‘And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Stanford Prison Experiment shows that humanity, in its entirety, is inclined towards power. Power corrupts and absolute power, as they say, corrupts absolutely. Look at how easily those assigned the prisoner role submitted and those told that they were guards were corrupted. Zimbardo himself told us – “It wasn’t until much later that I realized how far into my prison role I was at that point — that I was thinking like a prison superintendent rather than a research psychologist”. Bear in mind, this man had chosen to run this experiment that closed after 6 days. Zimbardo planned on a fortnight.’ Arthur Kellerman looked around at his students, marshalled in rows before him. All of them were looking straight at him, captivated by his honeyed voice. He adored it.
‘And what does that tell us? Take anybody. Give them the smallest amount of power, even arbitrary power, and see how dynamics change. Take Charlotte here.’ He gesticulated to her, slim and petite in the front row, where she always chose to sit. Third seat in from the left, always looking straight at him, those beautiful blue eyes, that strategically cut top that just showed the lace edges of her dark purple bra as she leant forward, caught in the rapture of his voice. ‘If I told you all that Charlotte was my favourite student and that she was getting special privileges because of this, you would begin to harbour resentment towards her. He could feel himself getting distracted, consumed by the thought of her. He drew himself up to his full six feet and ran his hand through his salt and pepper hair. ‘But I think that will be enough for today. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time. Should you have any questions, you can always drop by my office. Charlotte, if you wouldn’t mind coming by after this lecture? As long as you’re not expected elsewhere.’ She smiled at him, and mutely shook her head. ‘Excellent, so I’ll see you there at ten thirty.’ He gathered up his notes, sliding them into his distressed briefcase. He left the room to a rising hubbub of voices. He heard the words ‘teacher’s pet’ and ‘suck-up’, the words fuelling a grin. He’d have her eating out of his hand in no time.
He sat in his office, feet up on the desk. He handled his forty years well, the lines barely showing on his face. A Marlboro cigarette hangs between his lips, and he takes a deep drag, staring out the window of his office towards the apple tree in the courtyard. He picks the wedding ring up from his desk, examining the simple gold band in the sunlight. ‘A simpler time, Arthur. A simpler time.’ He opened a desk drawer with a bang and threw the ring inside. Then there was a knock at the door.
‘Umm, Arthur?’ Charlotte’s voice floated through the door like a chorus of angels. He grinned again, smoking his cigarette down to the filter before stubbing it out in the ashtray on his desk.
‘Come in, come in.’ The door opened and he swivelled round like a Bond villain. ‘Miss Aspen. I’ve been expecting you.’ She giggled, a smile that could light up the room. ‘In all seriousness, please sit down. I have a few things I want to discuss with you.’ He took all of her in as she moved to sit down in his second chair, the tartan skirt she was wearing riding up to roughly mid-thigh as she crossed her legs. She hadn’t chosen to wear tights that day either. He could feel his mouth going dry as he worked out what he was going to say.
‘Arthur, I was looking into the relationship development module. I wanted to discuss the ahh…’ She blushed, her freckles standing out against the red flush spreading across her cheeks. ‘The sexual relationship module. I had some thoughts on a study to investigate peoples initial attraction?’ He moved to his filing cabinet, pulling out a bottle of Glenmorangie.
‘Do carry on, I like to have a drink while I work. Would you care for one?’ He poured her a glass before she could answer, moving to lean against the desk behind her. ‘So, do please tell me about this idea for a study?’
‘So…’ She began talking, a long speech about setting up blind dates and videotaping them, pre and post date interviews, for a number of them requesting an FMRI during the date. He simply nodded and kept topping up their glasses.
‘And what would you hope to achieve with this study?’ He asked, his eyes drinking her in as he leaned close.
‘Well… It would help to put a name to feelings. To map out the cause of a great many crimes and.. Mistakes.’
‘And what about things that you aren’t sure are mistakes?’ He leaned in closer, resting one hand on her thigh. ‘Would you try to map those as well?’
She paused for a moment, as if trying to work out what to say. ‘I’m not entirely sure I need those mapping out.’ And she moves her head forward, lips slightly parted before she sends them forth to meet his.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But who has the power here? Who is corrupted, who is the corruptee? And how far does the corruption spread?
The Idiot in Tin Foil