How to raise a moral hero

In a very confronting piece on CNN, James Dawes, director of the Program in Human Rights at Macalester College, and the author of “Evil Men” (Harvard University Press, 2013), discusses how a “monster is made”. The article is an opinion piece relating to the story out of Syria of serious human rights abuses.

But in the face of this horrific story, Dawes provides hope with his ideas on how to raise a moral hero (hopefully who will never have to be involved in a war):

“First, take a young man and start small. Work up to altruism and moral courage step by step. Each small thing he does to attend to the suffering of another or stand up against injustice will make the next act feel easier, more natural. Second, give him a clear system of rules with predictable consequences. Teach him he has the ability to make choices about his life, and that these choices matter. Third, teach him that the world’s problems aren’t as simple as us-versus-them, good-versus-evil. Teach him that there aren’t easy solutions to complex problems. Teach him to tolerate, without fear and anxiety, life’s difficult ambiguity and uncertainty.

“And finally — to those of you, like me, who are parents of young boys — teach him to seek out “the other”: Other clubs and groups, other sources of information, other places to see, other kinds of people, other cultural values. Spoil him with diversity, so that if there ever comes a time when he is called to war, he will always remember to see the world through the other’s eyes. He will fight, but he will fight against an enemy that he sees as a person, like him. He will see their humanity, and in so doing, he will preserve his own.”


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