If you're like the 6 million other people around the world who watch AMC's Breaking Bad, you've been given a huge psychology lesson! What? It's not just a freaky story? Well, yes, it is; but it's also an excellent illustration of how good people can gradually go bad.
If a bad guy and a good guy both jumped from the top of a 20-story building, they'd both fall at roughly the same rate and would both probably end up dead. So, physically, there is not much of a difference between the two. And as you look in the innocent eyes of a newborn, it's hard to imagine that one day, that kid could be a murderer. But it's true. "Badness" is an equal opportunity condition.
I like to think that people are mostly good - that is, they don't break the law on purpose, they have compassion for others, they are responsible for the most part and mean no harm to anyone else. So when I come across someone who is "bad to the bone," I try not to judge. There is a difference between a person and his or her actions, and in most cases, the "bad" person is that way because of his or her life circumstances and environment, not because he or she was born that way.
Take the main character in Breaking Bad, Walter White. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that he was a straight-as-an-arrow chemistry teacher that loved his family and expected the best from his students at the beginning of the series. One stupid idea, lots of rationalizations and the instinct to survive took him from soft-hearted, nerdy Mr. White to dangerous sociopath "Heisenberg" in less than 3 seasons. As the final season unfolds, there is barely a hint of the person that Mr. White used to be in the person that he has become.
And that's how it's done. A good kid with drug addict parents can easily feel lost and seek solace in the belongingness of a gang. An upstanding, responsible citizen can get hooked on pain killers after recovering from surgery. An unemployed man, desperate to provide for his family, can rob a bank. People are like diamonds; they are the product of external pressure applied to them over time. The result can be beautiful, but it can also be very, very ugly.
I'm not trying to say that genetics and heredity has nothing to do with how we turn out. It certainly does play a part in the choices we make and the feelings we feel. But the labyrinth of every day problems can get so twisted that it becomes easy to make bad choices...and then worse ones. Are people like Walter White doomed to be heartless criminals for the rest of their lives? I wish I could answer that, but there are too many unknowns to make a good guess.
So, whether you're already a fan of the show or want to start watching now, think about it. If you were in the exact same position as Walter White in season 1, could you not imagine - just a tiny bit - at least considering the path White took? If your answer is "no," then you need to find your humanity. The Universe is dichotomous. There is no good without bad, and both traits and tendencies are in all of us. Just apply pressure.