Psychopaths Among Us
How their evil influence
may be minimized (eventually)
By Peter Meyer
In February 2010 a reader (Mary in Penn Valley) of Richard K. Moore's mailing list wrote this to him:How about addressing the issue of the sociopaths among us? There's lots of material on how sociopaths come to rule the world because they lie and because the one who tells the biggest lie in every situation of conflict/competition wins! If we could imagine a world without sociopaths, maybe we'd have all the answers right there.
And Richard replied:
There have always been sociopaths, and there always will be sociopaths. Just as there have always been saints, and teachers, and caregivers, and visionaries, and poets, etc. Human nature has not changed in many millennia and it won't change in the next many millennia. Every culture has the same percentage of infants who are potential sociopaths, but not every culture has the same percentage of adult sociopaths. If we want to "imagine a world" that is better than the one we know, then the place to look is at the range of cultures that have existed in the world, now and in the past.
I comment on this as follows:
Firstly I think it is too generous to describe these individuals as "sociopaths". They are psychopaths, in the sense of Andrew M. Lobaczewski: http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/political_ponerology_lobaczewski.htm
Most people think of psychopaths as axe-wielding maniacs, but the characteristic of a psychopath is the absence of an ordinary sense of right and wrong, or in other words, the lack of a conscience. This enables them to manipulate and exploit other people without any qualms. But they look just like normal humans, so normal humans generally don't recognize them, and generally don't understand how psychopaths can think and act as they do.
See Beyond Insanity and Bush isn't a Moron, He's a Cunning Sociopath.
Psychopaths do immense harm to the rest of us by seeking and attaining positions of power and influence (for their own gratification), frequently within national governments, where they often influence policy and legislation.
I don't agree with Richard's view (if I understand him correctly) that we just have to accept that there are and always will be psychopaths among us, and that all we can do is to try to educate them. Education is not likely to be effective because this is a genetic condition.
I don't think that "imagining a world without psychopaths" will be effective. What's needed is a practical solution to the problem. Locking them up or killing them all is not practical. I can suggest a solution, although it will take ten years or more to take effect.
Since psychopaths have no conscience, this manifests itself in their behavior, although adult psychopaths are usually clever enough to conceal their nature from normal humans. But a 10-year-old child is not so sophisticated, so a perceptive clinical observation of 10-year-olds by trained psychologists could detect those who are psychopaths. They could then be labeled as such and prevented from ever attaining positions of power where they could do harm, particularly in government.
If George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, etc. — all of them obviously psychopathic — had been identified as psychopaths when they were children, and prevented from obtaining positions in government, then the world would not be in the state it is today.
But this solution is unlikely to be implemented in the foreseeable future because 'lacking a conscience' is not a category currently recognized in clinical psychology. That's because possessing a conscience means knowing right from wrong as regards behavior toward other people, and modern psychology, trying to emulate the natural sciences and to be 'objective', eschews 'value judgements'.
But objective actually means intersubjectively confirmable by competent observers, and the sort of behavior in 10-year-olds which would indicate a diagnosis of psychopathy could be confirmed by many trained observers, if looked for. But currently it is not.
So normal humans will continue to be harmed by the prevalence of psychopaths in influential positions in society, because of modern psychology's obsession with being 'value-neutral'.
Note added May 14, 2011: I suggested above that "a perceptive clinical observation of 10-year-olds by trained psychologists could detect those who are psychopaths. They could then be labeled as such and prevented from ever attaining positions of power where they could do harm, particularly in government." Quite possibly psychopathic tendencies could be detected at an earlier age, perhaps even at the age of three. If so, the Australian Government has a great opportunity to implement this suggestion since it "is planning to introduce mental health checks for three-year-olds."
Mental health checks offered for 3yos
The Government currently offers a general health check for four-year-olds whose parents receive family benefits.
Mental Health Minister Mark Butler says the Government has been advised to bring forward the check and broaden it to include the social and emotional well-being of the child.
"Three is an incredibly important time in the development of a child's life," he said.
"We think this is a very important advance in trying to build our evidence base, our capacity to identify early infants and children who are exhibiting developmental difficulties."
And how about identifying children who treat their playmates as objects to be exploited and who will likely grow up to treat everyone in the same way? Classify the little bastards as likely psychopaths and save normal people a lot of trouble in later years by preventing them from acquiring positions of power and influence over others.
Added August 18, 2012: In Jack Whyte's historical novel Clothar the Frank there is an excellent description of psychopaths. It is presented within a dialog between a king and his young son concerning "monsters". I have extracted the description from the dialog:
But yet another kind of monster walks among us, sharing our daily lives and giving us no sign, until it is too late, that they are deeply different from us. Because they are so different from the ruck of ordinary, honest men. They take the trust on which we live and turn it into poison. Trust is not something we think about very often, but we depend on it for everything worthwhile. We all deal in trust — people's lives are founded on trust. We form our own opinions of the folk we live among, the friends and neighbors and companions and soldiers with whom we share our lives, and we trust them to behave in certain ways — with honesty and dignity and respect for themselves and for their neighbors. And based upon that trust, that mutuality of trust and common interests, we make laws and rules to govern how we all live with one another. But these monsters are governed by no laws, no rules. They are predators, wild beasts who prey upon honest, ordinary men as victims — perceiving them and treating them as weaklings and helpless fools created solely to fulfill their needs. They have — they know — no honesty, these creatures. Worse, they have no understanding of what honesty is, and that, alone, makes them dangerous to all who cross their paths. They see no worth in trust, because they themselves have no belief in it. It is alien to their nature, and therefore they exploit the trust of other people as a fatal flaw. By far the worst part of such beings, however, is that they quickly learn to keep their true natures hidden from the eyes and knowledge of others. They learn to ape the manners and behavior of others unlike themselves, behaving outwardly as they believe others think they ought to behave, and concealing their own monstrousness. Their entire existence is a lie. They deal in a kind of treachery that ordinary men cannot imagine, and that treachery grants them a power against which no one else can be prepared.
Added October 28, 2014: Found as a comment to this article:
Politics is a biological phenomenon common to social mammals. If you have ever shared your home with dogs and cats you know what I mean.
Evolution has favored this seemingly chaotic system for its ability to stabilize relations amongst intelligent animals. It is driven by love, when functioning properly, so exhibits a lot of aggressive behaviors meant to rank order relationships and promote geographic dispersion, along with affectionate and caring behaviors.
This system worked fine for our species until we invented the State, and the consequent aggrandizement of populations that were part of a State at the expense of those living traditional lives. The State utilized competition for designated "scarce resources" and positions of authority to rank order its population. These factors created a tremendous advantage for those whose brains did not allow for guilt, conscience or concern for future consequences, but which harbored high degrees of intelligence.
Science now recognizes these people as intelligent psychopaths.Gradually, in fits and starts, intelligent psychopaths have come to rule the world through their clever manipulations and compulsive lying.
What we are directed to call "politics" these days is not the biological phenomena I described. Rather it is a facsimile, a false mimic, that serves the short term interests of the ruling psychopaths.Psychopaths are human parasites. They draw energy out of society without providing anything in return.
Review the Hare Criteria for diagnosis of psychopathy and see if the behaviors represented don't closely resemble the activities of politicians, corporate leaders, religious leaders, bankers and military leaders.These brain deformed people are leading our entire species to extinction. They are creating the Sixth Mass Extinction. They are the only danger of significance in our world.
Theoretically they could be identified (fast MRI brain scans work!) and weeded out of positions where they can do harm. I say theoretically because, whereas biological psychopaths are few in number, the scope of their influence is immense due to psychopathic thinking being contagious.
Moral thinking is biological too, but by altering the social environment to impede normal development (sometimes referred to a process of infantilization), the psychopaths in charge have turned entire populations into developmentally delayed moral idiots, willing to do their bidding.
Psychopaths have no ability to invest in the future, no long term plans other than domination for domination's sake. Intelligent psychopaths have succeeded in creating a paradise on Earth for themselves, comfortably fitted with intense suffering for normals, endless opportunities for new and exciting crimes of depravity and total impunity for themselves. Truly a triumph of psychopathy.
Their Achilles Heel is that they must control from the top. If we just targeted the powerful ones for disclosure and elimination (perhaps requiring people seeking to exercise power to pass the MRI test) their house of cards will fall and we normals can start trying to reverse their destructive influences.
This is the only way forward that I can see. It does not matter how improbable success is when alternatives are lacking.
— Herb Ruhs, MD
Added May 21, 2020: From probably the best article about psychopaths that you will ever read, Illimitable Man's Understanding Psychopathy:Psychopathy is essentially the inability to empathise with others; it is both a gift and a curse in and of itself. It is a gift for the psychopath because it presents them with many avenues in which to act without any internal moral conscience or feeling of guilt nagging at them. It's this lack of conscience which makes psychopaths feel somewhat omnipotent, feeding into their narcissism, because they don't feel anxiety when pondering morality should they choose to ponder it as an intellectual abstraction (which is all it is to them.) Any pondering they do of morality is merely intellectual in nature, itís not emotional in basis. They have no morality, but this doesnít mean they donít make moral codes for others. Psychopaths are amoral by merit of their inability to empathise. Their emotions are for them, and them alone, they are solipsistically emotional, in their opinion other people's emotion exists for no purpose other than to be manipulated by them. They do not attribute value to other people's emotional states the way in which they attribute an intrinsic level of value to their own. Psychopaths are amoral or immoral (depending on how you look at it.) To have morals you actually have to care about people and by nature of a psychopaths neurology, they're incapable of doing this, or so barely capable of it that it is statistically insignificant in any decision-making processes they go through.
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