A look into moral development during college.
Let me tell you what this article is not about. This article is not going to paint a bloody picture about what can happen to you on Prom Night (Any takers for Pearl Ball? Still?). It is not a definitive handbook of all gory fantasies of death, destruction and devastation that students come up with due to low marks, rejection or bad food. It truly doesn’t get that extreme. It isn’t a commentary on the prevailing gun violence in college campuses in the United States. It isn’t an article that is meant to convince you that your subconsciousness is upto no good. Nor is it a warning about that shady neighbor who always seems to loiter around your room.
But it’s never a bad idea to check for monsters under the bed.
So let’s get this straight. This article does not have anything to do with blood, murder and gore. Anybody who fancies themselves in such a setting when they chant ‘Live Evil’ does not really believe that they’re capable of that. They’re merely taking some artistic liberties.
But can we really be evil?
I argue that yes. It is much more likely that you graduate from college with a moral transformation that pushes you to be less empathetic, less kind and less social than when you walked in.
While it is true that not everybody will end up with a personality disorder, it is true that as we grow up our morality changes. And this transformation can be pretty stark! The ideological and emotional changes that we undergo in college can be very vast. Some say that we walk into college as young girls and young boys, and we walk out as wise men and women. Some say that there is no point to college if you don’t walk out of college as a different person altogether. College, in a sense, refines your personality. It is truly when you discover yourself; but sometimes that comes with a cost- your morality.
To understand how our morality might change, it helps to question how college life truly is like both socially and emotionally. We look at some pop-culture icons and role models that we idolize to wonder if we’re increasingly moving towards the path of less empathy, more aggression, and a thirst for success at the cost of good character.
Pop-culture: The rise of the anti-hero
Frank Underwood says as he puts down the dog, “Moments like this require someone who will act, do the unpleasant thing, the necessary thing.”
The obsession with characters like Frank Underwood from House of Cards, Harvey Specter from Suits, Gregory House from House MD or Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock are one of many examples of the Anti-Hero. He’s the one blurring the moral lines by doing the ‘necessary’ thing. He’s the one who is ever confident in his choices and does not care about what society thinks is right or wrong.
Also, he’s popular. And handsome?
Some of the key behavioral characteristics that define sociopaths/psychopaths and others with antisocial disorders are: Superficial charm and good intelligence, Lack of remorse and shame, Untruthfulness and insincerity, Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior, Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love.
These pop-culture icons are characterized with a tendency towards a god-complex. They have a clear lack of empathy and a high disregard for ethics. Faced with a decision, there’s only one way to go, and that’s the choice which gets the job done, regardless of any and all ethical consequences
I don’t know about you, but that screams sociopathy to me.
The CEO role model: Snakes in Suits
A famous statistic says that 10% of the Fortune 500 have sociopathic tendencies. In the book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton explains that there are jobs that can attract literal psychopaths – and also jobs that are least likely to do so. Number one on that list is the CEO.
Dutton has also said that ”a number of psychopathic attributes [are] actually more common in business leaders than in so-called disturbed criminals — attributes such as superficial charm, egocentricity, persuasiveness, lack of empathy, independence, and focus.”
This may explain why many of the jobs attractive to psychopaths – such as CEO’s, salespeople and media types – are often found in the tech industry.
While it sounds like a conspiracy theory, we seem to start learning in college, that it is easier to get work done when you bend a few rules. We are, after all, extremely competitive young students who’ve all been told that we can be the next Zuckerberg and the next Steve Jobs. Now we can’t all be top CEOs of multi-million dollar companies, so if we’re asked to take morally questionable choices to reach those heights, would we do it?
The answer seems to be closer to a Yes than to a No.
It makes us question if the goals of students today have reduced an obsession with “Me-ism” and a pursuit of privatism and materialism.
We’re living in a premises of 200 acres outside the city with no power cuts, adequate safety and a liberal atmosphere of zero attendance requirement, not realizing that we’re all very protected. There is little need for us to step out of our boundaries and be a little more empathetic, a little more kind or a little more tolerant of diversity or economic backwardness.
Emotionally, on the other hand, how we grow is a different ball game altogether. The existence of teenage curiosity itself – drugs, drinks and sex -is nothing to be surprised of but sometimes they become a substitute for coping with societal pressures while not having to do the uncool task of facing your emotions. In an atmosphere where it is cool to be hanging out, chilling out or taking lite, it is not easy to fit in and demand more empathy. Seldom is it cool to ask for help.
While there is always a need to be more kind, more understanding towards our friends, somehow it becomes hard to know when he or she needs help because it is easily disguised as ‘I just like playing DOTA alone in my room’ or ‘I was just chilling in my room with some mad grass.’
When there is hardly any room for emotion or empathy, college appears to be very shallow, lonely and we tend to toughen up.
Now don’t you think that it can change our morality?