Interpretations of the concepts of Truth and Right absolutely change over the course of time. The most important reason for this is that, as time moves on, technology improves, political leaders change, and the social constructs of “good” are warped to fit the needs of the people. Whether or not the core definition of Truth and Right change is completely open to interpretation, because these internal ideals are subject to the development and growth of the person holding them.
The ideas of Truth and Right are ideas developed by social psychology that are completely open to change depending on authoritarian figures and the development of social thought. I would like to re-establish my previous point; Truth and Right are social constructs. This means that the common interpretations of Truth and Right are based on social and environmental psychology, which, no one can disagree, plays a huge role in the development of ideas of “good” and “bad”.
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all of the psychological variables that are measurable in a human being. The statement that others may be imagined or implied suggests that we are prone to social influence even when no other people are present, such as when watching television, or following internalized cultural norms (Wikipedia).
Studies over the years have shown that people are more likely to behave according to the social norm when they think they are being watched. In not-so-unrealistic novels such as 1984, the people of the society behave in a fashion deemed acceptable by their leader because they think they are being watched. Even more important is how authority figures influence the behaviors and actions of the masses. In the famous Milgram Experiment, Stanley Milgram sought to determine how far people would go when ordered by an authoritarian figure.
The experiment involved giving electrical shocks, increasing in voltage, to a person behind a wall for every wrong answer they gave to a set of questions handed to the actual test subject. The subject, unaware that the shocks were, in fact, fake, was urged to keep going by the test giver, despite shouts and complaints coming from the other side of the wall after every shock. The results were, of course, terrifying. Milgram found that over 65% of the test subjects administered the final shock, consisting of 450-volts (Atkinson). The results of this experiment point to a more terrifying idea.
People are essentially sheep; for the most part, they will listen to anyone that looks important or holds authority. This can be detrimental to the ideas of Truth and Right that are generally agreed upon in modern society. We do the things we do because authoritarian figures tell us to. No one is free from this; if everybody did what they wanted all the time, nothing would ever get done. But at what point is enough enough? We like to think we don’t listen to anybody. We like to think we won’t steal or rape or murder because it’s wrong.
But, at the core of it, it is because most people are scared of punishment. Political leaders learn this and manipulate it to sway people in their favor. The simple fact that people will listen to authority automatically changes their view of Truth and Right. If the man with the gun to your head says what you’re doing is wrong, eventually, you will believe what you are doing is wrong. An authoritarian, Big Brother society can easily be structured. Some people may argue that demonstrations such as Occupy Wall Street counteract my argument.
However, they fail to see that the right to protest is also a social construct. People have developed the idea that protesting when regulations are unfair is Right because, in this country, it is not punished. Once police beatings, pepper sprayings, and riot officers show up, the numbers of protesters will drop dramatically. In other countries, people do not think it is right to protest, even peacefully, because their society severely punishes them for it. Their ideas of Truth and Right are shaped by the society they live in.
Right now, our society can be seen as unstable and in a state of turmoil. Financially, we are in a huge mess, and it won’t be long before the strife will lead to violent reactions. It’s times of political strife that our ideas of Truth and Right are manipulated and changed by authoritarian figures. Through social psychology, political leaders can essentially control people and their internal thoughts on the concepts of Truth and Right, showing that they most definitely do change over the course of time, dependant on who is in power.
Courtney from Study Moose
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