morality | January 31, 2013

Taking A Moral Stand: Eyal Press On Writing Beautiful Souls

Standing up for what you believe to be morally "right" isn't always easy. According to Eyal Press, writing about the people who take a stand has proven to be equally as challenging. In this exclusive interview with Lavin, the Beautiful Souls author describes what it was like profiling the people in his book. All of the individuals he chronicled, ordinary people doing regular jobs, had "broken rank" in some way or another—disobeying an order or a superior because they felt they were being asked to do something that went against their code of ethics. Unfortunately, those people's actions didn't always have the outcomes they expected.

"In each case they naively believed that they would do what they thought was right and people would look into the facts and realize that their motivations were to stand up for a principle that other people, broadly speaking, in their society, claim to share and that things would be fine," Press explains. "[But] they're terribly wrong in this and suffer enormous consequences." He says that it was difficult to write about the outcomes because the people he profiled would be punished or not get the response they had expected. As much as he says that it's sad to document the way that their actions are punished, he also admits that there is a positive element to the stories. Press purposely chose ordinary people to show that even though they may not have gotten the outcome they expected, they did indeed have an impact.

In the book, Press explains how the boldest acts of dissent are often carried out not by those looking to overthrow the system. Rather, it is ordinary people who cling to their convictions and want to make the world a better place. They believe in the system and therefore, want to stop any fraud or wrongdoing from occurring within the confines of authority—whether their actions are praised or not. In his award-winning writing and his keynotes, he discusses how our internal moral compass affects how we operate in society. He has spoken about everything from the controversial Israeli-Palestinian conflict to urban poverty. His topics are eye-opening and dynamic—and causes audiences to think critically about how morality affects their lives.

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science | January 30, 2013