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And, yes, I DO take it personally: My country: "An environment where the pathological becomes the norm"
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

My country: "An environment where the pathological becomes the norm"

harsh assessment, but essentially irrefutable...
[I]n a society dominated by pathological values, if one can call them that, the existence of a small group of conscienceless people promoting a culture of greed and selfishness creates an environment where the pathological becomes the norm. In a society, such as the United States today, where the president can lie with impunity on matters of life and death, a pathological environment is created where lying becomes acceptable. Violence is acceptable. Greed is acceptable. It is part and parcel of the ideology of the American Dream, that anyone can be a success no matter who you have to hurt to do it. And, it is in what they must do to actually succeed that the seeds of pathology are sown. In that environment, people of conscience who are weak and easily influenced take on the characteristics of the pathological in order to survive and succeed. They see that their leaders lie and cheat, and they figure that if they want to get ahead, then they can lie and cheat as well.


Psychopathy is an adaptive life strategy that is extremely successful in American society, and thus has increased in the population. What is more, as a consequence of a society that is adaptive for psychopathy, many individuals who are NOT genetic psychopaths have similarly adapted, becoming "effective" psychopaths, or "secondary sociopaths." In other words, in a world of psychopaths, those who are not genetic psychopaths, are induced to behave like psychopaths simply to survive. When the rules are set up to make a society "adaptive" to psychopathy, it makes psychopaths of everyone.

so, what to do...?
Were that pathological influence removed from society by putting psychopaths into quarantine, by educating people of conscience on the signs of pathology, of what to look for and how to deal with manipulation, by changing the systems created by psychopaths; if through such methods we were able to remove this ponerogenic influence, then the other pole, that of conscience, would be the more influential of the two, and people would gravitate towards altruism and truth rather than selfishness and lies.

If we were able to remove the pathological influence, we might find that our conceptions of "human nature" are wrong and are weighted wrongly because we accept those who are genetically without conscience as "human". Remove them and their acts from the data set, remove their influence from society as a whole, and the higher qualities of human nature capable of conscience might find room for expression in ways that we have never dreamed possible.

interesting, but also disturbingly suggestive of police state tactics... a different KIND of police state, to be sure, but still a police state...

how do we recognize these aliens in our midst...?

There are a number of traits that we find in psychopaths: An obvious trait is the complete lack of conscience. They lack any sense of remorse or empathy with others. They can be extremely charming and are experts at using talk to charm and hypnotize their prey. They are also irresponsible. Nothing is ever their fault; someone else or the world at large is always to blame for all of their 'problems' or their mistakes. Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, identifies what she calls the pity ploy. Psychopaths use pity to manipulate. They convince you to give them one more chance, and to not tell anyone about what they have done. So another trait - and a very important one - is their ability to control the flow of information.

They are also incapable of deep emotions. In fact, when Hare, a Canadian psychologist who spent his career studying psychopathy, did brain scans on psychopaths while showing them two sets of words, one set of neutral words with no emotional associations and a second set with emotionally charged words, while different areas of the brain lit up in the non-psychopathic control group, in the psychopaths, both sets were processed in the same area of the brain, the area that deals with language. They did not have an immediate emotional reaction.

Our whole emotional life is a mystery to them, while at the same time providing a tremendous tool for them to manipulate us. Think of those moments when we are strongly affected by our emotions and how our ability to think is impaired. Now imagine that you were able to feign such emotion, remaining cool and calculating, while the person you were exchanging with was really trapped in an emotional cauldron. You could use tears or shouting to get what you wanted, while your victim was driven to despair by the emotions they were living.

They also seem to have no real conception of past or future, living entirely for their immediate needs and desires. Because of the barren quality of their inner life, they are often seeking new thrills, anything from feeling the power of manipulating others to engaging in illegal activities simply for the rush of adrenaline.

Another trait of the psychopath is what Ɓobaczewski calls their "special psychological knowledge" of normal people. They have studied us. They know us better than we know ourselves. They are experts in knowing how to push our buttons, to use our emotions against us. But beyond that, they even seem to have some sort of hypnotic power over us. When we begin to get caught up in the web of the psychopath, our ability to think deteriorates, gets muddied. They seem to cast some sort of spell over us. It is only later when we are no longer in their presence, out of their spell, that the clarity of thought returns and we find ourselves wondering how it was that we were unable to respond or counter what they were doing.

i think we all must admit that we have known and worked for these people... i've often been astounded - and i don't use that term lightly - at the dysfunction i've seen inside organizations of all types - public and private sector, large and small - dysfunction that, without any doubt, is strongly suggestive of psychopathy... a former colleague of mine from united airlines is currently undergoing a deliberate assault on his professionalism and, by extension, his character, by what i am sure is the very archetype of the social/organizational psychopath described above... i know i've certainly been exposed to my share...

a most interesting article...

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