All human beings are capable of evil

william smith
2 min readJan 29

I distinctly remember reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1973 “Gulag Archipelago”, describing the horrors experienced by prisoners of Stalin’s prison system that spread across the vast northern regions of the Soviet Union.

Solzhenitsyn goes into great detail describing how all human beings can become viciously cruel, like prison authorities, to other human beings, especially when the cruelty is performed as a group. This is exactly what happened when five Memphis police officers killed Tyre Nichols by beating him to death.

It’s likely that none of the five police officers would have beaten Mr. Nicholas if they encountered him individually but when one or two started to beat him they all joined-in working the group into a frenzy which psychologists describe as “uncontrolled and excited behavior”.

This violent behavior was a likely developed when all of the five officers were members of a special Memphis Police unit of fifty individuals named “Scorpion”, an acronym for ‘Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods’.

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The exclusivity of the Scorpion unit likely caused its members to feel they could behave without the same constraints placed on other members of the department, which brings us back to Solzhenitsyn’s point that individuals can behave quite differently when they behave as a group.

A feeling of exclusivity arises from feeling protected by the group. This feeling of group protection is something that must be guarded against by all human beings. I distinctly remember the night one of my fraternity brothers thought he would entertain the group by having sex with an unsuspecting female while others videotaped the affair. The offending “brother” was unlikely to have agreed to the recording if he thought it would be for his eyes only but knowing it was a group affair he relished in exciting the group.

When we know our behavior is wrong it’s more than likely wrong, regardless of what others may be doing. Regardless of how uncomfortable it may feel we must strive to tell others their behavior is wrong. Just one police officer telling others to stop the beating of Tyre Nichols may have saved Mr. Nichols’ life. Today the Memphis Police Department announced the abolishment of the Scorpion group 🦂👮‍♀️