MacDonald starts by telling how two corporate executives were involved in defrauding the public by not having the products of their respective companies carefully or honestly monitored. One of those executives was sentenced to 28 years in jail. A side note stated that the executive who was sentenced to jail was described as a person who cared about others above himself and MacDonald made a point of emphasizing that he believed that assessment.
So the question becomes, can good executives make bad or even criminal decisions. If that is so, the next question becomes how. It is as this point that the main lesson of the MacDonald's article can implicate us. That is because MacDonald cites a famous study where everyday people showed that they would be willing to endanger a stranger by administering electric shocks if an authority figure told them to do so.
MacDonald cites 3 factors that could allow any of us, especially those of us who are good, to do what is wrong. These factors consist of being blind to the obvious, allowing our moral standards to be continually compromised, and rationalizing our actions. And again, the value of MacDonald's article here is that he recognizes that even the best of us are vulnerable to losing our way here. MacDonald then finishes by warning us not to stray from the straight and narrow. Certainly his article was not profound, but it is necessary for all of us to read.
In the light of MacDonald's article, those of us who are activists and have an axe to grind with some group we judge to be unjust to others need to ask ourselves whether the difference between our adversaries and ourselves revolve around our positions in life. That one of the differences between us and our unjust opponents could be that their position afforded them opportunity to do some wrong while ours didn't.
In addition, we've all treated others unjustly in ways that were legal. We've done that by how we have gossiped against others, snubbed others, insulted others, and so on. Maybe our unjust actions were not criminal regarding the law, but our actions were unjust because, for whatever reason, we decided not to treat some others with the respect they deserve.
Those last two points are important for all of us activists. Why? It is because these points might help modify how we call those who oppress others to change. Instead of calling on society to punish them because their pain is no skin off of our back, by identifying with them either by our deeds or our capabilities, we should be calling for those who oppress others to change first before calling for their punishment. Yes, there are times when we need to call for people to be punished. But we should do so while recognizing our similaraities with them rather than in a cold-hearted matter.