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Psychopaths in Power

Sat, Apr 14, 2007

Articles, Psychology of Capitalism, War

Psychopaths in Power

by Susan Rosenthal

Either George W. Bush is a psychopath or he does an excellent imitation of one.

Bush claims that opponents of the war against Iraq, whose children are at risk on the front lines, are too emotional to see things clearly. In fact, human morality is rooted in emotions or “gut feelings” that move us toward what is right and away from what is wrong. Without emotions, there would be no anger in response to injustice and no shame in behaving badly. People without emotions, without conscience, are called psychopaths.

The American Psychiatric Association defines a psychopath as someone who meets at least three of the following criteria:

  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest (bombing Iraq, domestic spying, approving torture).
  • deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying or conning others for profit or pleasure (lying to justify invading Iraq, altering reports on global warming, standard business practice).
  • impulsivity or failure to plan ahead (believing that Iraqis would welcome a foreign invasion, destroying the environment for short-term gain).
  • aggressiveness as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults (preferring military force over negotiation).
  • reckless disregard for the safety of others (Katrina, Iraq).
  • consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to honor financial obligations (failure to fund essential government programs).
  • lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another (too many examples to list!).

President Bush meets all of these criteria, as do all who enforce the same heartless policies.

A social system that puts profit first forces its rulers to behave like psychopaths. Empathy and compassion would make it impossible for them to trample human lives in their mad race for more profit.

When authorities flaunt their disregard for human life, it can seem as though humanity as a whole has no compassion. Fortunately, the power elite do not represent the majority. They are sick freaks, as sick as the social system they rule.

Human beings are born compassionate. Infants will cry when they hear another baby cry, but not when they hear recordings of their own cries. By 14 months-of-age, toddlers will try to soothe other babies in distress. At 18-months-of-age, youngsters are eager to help adults. As adults, both men and women list kindness as the character trait they most value in others.

In contrast, the war mongers behave like reptiles who have shed their humanity. They have no problem devouring our young.

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