morality | February 25, 2013

Eyal Press: "Distance Enables All Of Us To Violate Our Morals" [VIDEO]

"Distance enables all of us, sadly enough, to violate our morals," Eyal Press says. In an interview at our office in New York, the Beautiful Souls author explains that one of the themes in his book is how our moral convictions can waver when exposed to physical, psychological, or emotional distance. The more we separate ourselves from our feeling of what is right, the easier it is to harm another person without really internalizing the effects of doing so. 

One of the people he chronicled in his book, he explains, did not have enough distance from the interactions that would eventually get him into trouble. He worked at the border and made what was deemed a "mistake" by letting refugees plead their case to him in person. This man felt he had no choice but to let these people into Switzerland because he was directly involved with their story. Had he been situated hundreds of miles away at a desk without any face-to-face contact, however, the results may have been much different.

In his book and his talks, Press explores the many factors that impact why we make the moral decisions we do. He focuses a great deal, as well, on the people who break ranks and go against societal norms and regulations to do what they think is right, even in the face of punishment. He also authored Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America, a book about the anti-abortion threats his father received in Buffalo. His talks are widely applicable to a vast array of different audiences because he shares the incredible stories of ordinary people—and urges us to consider our shared humanity.