Psychopathy and Sociopathy are disorders of social connectedness and perception, as well as behavior. Since I have worked in social and psychological arenas for most of my post-combat life, I have met plenty of individuals who would more or less qualify under these diagnostic labels. I always found them as a group to be as diverse as any other human community, as long as you didn’t trust your hopes and dreams to them.
But there is a larger shift in social connectedness and perception in our insurgencies and elites that has nothing to do with “inherent” personality disorders or the psychiatric/psychological establishment. I think of it as a trend where many people become behaviorally more and more indistinguishable from those who meet these diagnostic criteria. This is not because they are somehow becoming people with a personality disorder, but because their larger social relationships have been corrupted, and no longer do what human social relationships evolved to do.
I call this “functional psychopathy” because it doesn’t necessarily affect core social relationships, but affects decision-making that can impact many, many lives.
The core act that represents this functional psychopathy is behavior that exploits people, animals, plants, or things, with no regard for the impact of exploitation on the exploited.
So, the CAS in which we live dynamically produces dispositions that move people that don’t have these disorders to behave as though they do, i.e., functional psychopathy.
“Unmasking Administrative Evil” describes this on a large scale (e.g., the Holocaust, the Poisoning of the Flint Michigan water system.), but I believe this process also impacts a great deal of real granular decision-making out there, and that repeatedly acting a though you are a psychopath in these decisions makes you more likely to choose functional psychopathy as your long-term decision framework. (Didn’t Vonnegut say something like, “We become what we pretend to be”, in Mother Night?)
- Professional Associations often develop professional policy and lobbying decisions that would be seen as psychopathic if an individual professional made them.
- Simply being a political operative in active campaigning reliably produces decisions that would be viewed as psychopathic in most other arenas of personal life (e.g., being willing to make the so-called self-interested “tough” decisions, lying as marketing, bullying and other forms of contempt).
- Capitalist decision-making without ethics (basically the vast majority of capitalist decision-making today) is clearly psychopathic.
- Decision-making systems which are euphemistically called “benefits determinations”, almost entirely driven by financial and political criteria. For example, reducing the number of SSI beneficiaries by any means that is politically palatable, are broadly and (apparently) invisibly psychopathic.
Now, most of this will seem pretty ordinary to any adult living in America. But my point is not that such decision-making exists (it always has), but that the ratio of such psychopathic decisions to socially just decisions is increasingly favoring the psychopathic. It is a deep trend of the Macro-CAS.
Also, this process is deeply fractal. It isn’t only big decisions in large social, governmental, or commercial systems that drives this expansion of functional psychopathy (though we tend to focus our advocacy for a return to social justice on these systems). It includes decisions made by individuals, families, and social groups that brand others as not worthy of consideration as living beings, that support the increase. This psychopathic decision-making can and does impact anyone within reach of the decision-maker. It can include family members as well as those people that are clearly viewed as “other”.
The purpose of such decision-making is exploitation. Most actual psychopaths view their decision-making as rational and obvious, and functional psychopathy has internalized this perception as well.
No single victory against some psychopathic disposition (say, the Flint Water catastrophe) will alter this dynamic. And, although there are certainly differences between the impact of this trend on the various insurgencies and elite sub-communities, I don’t see any group or community or identity that is free from the impact of this process (including, for example, the children of our elites). If you have an enemy who you repeatedly demonize, you are participating in this trend.
One result of this functional psychopathic trend is that we are all (and I mean all) becoming more and more parasitic; that is, we view more and more of everyone and everything as a resource to be exploited for our own benefit regardless of what happens to the “resource”. Mostly, this is done without any particular awareness of the consequences. Social media, hate, bullying, and even humor, bureaucratic processes and rules for life and death decisions, all surveillance, any impulsive reaction to fear, and an incredibly wide range of other behaviors, are largely done without thought about the possible unintended consequences of our acts. This process has become a critical driver of the macro-CAS, mediated through the relentless fractal degradation of the belief that we need community.
The only personal and social defense against this trend is social justice inclusion, not as a policy or a rule or another way for us to demonize one another, but as a scaffold for our common decisions about how we wish to live together, and what it really means to commit to our common good.
(If you want a sense of where such a trend could eventually take subsystems of our Macro-CAS, read “Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields“.)
Part Seven: A Summary…