Republished from the original Sydney Media Jam blog.
“Sociopathic” basically means antisocial. What price, then, a society which is antisocial? There must have been societies in the past which turned against themselves, but it’s a matter of opinion whether any society has ever been as totally opposed to itself, and its own best interests, as this.
Comparing this society to the postwar society of the past, which if nothing else was glad the war was over, and looking forward to some peace, is a truly bizarre experience. The comparison is grotesque:
- Belief in a good future: In the 50s and 60s, everything was going to be wonderful by the year 2000.
- A firm belief in the rights of everybody, which sparked the basic tenets of civil rights, feminism, environmentalism and a much more inclusive society.
- Much stronger criticism and social inputs of the general public, largely through drastically improved education. These inputs acted as a further reinforcement, if somewhat patchy, to basic democracy.
- Excellent general health, brought about by science, research, and a properly equipped health sector with sane cost structures for treatments and medical management.
- Genuine prosperity, economic growth, and continuously improving standards of living.
- Improved opportunities for everybody, simply because the society was functioning well, despite the distractions.
- A relatively harmless crime environment, perhaps nasty, but not prevalent.
- Lower levels of corruption, caused by better management and proper oversight.
You’ll notice that this view of the society doesn’t include events and factors like the Cold War, political assassinations, etc. Those issues were very important, but the society as a whole was healthy enough to fight them and deal with them to the point they didn’t impede social wellbeing.
OK, so how did society become sociopathic?
As far as I can tell, from extensive reading of history from Ssuma Chien and Herodotus to contemporary history, the sociopathic element is always present in all societies. Its influence comes and goes, according to historical events, social groupings, and in many cases economic factors.
Sociopathic elements are generally not very influential in healthy societies, which can resist and even negate their influences effectively. The sociopaths are sidelined by crises, major forms of social and technological progress, and new ideas of all kinds. In crises, the competent take over, so the sociopaths and their irrational behaviours are irrelevant to managing these issues. Social progress simply bulldozes the sociopaths, who usually don’t know how to interpret, let alone manage, that progress. Technological progress, particularly fast progress, requires learning, and the sociopaths can’t interfere until they’ve learned how.
Economically, however, the story is a bit different. The sociopaths, like everyone else in the society, benefit from prosperity. The problem is that as they accumulate wealth, they also accumulate economic power. In what can only be called an unkind habit of history, this is when the sociopaths arise as a factor in derailing societies.
The sociopathic idiom
Sociopaths are unusual in a way which also tends to bring them together. Unlike normal people, they effectively build sociopathic social structures, like societies for the dismantling of societies, as political parties. If this seems a bit unimaginative, not to say misanthropic, that’s what sociopathy is all about.
The logic is strange enough:
- There’s a “we” who are superior to everyone else. This is what might be called bogus child psychology, rewarding oneself with a fake, promotional image. Most liars, con men, and politicians are very good at it.
- Devaluing everyone else adds status to the sociopaths, who tend to be underachievers on just about every personal and professional level, and need to compensate.
- Doing actual injury to others in any range of forms proves power and status, reinforcing the “we are superior” motif and adding more compensation.
- Because politics is largely fictional in terms of everything including its own ideologies, fiction becomes a tool for advancement. Enemies are fabricated, for example, to create threats which the sociopaths then “cure” by more extreme forms of political position.
- Other rewards, notably money, and lots of it, also follow, proving the rightness and moral virtues of being sociopathic.
These are the basics. The problem with sociopathic behaviour is that it never seems to reduce in scale. The next move must be more dramatic, more rewarding to the ego, and of course profitable. New enemies are fabricated, new issues become proof of the sociopaths’ infallibility, etc.
You may well ask:
- Don’t they see the mistakes? No. Even the word “mistake” undermines the theory of superiority, which is out of the question.
- Don’t they see the damage? No. It wouldn’t matter if they did. The sociopaths exist in a thematic bubble, in which damage is their weapon against their enemies.
- Why are sociopathic societies always authoritarian? Because the authoritarian structure gives the sociopaths added status. You can be Grand Marshal of the Sewers, for example. The fact that authoritarian societies are invariably sociopathic and invariably fail, usually miserably and at horrendous human cost, isn’t an issue, either.
- What’s the prognosis for a sociopathic society? Failure, caused by total incompetence. Failing to understand real issues, and lacking even the basic skills to deal with issues, the sociopathic society cannot manage the issues at all. Every move, without exception, will be the wrong move, until collapse.
- What happens to people in a sociopathic society? Nothing good, for sure. A range of negatives, from difficulties simply living to a virtual horror story of oppression, neglect, and in many cases, drastically increased risks through various mechanisms of sociopathic societies, from fight clubs to stormtroopers, death squads, etc.
All these patterns are pretty well known, but not usually considered as being what they are, sociopathic. History and contemporary thinking often make the basic mistake of believing sociopaths to be rational, or assessing them on a rational basis. They aren’t, and can’t be rational, on any level, because the personal and group psychoses simply can’t permit rational thinking.
Rational thought, in fact, is the antithesis, of sociopathic logic. Where you may see a future, the sociopaths see an enemy, quite literally a gun pointed at them, and firing. Where you find something interesting, they find it a threat. Even logic, a skill sociopaths invariably lack, particularly multi-step logic, is a danger to them. Other people are enemies by definition. The logic of the sociopath is to fight these other people, and do as much damage as possible.
So – Are sociopathic societies insane?
Only to the extent that the sociopaths can penetrate it, and there is a limit. A huge irony of sociopathic societies is that the sociopaths exclude themselves from the real society. They need nominal enemies and fictional foes to vanquish. The reward system is so primitive it can’t function otherwise.
Remember that sanity is a very convenient, easily misused and abused, term. It’s nothing if not untrustworthy, in many cases. One of the less well defined expressions of a human state of mind, it presumes a rationale. Sociopaths do have a rationale, irrational as it may be to others. Their logic, based on their mindset and perceptions as sane logic is supposed to be, is sane, according to their values. You see why sanity is such a mixed blessing as a description of any human behaviour.
The fact that their sanity rarely if ever has anything at all to do with objective reality, of course, isn’t an issue for them. Like Humpty Dumpty, everything means what they say it means, and if an omelette is the result, it proves them right. Everything, in fact, proves them right. Call that sanity?
Sociopathic societies destroy themselves, usually completely. The good news is that sociopathic societies are inevitably replaced by a non-sociopathic cleanup crew. The behaviours which caused the problems can’t be used to clean them up. The problem is that the totally unnecessary digressions from social advancement which sociopaths cause can go on for decades. It’s an expensive hobby humanity should learn to avoid.
NOTE: Sydney Media Jam.com is no longer operational. This site will be taking over its role.