When looking at human society, it's not hard to observe that our behaviour is often influenced by how we we think others will perceive it. If no one cares about something, then we are more likely to feel it's acceptible to destroy it. To the contrary, in the Bible, we find that God cares about this world, and in particular cares about us as individuals.

1. Broken Windows

The March 1982 edition of the magazine “The Atlantic” carried a cover story by George Kelling and James Wilson entitled “Broken Windows”, that has gone on to shape views of community policing. It was based around claims of how human behaviour is affected by perceptions of the environment, and specifically perceptions of how other people feel about the community environment.

The concept of the title comes from the observation of derelict buildings over time,

: “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones.” Kelling Wilson, 1982

We may ask why this would be the case. If there weren't some feedback mechanism, one would expect a steady and even breakage rate over time as people randomly decided to commit some vandalism. It may be that the people who choose to break windows always want to break a lot of windows, and don't stop until they're all broken. But it appears this isn't generally what happens in practise. Instead, Kelling describes the accepted wisdom by “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.” It's a speculation that vandals are more likely to do damage to property that they feel no-one cares about. Somehow, an abandoned building, or an abandoned car is a more likely target, than to damage one that someone apparently cares about.

Earlier, Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist from Stanford had tried an experiment where he left a car abandoned in Palo Alto. The car went untouched for a week, after which he applied some damage himself with a sledge-hammer. After that, vandals soon added to the damage, and within a day the car was upside-down and completely destroyed. He also tried leaving a car in the Bronx. After 10 minutes a young family came and removed the radiator and battery. Over the next 24 hours, parts of value were removed, and only after that the random destruction began.

This demonstrates that as a part of human nature, we're often more likely to damage and destroy things when we feel that no-one cares about what happens to them, or takes any interest in them. But then, what about our own life: is there someone to care about that?...

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