopher and the other is about baboon and human research with lots of biology and brain science, but if you watch them both and think the connections will begin to emerge, as well as some very cool ideas about science and human relationships. My brain is still buzzing from all the connections.