Saturday, January 17, 2004

À quoi ça sert de s'attacher
Puisque la ligne peut couper à tout moment
On manque à jamais d'unité
Pour se le dire et se parler
On manque de temps

On s'imagine depuis l'enfance
Des réseaux des interférences
Mais c'est plus simple que ça la vie
On piétine sur des évidences
Des inventions, des jalousies
Mais c'est plus simple que ça, la vie
Beaucoup plus simple que ça

À quoi ça sert de s'afficher
Personne ne peut nous retrouver dans la nature
On manque de printemps, de chaleur
Alors on glisse à l'intérieur du mot futur

On s'imagine depuis l'enfance
Des réseaux, des interférences
Mais c'est plus simple que ça, la vie
On piétine sur des évidences
Des inventions, des jalousies
Mais c'est plus simple que ça, la vie
On escalade des apparences
En habit de cérémonie
Mais c'est plus simple que ça, la vie
Beaucoup plus simple que ça...
I just finished my first draft of my critique on Milgram's experiment. I has over 1500 words, quotations included. Luckily, I have to deduct them from the overall total, but it's still much over 800 words. I'll edit it tomorrow night or Monday morning, but here is the version I have in front of me now :

Still untitled

The principle of obedience to authority is very important in today’s society. Everybody has to obey somebody else once in a while, just as everybody tells other people what they have to do sometime, too. Stanley Milgram, in his article The Perils of Obedience, expands on a study he conducted in 1963. With this study, he tried to find out how subjects would react when ordered by a figure of authority to inflict pain to somebody else : would they do it ? How far would they go ? Surpringly, he found that a majority of subjects obeyed orders and went as far as they were asked to in causing pain to another adult. Indeed, it seems that most subjects did not feel they were responsible for the pain they were inflicting : after all, it was not their call, but the experimenter’s, and they had no other choice. Of course, the subjects were not told prior to the experiment that they would have to make another human being suffer and would have to face the dilemma of going through with the experiment or putting an end to it. Milgram was criticized a lot for this : he was accused of causing trauma to his subjects without a worthy reason justifying it. Those accusations are totally ridiculous, of course, and Milgram easily proved it : his subjects were definitely not traumatized by their participation to the experiment.

Milgram’s experiment went as follows : two people came in to take part to the experiment. One was designated as the “teacher” and the other as the “learner”. The learner was conducted into a room and tied to an electric chair. The teacher read two-word associations lists to the learner, and then the learner needed to remember the second word of each pair. If his answer was wrong, the teacher gives him electric shocks of increasing intensity, starting at 15 volts and ending with a maximum of 450 volts. The experimenter accompanying the two subjects tells them this is an experiment on the effects of punishment on learning. However, most of this is an act. The person designated as the “learner” is actually an actor who will not receive any electric shock at all throughout the experiment. He will express discomfort at specific moments during the experiment : “at 75 volts, he grunts; at 120 volts, he complains loudly; at 150, he demands to be released from the experiment. (…) At 285 volts, his response can be described only as an agonized scream. Soon thereafter, he makes no sound at all.” (Milgram, p.283) In these conditions, the “teacher” is the actual subject of the experiment, but does not know it. The purpose of the experiment is to see how far the subjects will go when the learner begins to protest.

Of course, Milgram made his own predictions of what the results would be, and gathered the expectations of many other people. Milgram thought a majority of subjects would refuse to go on till the end with the experiment. He expected them to firmly express their unwillingness to harm another being and to consider disobedience the only reasonable solution available. Everybody else’s opinion was similar : they all thought nearly all subjects would refuse to go through with it and would stop at the first sign of discomfort from the learner. They expected only a small minority to reach the 450 volts. The actual results came as a shock to everyone. Indeed, the first experiments, using Yale students as subjects, revealed that 60% of them obeyed until the end and shocked their victim with 450 volts when they were told to. Those results were dismissed as, some said, Yale students were competitive people and did not represent the average citizen. Milgram therefore conducted other experiments on different subjects. One used New Haven residents from every level of society, and the results were the same as they were with the students. Other experiments took place in Munich, Rome, Australia and many other locations, only to find that the number of people going to the end with the shocking was even higher than 60%, even getting to 85% in some cases. This certainly demanded investigation : why were adults so willing to hurt another ?

One explanation that was offered was that each human being has aggressive instincts buried deep down, and that the experiment makes that instinct “come out” “because [the experiment] provides social legitimacy”. In order to validate this theory, Milgram slightly changed his experiment to let the teacher under experimentation free to choose the intensity of the shocks he was inflicting the learner. In this variation, the subjects chose very low levels of intensity, less than 60 volts for the majority. This proved the theory wrong : if the experiment was the way for the subjects to let their dark instincts out, they wouldn’t have stuck to low voltage. There was a second theory for Milgram’s results, presenting the subjects who had shocked the learner with high voltage as part of the sadistic fringe of society. Milgram refuted this explanation as well, claiming that it wasn’t very likely that the majority of his subjects, coming from all work classes, were part of that fringe. Those two explanations proved invalid, what did Milgram himself have to say ?

Milgram’s first explanation is that subjects wanted to please the experimenter. They know the experiment has become complicated already because the learner is refusing to answer and they don’t want to make things even more difficult for him. The attitude of subject Bruno Batta represents well this explanation : “his tone is deferential and expresses his willingness to be a cooperative subject, in contrast to the learner’s obstinacy.” (Milgram, p.291) Another reason justifying the results, according to Milgram, is the subjects’ desire to serve science, and do their duty as subjects in a scientific experiment. As subject Morris Braverman put it : “I’m a nice person, I think, hurting somebody, and caught up in what seemed a mad situation… and in the interest of science, one goes through with it.” (Milgram, p.287)

Then, Milgram offers another explanation of the facts, one that implies the concept of responsibility. Indeed, the majority of subjects did not consider the shocks inflicted to the poor learner to be their call, but the experimenter’s. Subject Fred Prozi, for example, waited until the experimenter told him he accepted all responsibility before going on with the experiment. The experimenter taking all responsibility, Prozi had no choice but to do what he was ordered to do. Why wouldn’t Prozi see that he is the only one responsible for his own actions, like subject Gretchen Brandt, who said she didn’t “want to be responsible for anything happening to [the learner]” (Milgram, p.283) ? Because the fragmentation of the action blurs the responsibility of the individual. It all adds up to “I only told him to do it, he didn’t have to do it” and to “I did it because he asked me to, I didn’t want to do it”. Who’s to blame now ? And this is what happened to Milgram’s subjects : they did not realize they were responsible for their actions and this is why they went so far.

Milgram’s experiment raised concerns about its ethics, some claiming that placing the genuine subjects in such a position was immoral. Those wrongful accusations were refuted by Milgram, of course. Indeed, why would it be immoral ? The subjects did not know what the experiment was about, but even the fake punishment and learning experiment was only explained to them after they volunteered. They were not pushed to be a part of a specific experiment, they chose to be part of some scientific experiment. Plus, they were free to walk out and put an end to everything whenever they wanted. As Milgram put it : “To extricate himself from this plight, the subject must make a clear break with authority.” (Milgram, p.283) They were not traumatized either, as some would like to believe : most of them admitted to being glad to have been in the experiment. No harm has been done to the subjects, and those subjects were there on their free will. What could possibly be wrong with that ?

Finally, Milgram’s experiment sounds a very well-designed study, with subjects representing the whole society placed into a simple but realistic position. The results were disturbing, as we all would like to believe all human beings would never hurt anybody without a very good reason to do so, but they bring a brand-new light on such things as the Holocaust. It means that it doesn’t take evil characters to do evil actions : it only takes ordinary people who, doing only a fraction of the whole action, will not realize the wrong they are doing. It’s even scarier when you ask yourself : “how would I have behaved in this experiment ?” I think I would have stopped when the learner would have started screaming and begging to get out of there, but what do I know ? Everybody always assumes “authority knows best”, would I really have had the nerve to just stop ?
Quote du jour, gracieuseté de l'épisode de Lucky Luke de ce matin :

Je vole ! Je vole !... Comme les vaches !

Friday, January 16, 2004

I had 800 words to write, and I'm already over 1000. Damn it. I still have 2 paragraphs to write...

And I have a chapter to read and a spanish homework to do. Yay.
Today's (rather short) editorial

It seems to be the subject of the week, as it's been on Oprah and it's on the radio today, so let me just state something.

On Oprah, they were presenting this girl who was 15, and representing the "rebelious teens". She wore thongs (wow, big deal) and wore makeup (evil, evil, evil), had been with her boyfriend for a year (rebel, rebel, rebel) and had never had sex.

What ? Is this a typical rebel teen ?
For God's sake, do you how many virgin 15-year-olds you're going to find nowadays ? Hardly any !

Anyways. The whole shows are always about how they have sex at age 11 and sleep around and how girls dress too sexy.

This isn't the problem guys ! This isn't what bothers you !
What bothers you, and what should bother you is that : they don't associate sex with love anymore. Like, at all. And it's not very likely that they ever will.

Thank you, I'm tired of all of this.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Si ya quelqu'un qui se cherche une job, mes boss veulent engager quelqu'un d'autre.


Après tout ce que j'ai pu chialé sur eux autres, est-ce qu'il y a vraiment un d'entre vous qui veut venir travailler avec moi ? (phrase à la syntaxe très douteuse, mais on s'en fout, avec le soin que je dois prendre à chaque fois que je fais une traduction, je peux-tu juste écrire tout croche une fois de temps en temps pour évacuer la steam ?)

Enfin, je suis hyper fatiguée pour cause de travaillage à six heures ce matin (phrase avec laquelle j'ai réussi à arracher de la compassion à deux clients aujourd'hui, ça change rien mais ça aide un peu) et puis je peux pas dormir parce que j'ai un cours ce soir et avant ça j'ai un devoir à achever et une critique à avancer (800 mots dus pour lundi). Je compte donc souper avec un gigantesque café - oui, je sais, ultra santé, mais bon, qui se souvient de ma maniaco-dépression accélérée ? (voir, euh, ouf, début juillet 2002, je pense) Eh bien ces jours-ci je suis en période de dépression, et quand je suis en période de dépression, eh bien je mange tout croche. Dah.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Quote of the day, again caught on Oprah (I'm way too young to watch that, ain't I ?) :

Oprah (to an expert on teens) : So what do you think about all those teens saying oral sex isn't sex ?
Expert : Well, we had a president who said oral sex wasn't sex.
Just heard on Oprah. Woman saying that she felt really bad to leave her four children (seven, four and 1 year-old TWINS) home alone but she had no choice. Indeed, she's a working single mom and her children go to private school and she obviously has no friends who could help.

Well I got the solution for you, girl : take your kids out of private school and spend the money on a sitter instead !!!
Rob is mean. He's making me remember my maths class.
Alors après cette longue attente, voici enfin la conclusion de mes péripéties sur les congés fériés. En réalité, c'est une conclusion partielle puisque je vais devoir me rebattre dès le prochain congé, mais on verra rendu là.

Alors vendredi dernier, mon boss est venu me voir pour me dire qu'il s'était renseigné sur les congés fériés. Bon, pour ceux qui suivent les normes, vous savez qu'avant il y a pas très longtemps, pour être payé le congé férié, il fallait être employé depuis plus de trois mois et être sensé travailler la journée du congé férié. Maintenant, ça ne tient plus, il faut seulement être employé et ne pas s'être absenté sans raison valable la journée précédant ou suivant le congé férié. Voilà. Mais mon boss, lui, il assimile pas du tout ça. Alors il me dit qu'il faut qu'il me paye moi (uniquement pour me fermer la gueule) et qu'il doit aussi payer la personne qui devait travailler cette journée-là. Je lui répète que ça n'a plus d'importance, si on devait travailler ou pas, et je lui demande s'il a appelé aux normes. Il me dit non, il a appelé son comptable, son comptable sait, lui. Je M'EXCUSE, ton comptable, c'est un comptable, yé pas tenu de connaître les normes du travail, toi, tu l'es ! Alors il m'annonce qu'il va payé le gars qui était sensé travailler le jeudi pour Noël, et qu'il va me payer à moi le 1er janvier. Non mais tu me niaises ? Je lui réponds qu'il est sensé me payer les deux jours.

Sur ce, il est retourné dans son bureau appeler son fameux comptable (je suis sûr qu'ils forment un couple gai) puis revient pour me demander combien de jeudi j'ai travaillé avant le 25. Je lui réponds deux ou trois. Alors il me dit que c'est d'accord, qu'il faut que j'ai fait au moins deux semaines en ligne pour qu'on puisse dire que je suis sensée travailler ce jour-là. Et il ne m'a pas payé 1/20 de ce que j'ai gagné dans les 4 semaines précédentes, non ! Il m'a payé six heures par jour. Je me suis fermée la gueule, parce que ça m'avantage sûrement, mais quand même !

Morale de l'histoire pour ceux à qui elle a échappée : il croit toujours qu'il est pas sensé me payer. Il m'a payé mes deux jours uniquement pour me fermer la gueule et ne pas me perdre. (S'il avait su que j'avais raison, il aurait dû avoir beaucoup plus peur des plaintes que je peux déposer contre lui dès que je vais me tanner).

Bon, pour l'instant, ça va bien, mais y va en avoir d'autres, congés fériés, avant le mois de septembre, où je pourrai enfin lâcher la job. À savoir Pâques, la fête de la reine et le premier juillet ! Je suis donc en train de commander un exemplaire des normes du travail par internet pour le remettre à mon boss dans les plus brefs délais. Non mais faut tu être imbéci-le !?