Saturday, August 14, 2010

Anything Goes: Manufacturing Psychopaths (Polemic) by Paul A. Toth

Once upon a time, a psychopath was someone known to commit violent or other criminal acts without the slightest sense of guilt. Then, for a while, the term was dismissed. Certain behaviors were forgiven and diagnoses dismissed if the perpetrator had been the victim of some past offense that triggered "psychopathology." But the term "psychopath" is rapidly making a comeback in the miasma of psychology. Are no-holds-barred corporate CEOs psychopaths? Is our entire economic system psychopathic? Yes. And how are we to react? By being good little boys and girls, taking "personal responsibility" and embracing "values," both of which are nonexistent in the everything-as-representation world so well-defined by Guy Debord as a "Spectacle."

Thus was born the "nonviolent psychopath." According to the Quantum Future School's (don't ask) web-based article The Mask of Sanity (1), "In other words, [as a psychopath] you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world. You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered."

Unhampered liberty: Isn't that the conservative daydream of an off-our-backs' government in which the American dream is finally fulfilled? According to this logic, the very idea of America is psychopathic. As usual, individuals who adapt to a diseased society are labeled "anti-social," which means they've simply adopted the rules of the society in which they live. When corporations, nothing more than huge numbers of people operating under protection of a logo's umbrella, engage in "free market" capitalism without "internal restraints," a few are rewarded with a gray-suited form of celebrity, the kind someone like economist Milton Friedman attained. Indeed, As Scientific American (2) reports, "Some investigators have even speculated that 'successful psychopaths' -- those who attain prominent positions in society -- may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment."

But that's not how psychologists think. In order to have patients, they must believe that society is normal and their patients abnormal. Yet even they don't seem to believe their own argument. The same article makes a contradictory claim: "Some people -- whether they have a conscience or not -- favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lust and those who have no such appetites".

This excerpt accurately suggests that the expanse of possible behaviors reflects no difference between normal and abnormal people but rather humanity itself, particularly as reality fades into an ever-advancing and transparent wall of marketing seduction, a constantly shifting, untouchable, invulnerable tyranny of the senses. But as that quote notes, there's really no difference between just about anyone and a "nonviolent psychopath." At some point, nearly everyone has acted like a "nonviolent psychopath." Examples include stealing office supplies (a noble gesture), infidelity (not so noble but all too human), unleashing verbal attacks, etc.

Nevertheless, the authors claim four percent of people are "nonviolent psychopaths," a number that includes George W. Bush, Jr.: "If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction."

Hervey M. Checkley, author (different from the quoted article's writers) of the book from which the website borrows its title, offers a case study of a supposed psychopath named Stanley (3): "Like a number of other patients presented in this book, he repeatedly showed evidence of superior abilities and demonstrated over and over that he could succeed in studies, in business, in impressing and attracting other people, and in virtually anything he might choose to undertake. And, similarly, he lost, or seemed to throw away, with no sign of adequate motivation, everything he gained, and especially the things that he claimed meant most of all to him."

Wouldn't a "nonviolent psychopath," utterly immersed in self-interest, prevent himself from repeatedly losing everything? A violent psychopath, of course, is doomed to the law; he will eventually commit himself to prison by the nature of his acts. But if a "nonviolent psychopath" is so adept at hiding his true nature, wouldn't he also be adept at hiding from the consequences of his behavior? Of course, in America, stealing a car is considered not only an act of violence but a blasphemous act of violence. The nonviolent psychopath wouldn't have to hide from such lawbreaking because he's nonviolent. At worst, he may merely need to pick up and leave town now and again.

Then things take an even more bizarre turn. Checkley believes, according to the article, "...that the psychopath is the new man being produced by the evolutionary pressures of modern life." In other words, nonviolent or not, a psychopath is actually well-adjusted, the kind of person best suited to the new world, to an almost-inescapable hyper-capitalism gone global. Here, then, is the problem that obviously troubles Checkley and the authors of the article, though they don't say as much: How will society exploit, much less control, the end product of its own manufacturing process, that being a person who not only exploits other but is essentially incapable of being exploited himself?

It's a near certainty that drug manufacturers are hard at work on a chemical (and, more importantly, marketable) solution to this problem. Corporations and their marketers themselves created a society of "nonviolent psychopaths" through their own unrestrained behavior, essentially "reproducing" and even "cloning" themselves. While the same Scientific American article claims that psychopaths have so far proven themselves untreatable, the inefficacy of a psychiatric drug has never stopped one from being sold. Thus, one can expect that when such drugs, whether or not they work, avail themselves to the marketplace, it will suddenly become trendy to be a "nonviolent psychopath."

Since Checkley himself flips the definition of "nonviolent psychopath" as really being the "new man," we can guess that the actual number of violent and nonviolent psychopaths lies more in the range of ninety-six percent of the population. That's a large market, leaving only four percent of the population utterly brainwashed into compliance. You do meet them occasionally. They're bereft of passion, charm and, yes, the slightest suggestion of being remotely capable of violence. They are, male or female, emotionally castrated.

And so the aristocracy must now face the fact that anything goes for nearly everyone, not just themselves. What was once aberrant behavior has become our only road to salvation.


Author bio:

Paul A. Toth lives in Sarasota, Florida. He is the author of three novels, his latest being Finale. He also publishes poetry, nonfiction and multimedia pieces. Links to all of his work can be accessed via Toth World. Violent Contradiction is his blog.

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