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Education and People’s Responsibility for Inhumane Acts

The question of people’s responsibility for inhumane acts is a significant issue in current society. The knowledge about various events in history and experiments provides the chance to understand why people behave violently. Gourevitch (2015) depicts genocide in Rwanda and its consequences, analyzing why Hutu people aspired to murder the Tutsi minority. Milgram (1963) introduces the experiment’s results, according to which people were asked to administer severe forms of punishments to victims to understand how violent people can be. It reveals that although people cannot predict their aggression, they violate their moral principles by obeying the instructors. Although the articles differ in explaining human obedience, they both admit people of authority’s responsibility for acts of violence, demonstrating that education is essential in preventing violence against humanity.

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Gourevitch (2015) describes his experience of traveling to Rwanda to analyze and understand the genocide in Rwanda, which happened in 1994 when the Hutu majority slaughtered the Tutsi minority. The narrator interviewed the survivors to define that the victims were murdered with machetes during a hundred days. He analyzed the results of the genocide, including mass displacement and revenge. Moreover, he accused Ntakirutimana, the pastor who assisted in the manslaughter. In addition, the author identified the role of history and the nation’s ignorance in the occurrence of these events.

According to Milgram’s (1963) experiment, the participants were divided into teachers and learners. Whenever the learners made a mistake, the teachers were instructed to administer an electric shock. The experimenter ordered the teachers to continue administering shock even when the students screamed in pain, and the tutors felt intimidated. Before the study, the researcher’s fellow professionals considered that people would refuse to continue the task. However, the participants continued switching on the shock generator even when they heard the protests from the learners and when the victims became quiet. It demonstrated that people could not predict how far they can go in their violence.

The articles analyze the theme of obedience and violence, attempting to understand the role of authority in society. The main idea in Gourevitch’s (2015) article is that the cases of mass violence do not occur accidentally. Mainly, the author states that “mobs and riots have a design” (Gourevitch, 2015, p. 2). This idea reveals the authority’s role in the acts of mass destruction and the existence of the specific purpose in each case. This example suggests that the writer argues about the role of people in power in such crimes as genocide and the necessity to address this issue. Milgram’s (1963) article thesis is that people are more obedient than they expect, even when their moral principles are violated. In particular, the author indicates that “in punishing the victim they are often acting against their own values” (Milgram, 1963, p. 378). This finding demonstrates that the writer argues that humans tend to obey others in different situations even when they feel intimidated. Since these two texts observe similar components of human behavior, they can be compared to understand what common features they have.

The articles are similar in their analysis of human nature and identification of the responsibility of people in authority for violent actions. Gourevitch (2015) explains that the ideology of genocide in Rwanda is associated with “Hutu Power” (p. 2). This statement demonstrates that the author focuses on power, assuming that it defines the emergence of destructive intentions and the ability to exercise them. Milgram (1963) also focuses on the topic of power, claiming that obedience “binds men to systems of authority” (p. 371). In this observation, the author indicates that authority leads people and controls their actions. These similarities signify that both writers address the problem of violence from the position of moral responsibility and obligation to make the power work for the benefit of people rather than pursuing destructive purposes. The comparison of these articles provides an opportunity to make conclusions about people’s roles. Mainly, humans are ethically accountable not only for their actions but also for the behavior of other people who are subordinate to them and comply with their orders.

However, the texts differ in their analysis of the behavior of people who obey the authority of others. Gourevitch (2015) introduces the idea that these obedient citizens do not understand the immorality of their behavior. They are presented as an uneducated population trusting people of higher socioeconomic standing. Milgram (1963), on the other hand, considers that people comprehend that their actions violate their moral values and experience tensions. However, this understanding does not help them to resist authority and act according to their principles. Therefore, they come to different conclusions regarding the reasons people obey others. Mainly, Gourevitch (2015) admits that individuals follow leaders when these people are ignorant and that education plays an essential role in overcoming the issues of unjust violence. Milgram (1963), on the contrary, regards obedience as a natural psychological mechanism necessary for the development of human relationships. However, the role of this mechanism can be distorted in situations when people misuse it. This difference in opinions signifies that the two authors explain violence from different standpoints. These findings provide the chance to make specific observations about the themes presented in the articles.

The shortcomings of the articles concern their failure to define the reasons for this specific behavior. Mainly, Gourevitch (2015) focuses on the observation of the consequences and hostility among the citizens of Rwanda. However, he fails to determine the deep causes explaining the emergence of ferocity and savagery, which prevent people from sympathizing with the victims. Milgram (1963) also fails to evaluate the source of violence because he focuses mainly on the quantitative data revealing the level of shock administered by the participants. Consequently, further analysis of the themes is necessary to comprehend how these attitudes emerge and what strategies might help overcome the problem of violence.

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I consider that education plays an essential role in preventing immoral behavior and crimes against humanity, and all people should have equal access to it. Education has several functions in society, including transmitting social values, promoting rational thinking, and explaining various concepts and principles. Consequently, schooling contributes to the ability of people to analyze circumstances logically and critically, referring to their knowledge of history and its lessons and of current situations in the world. Gourevitch’s (2015) idea about the role of lack of education in people’s readiness to murder others supports my view. Additionally, Milgram’s (1963) position regarding the inability of people to predict that they may be obedient even when their moral principles are violated also contributes to this statement. Mainly, the experiment’s findings prove that people should be aware of the specifics of human psychology and behavior to understand how it may lead them to the uncivil treatment of others. Consequently, I suggest that education plays a critical role in people’s ability to become aware and conscious of their attitude to other individuals.

Although the articles differ in explaining human obedience, they both admit people of authority’s responsibility for acts of violence, demonstrating that education is essential in preventing violence against humanity. The text about genocide explains that people of power are responsible for inhumane acts. The article about the experiment proves that people tend to obey others even when they violate their ethical principles. The narrations differ in the analysis of the role of people who comply with the orders. However, they both acknowledge that the ruling class has to be responsible for the commands. Based on these articles, it can be concluded that education is crucial for preventing atrocity and abuse.


Gourevitch, P. (2015). We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. Pan Macmillan.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.

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