The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

Look beneath the floorboards

Posted by Joy Icayan on December 17, 2009

Probably my favorite Sufjian Stevens’ song, John Wayne Gacy Jr ends with stanza ‘And in my best behavior / I am really just like him  / Look beneath the floorboards / For the secrets I have hid.’ But are we really just like John Wayne Gacy, who put up a facade of respectability while he murdered a string of boys?

Technically no. It was earlier mentioned that psychopaths have an impaired capacity to detect fearful expressions. In his book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer wrote about Gacy’s inability to feel for his victims. These stem out of malfunctions in the brain. Thankfully, there is a very small percentage of people who are like these.

In the sense that we are capable of doing much evil, then yes. From the history of world genocides and human brutality, we have seen that much of these has been done not by psychopaths, but by ordinary citizens caught in senseless and difficult situations. Theorists and social scientists have proposed their share of theories to explain this behavior: Milgram’s obedience studies, Zimbardo’s studies on roleplaying and others.

So perhaps, evil in the sense of doing wrong, is just all too human.


One Response to “Look beneath the floorboards”

  1. […] 2, Forgiveness. Even though Whedon is a card-carrying aesthetic, he’s also a humanist, which is very religious based if you ask me. But being religious based doesn’t have to be bad, I think. I mean, there *are* reasons why such religions sprout all over the world. And Angel has always been about the philosophical as Buffy has been more about the psychological. Besides, Tim Minear writes best when he’s dealing with religious-self-righteous-like fanatical angry mobs which ups the sins, and also upping the stakes of redemption. I love it when the villains are humans. Also, the idea of forgiveness being the only savior of those who are guilty (and all the ugly side of humanity) rings the weepy cheesy bell of the audience (unless, of course, you’re a psychopath, but that’s a whole different discussion). […]

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