Why People Fail to Notice Horrors Around Them is an important column in today’s NY Times. It’s written by Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein.

They discuss how we tend towards “habituation,” which they define as “our tendency to respond less and less to things that are constant or that change slowly.”

They discuss how the Milgram Experiment, which we study in TOK class, used that by first having test subjects they they were administering small shocks, which then led to their acceptance of administering harsher ones:

Milgram’s study tells us something important about behavior outside the laboratory, and about how people can get used to not only lying and cruelty, but also horrors — including their own. For Milton Mayer’s staggering book about the rise of Nazism, for example, a man who lived in Germany at the time described the regime to the author: “Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse.”

Certainly, a case can be made that there’s a relation to our time, too.

The authors then discuss that this doesn’t necessarily affect everyone:

Though more slowly than we may like, resistance efforts often do emerge in response to injustice or horror; consider the French Resistance, the civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. These movements tend to be initiated by what might be called “dishabituation entrepreneurs.”

Echoes of John Lewis’ “good trouble.”

And, of course, it’s also similar to the old boiling frog metaphor.

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