How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Mad World – The Psychopathic Psyches of Corporations and Politicians

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
-William Shakespeare – As You Like It

The clues of insanity peeked out from his charismatic veneer like a shy bride behind a veil, but at the unworldly age of 20, I was too naïve to recognize them. One minute, I was awkwardly trying to extricate myself from in-between an argument involving my friend and her very nasty boyfriend, and the next minute, a handsome stranger was saying to her, “I can see you are being mistreated. Can I offer you a cigarette?”

On the rebound from an intense relationship, I was quickly captivated by the dark stranger who seemed so upfront and straight-forward. A breath of fresh air, I thought.

Over the next several months, I grew up fast. Mr. Charming turned out to be a textbook psychopath. While my immature mind ignored all the disturbing clues, my intuitive sense was screaming like a banshee to get out and far away from this dude while the getting was good. From the minute I met my psychopath, I instinctively knew that something was wrong with him, but with no worldly experience, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

The first night I met Mr. Charming, he recited the above Shakespearian quote to me, citing it as his favorite quotation in the entire world because, “It just says so much about human nature. Aren’t we all just playing a part?” I had to confess, I did not share a similar experience of the world, but I took his word for it. Since he was 15 years my senior, he certainly must have possessed a more complete perspective.

Over time, I began to notice, he was indeed acting his way through life. He was capable of portraying outrage, sadness, fear and an entire repertoire of human emotion. Unfortunately, his acting skills were poor. Sadness scenes were sprinkled with instances of dry-eyed sobbing coupled with quick glances over the top of his hands to check if I was noting the depths of his despair. Rather than impressing me, his dramatic displays left me wondering instead, “Why is he pretending to feel these things when he obviously doesn’t?”

The one emotion he did feel was anger – a red hot, out of control outrage that seared the soul like a nuclear wind and which he ostensibly took out on me in his few brief moments of authenticity. Then, he switched back to charm and apologies, blaming his anger on some ethereal force beyond his personal responsibility. He was an expert liar, and he pulled out all the stops, telling me whatever he determined I wanted to hear, in order to ensnare me once again. Thus began the months of emotional yo-yoing back and forth, wherein he would descend into apparent madness, I would leave, and then he would relentlessly pull out the charm until I was persuaded, against all rational observations to the contrary, that it would never happen again.

I was finally rescued by a dream. In my dream, a lion was pursuing me. I was running for my life, trying to hide wherever I could find shelter, but the lion always found me. Then I had an epiphany. The lion was compelled to hunt me. He was a predator, and nothing would ever change him. I stopped running and realized that I would have to kill the lion, or spend my life in fear and exile. In my dream, I strangled him with my bare hands. The next morning I left Mr. Charming for good. It was years before I would learn that Mr. Charming was actually, certifiably psychopathic.

This weekend, after seeing it positively cited in several articles, I picked up and consumed a copy of Jon Ronson’s new book The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry. This came on the heels of attending a viewing of Charles Ferguson’s film Inside Job on Friday night. All of the above has given me considerable food for thought on the prevalence of psychopaths in our midst.

In The Psychopath Test, Ronson points to noted psychiatrist Bob Hare’s checklist, which lists 20 characteristics of psychopathy. The candidate is given a score of 0-2 for each characteristic (0=not applicable, 1=somewhat applicable and 2=definitely applicable). A score of 30 or more indicates the candidate is a probable psychopath.

The characteristics are: 1- glibness, superficial charm, 2- grandiose sense of self-worth, 3- need for stimulation, prone to boredom, 4- pathological lying, 5- conning, manipulative, 6- lack of remorse or guilt, 7- emotionally shallow, 8- callous, lack of empathy, 9- parasitic lifestyle, 10- poor behavioral controls, 11- sexually promiscuous, 12- early behavior problems, 13- lack of realistic, long-term goals, 14- impulsivity, 15- irresponsibleness, 16- failure to accept responsibility, 17- short-term relationships, 18-juvenile delinquency, 19-revocation of conditional release, and 20-criminal versatility.

Depending on the source, psychopaths (or sociopaths as they are also known) account for anywhere between 1-6% of the human population. Another entity is comprised of almost 100% psychopaths, and that entity is the publicly-traded corporation. By definition, a corporation’s only mandate is to generate profits for shareholders. The environmental cataclysm, ruined lives and financial ruin of anything that stands in the way of that objective is simply labeled as an “externality” or something outside the concern of the corporation.

Here are a few little nuggets for thought based on Hare’s checklist:

The entire government of the United States is currently obsessed with balancing the budget and reducing the deficit even though almost all economists agree that cutting spending during these uncertain times threatens the fragile economic stability we have achieved (4-pathological lying, 13-lack of realistic long-term goals, 15-irresponsibleness). Furthermore, on the heels of securing tax cuts for the rich, Congress now tells us we all need to tighten our belts (5-conning, manipulative). Medicaid for the elderly is an unaffordable luxury as are heating vouchers for the underprivileged, teachers’ and fire-fighters’ pensions and food stamps for impoverished families (6-lack of remorse or guilt, 7-emotionally shallow, 8-callous, lack of empathy).

In the film Inside Job, Director Charles Ferguson traces the events on Wall Street leading up to the systemic collapse that caused the Great Recession of 2008. Ferguson’s exposé uncovers internal memos from many of the culprit investment firms, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sacs, etc. that revealed financial advisors were fully aware of the worthlessness of the complex financial derivatives they were peddling. Some referred to them as “crap.” Yet they encouraged investors to buy them anyway and heavily purchased them for investors’ mutual funds. At the same time, the above financial institutions shorted (or hedged against) those same securities. All the while investment bankers were living large. Tax write-offs for “entertainment expenses” included perpetual ongoing parties with prostitutes and cocaine, private jets and multi-million dollar yachts. When the bottom fell out, the bankers got rich, while millions of hardworking, average Americans saw their life’s savings evaporate (2-grandiose sense of self-worth, 3-need for stimulation, prone to boredom, 4-pathological lying, 5-conning, manipulative, 6-lack of remorse or guilt, 7-emotionally shallow, 8-callous, lack of empathy, 9-parasitic lifestyle, 10-poor behavioral controls, 11-sexually promiscuous,13-lack of realistic long-term goals, 14-impulsivity, 15-irresponsibleness, 16-failure to accept responsibility, 20-criminal versatility). The bankers then used our tax payer-sponsored bail-out to give themselves bonuses.

As almost universal scientific consensus now warns that Earth’s climate is becoming radically destabilized by anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels, internal memos from Exxon and other oil and gas industry giants show that these wealthiest corporations on Earth deliberately set out to disseminate doubt about the scientific facts of climate change. These powerful entities have spared no expense trying to convince the world that climate change is a conspiracy perpetrated by leftists who want to destroy the global economy. As the Gulf of Mexico lies ecologically hobbled, killer storms ravage the heartland, killing hundreds and the Mississippi spills her banks, the oil and gas companies step up lobbying efforts to “drill baby drill” (2-grandiose sense of self-worth, 4-pathological lying, 5-conning, manipulative, 6-lack of remorse or guilt, 7-emotionally shallow, 8-callous, lack of empathy, 9-parasitic lifestyle, 10-poor behavioral controls, 13-lack of realistic, long-term goals, 14, impulsivity, 15-irresponsibleness, 16-failure to accept responsibility, 20-criminal versatility).

I could go on indefinitely. It turns out there are all kinds of psychopaths and borderline psychopaths. Many are criminally insane, which accounts for a high preponderance of them in the prison population. Others are seemingly quite normal, high-functioning individuals found at the helms of powerful corporations or running governments, but they all have one thing in common. Wherever they go, they cut a path of destruction, leaving wasted lives, communities and even entire ecosystems in their wake.

My particular psychopath took pleasure in sucking his victim’s personal power, like a vampire thriving on the blood of his prey. He reduced me to an insecure, frightened shadow of myself. In a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle, he destroyed me, and I stayed because the power to leave had been beaten out of me. As a culture, we let the psychopathic corporate and political status quo do the same to us.

They bleed the life out of the economy, ravage the Earth, hold jobs as ransom for their misdeeds over our heads, connive, and lather us up with their glib protestations that it was all a terrible mistake or misunderstanding and that it will never happen again. It will. The harshest reality of the psychopath is that his condition is incurable. Like the lion from my dream, the havoc they wreck is at the core of their very nature, and they will never, ever, change. It is up to us, the sane among us, to find our personal power and strangle the pathology out of the system if we are to save ourselves as a species and save the Earth.


  1. Holy Crap, killingMother!

    You didn't once use the word "motherfucker".

    Let me count the ways...

  2. But you have instilled within me a certain optimism.

    Rapture: It doesn't mean what they think it means.

  3. Thank you for another insightful and thought-provoking essay.

    Correct me if I am wrong since I have not read the book. I would expect that the general population should resemble a normal bell-shaped curve on this scale if measured accurately. It follows both logically and in my real world observation that individual people are a complex mix of good and bad characteristics, usually acting in what they perceive as their best interest. When ethical questions arise, individual people may not necessarily act consistently.

    Part of the tragedy of the commons is that it encourages people to act in a psychopathic manner. A capitalist system strongly encourages companies - and the Supreme Court defined them as "persons"! - to engage in psychopathic behavior. In short, corruption and the acquisition of wealth and power tend to go hand in hand.

    Can ambition be separated from psychopathy?

    People have to work for a living, and may be required to do things that are not in the best interest of the environment and/or the greater society. Are such people psychopaths?

    Psychopaths work in collusion,
    to create and exploit the delusion
    ...that they produce wealth,
    ...instead taking with stealth,
    thus hiding the honest conclusion.

  4. Tsisageya, I love the way you just speak your mind so freely. Feel free to insert the explitive you suggest for any of the antagonists in the above essay:)

  5. Rhymer, you raise an important point. If one looks at the psychopath test, it could be argued that we all possess certain aspects found on the list. At various times, we have all been guilty of selfish deeds, untruthfulness, etc. I think in this regard, a bell-shaped curve would apply.

    Having known a psychopath or two; however, I will say that they definitely fall outside two standard deviations on the above curve. It's like a piece of the puzzle is missing from them. While we all have undesirable potentials, the average person differs from the psychopath in that we actually feel bad when we indulge in them. It's hard to imagine, but the psychopath really has no capacity for empathy or remorse. It is just missing. This is what distinguishes the psychopath.

    The "Tragedy of the Commons" has actually been debunked and an opposite hypthesis seems to bear out. When people in a community share a common resource, they actually tend to work together to manage the resource sustainably (with some notable exceptions, i.e. when mythology, like on Easter Island, overrides reason).

    To answer your question, ambition can definitely be separated from psychopathy. Ambition alone does not require predation. Ambitious people can advance themselves without harming others. If others are harmed, the normal ambitious person feels bad about it. Unfortunately, the legal overriding mandate for corporations to record quarterly profits above all other considerations has evolved over time into the psychopathic monsters we see today.

    Thank you as always for your thoughtful and insightful additions to the conversation.

  6. Wonderful post KillingMother... and there are people that would call you crazy or mentally deficient for employing logic and pure undeniable evidence to support your observations.

    I truly fear for our species.

    Not from external 'divine' threat, but from our own demise. I doubt the mental faculties of many simply due to the fact that people are so blatantly bound to their belief that something is true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

    And these people are allow to reproduce and choose our leaders who are clearly in the psychopathic pool. (sigh)

  7. KD, The sad thing about those who cling to mythological beliefs despite evidence to the contrary is that they are easily manipulated by the political psychopaths. Many religious fools vote for the GOP because it is viewed as the party of Jesus, but in reality, almost everything the GOP stands for violates Jesus' teachings. A truly religious person would not prostitute their religion just to get votes. As you say, Psychopaths.

  8. Some call what we are experiencing a class war; but in reality it is war of conscience, a war between those with and those without.

    We send psychopaths to the front lines of actual war, as they have no remorse, no empathy, no conscience, hence no compunction to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, we also send those with conscience to the front lines and when faced with the atrocities of their psychopathic compatriots are forced into sociopathic or suicidal tendencies; hence the high rate of suicide and great conscionable loss of veterans and decent humanity.
    The arguable difference by the way between psychopaths and sociopaths is nature versus nurture, that is, genetic versus learned. Psychopaths are incurable and a genetic aberration.

  9. Dear lfbaumgart. all these words are just words. Not many want to talk or hear about the savage slaughter that took place in order to make this country a country.

    I will always come back to the fact that this country was born in shame and psychopathic behavior because white folks needed a new place to shop. Who cares about the people that were already here---those darn savages.

    Congratulations, America. Don't worry, be happy.

    Apparently, Robert Mirabal forgives you.

  10. Dearest killingMother, I hope you understand that I'm not referring to you, or your good words, when I speak like this. Nor am I referring to lfbaumgart's words, necessarily.

    I'm referring to all the words that have been expended over the realization of the demise of this democracy and what a woe it is, and what can we do about it. I'll refer to this, though, killingMother---your very good words:

    They bleed the life out of the economy, ravage the Earth, hold jobs as ransom for their misdeeds over our heads, connive, and lather us up with their glib protestations that it was all a terrible mistake or misunderstanding and that it will never happen again. It will. The harshest reality of the psychopath is that his condition is incurable. Like the lion from my dream, the havoc they wreck is at the core of their very nature, and they will never, ever, change. It is up to us, the sane among us, to find our personal power and strangle the pathology out of the system if we are to save ourselves as a species and save the Earth.

    What happened in the beginning, continues to happen, and still is happening. Of course the decimated Native American population is still doing the worst of all of us. One never hears about it though.

    But don't worry. They have the casinos! Talk about assimilation into the Borg.

    As you say, Mother, I could go on and on.

  11. lfbaumgart, I love your initial sentiment, and I concur.

  12. tsisageya, I share your frustration with the status quo. It is obscene. Now what are we going to do about it?

  13. killing Mother, I actually don't know what to do about it. Your words, though, are good enough for me.

    Eat real food. Make love. Listen to the birds. Smell the flowers. Read a good book. Play with your kids. Cuddle your pets. Life is amazing. Accept the gift graciously. Stop dreaming about the end. Be thankful. Treat the Earth like you mean it.

    It is up to us, the sane among us, to find our personal power and strangle the pathology out of the system if we are to save ourselves as a species and save the Earth.

    The bad systems will fall. I guess it's up to us whether they fall in chaos and death, or peace and life. Some of us prefer peace.

  14. Still, though, the Native American situation can never be made right and very few seem to care.

    I guess this is my thing.

  15. I'm very sorry for the multiple posts but, you know me. I can't shut up unless you tell me to.

    I've had a private love affair with Taos Pueblo, in New Mexico, for many years now. That's only because of a Taos Pueblo musician named Robert Mirabal. I guess I should have explained that earlier. ANYway, they make me happy. Here's a blog.

    I am not affiliated in any way except affection. Maybe you all will enjoy this.

  16. tsisageya, I love the blog you recommend. Thanks.

  17. I thought about posting but no. This is typed just to waste a minute of my life by my choice.
    I refuse to type for the sole purpose of providing information for computer algorhythms. I pay a monthly fee to access the internet? No. The World Wide WEB. And, for what? To "visit" to "surf" pages whose content is totally run by autobots. That are there for analytics, advertising and linking to facebook.

    Yes we created this. And, we can destroy it.
    Hows about keyboarding everything that is NOT in an algorhythm. Nah.

    What if there were algorhythms with no "hits" "pings" "traffic"

    Zero use.