Dave's Progress. Chapter 125: Do Psychopaths Run the World?

In a new book by the journalist Jon Ronson, entitled "The Psychopath Test", the author goes on an odyssey through the "madness industry". Through various leads, he discovers a psychiatrist who believes that many leading CEOs and politicians may be psychopaths. So, he then goes on a journey through the corridors of power, seeking proof for this thesis.
Psychopathy, also referred to as anti-social personality disorder, is perhaps the most derided and feared of mental health diagnoses. In this case, though, it has to be said, perhaps with good reason. People who have this condition are said to lack conscience over their actions, are emotionally shallow and glib, have a tendency to lie, and can be violent. The thought, then, that such people might actually be governing our world in some capacity is a scary one.
However, is it really that surprising? To my mind, "our world", as it were, particularly in the West of advanced capitalism, is perhaps entirely suited to the mindset of the psychopath. In a world of the survival of the fittest, indeed, of a sort of social Darwinism, and also media shallowness, is it any surprise that those who are able to lie, manipulate, are excessively risk-taking, lack empathy, emotion and conscience, rise to the top of the pile?
Indeed, with the coming of Thatcherism and Reaganomics in the 1980s, and the ruthless hedonism which, to many, that represented, I believe society became just that little bit nastier. This was reflected in many artistic works of the time, which appeared to link this new ethos to psychopathy. Works such as Brett Easton Ellis's "American Psycho", Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" and Mike Leigh's "Naked", all had characters who displayed, despite being well-off, an astonishing cultural and moral vacuity and tendencies to violence. The main character in "American Psycho", for example, whilst maintaining a high-flying job in finance, also happened to be a serial killing, misogynistic psychopath with shallow tastes and emotions. You could say he was the ultimate hollow man for the ultimate hollow decade.

 Poster for the film of Brett Easton Ellis's "American Psycho", starring Christian Bale as the high-flying psychopath Patrick Bateman.

But, such satire aside, are there examples of such behaviour in real life? Well, I can recall only too well the Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken's remarks that he would fight allegations made against him "with the simple sword of truth". As it turned out, Mr. Aitken was lying through his teeth and then served time in prison for his indiscretions. The politician's ability to lie without compunction is one sign of psychopathy. Perhaps, also, our recent economic collapse could be put down to excessive risk-taking on behalf of the bankers, risky and reckless behaviour also being a sign of psychopathy. And one only has to watch an episode of "The Apprentice" to find your fair share of bullies, egotists and ruthless manipulators.
So, "socialised" psychopathy may have become the condition of normality in "our world". Which sort of begs the question- isn't it time to reassess what we feel is "normal". Only in my last post I wrote of how some regard schizophrenia as an entirely "normal" response to trauma. And yet, those with the disorder remain socially excluded, feared, vilified and stigmatized, while those who are decidedly anti-social could be amongst the most powerful among us.
Anyway, just as a bit of fun, below are 18 questions which are supposed to reveal whether you or someone you know is a "socialised" psychopath. If you answer "yes" to many of these questions, the person in question may have psychopathic tendencies. The questions are as follows:
1. Do they have problems sustaining stable relationships, personally and in business?
2. Do they frequently manipulate others to achieve selfish goals, with no consideration of the effects on those manipulated?
3. Are they cavalier about the truth, and capable of telling lies to your face?
4. Do they have an air of self-importance, regardless of their true standing in society?
5. Have they no apparent sense of remorse, shame or guilt?
6. Is their charm superficial, and capable of being switched on to suit immediate ends?
7. Are they easily bored and demand constant stimulation?
8. Are their displays of human emotion unconvincing?
9. Do they enjoy taking risks, and acting on reckless impulse?
10. Are they quick to blame others for their mistakes?
11. As teenagers, did they resent authority, play truant and/or steal?
12. Do they have no qualms about sponging off others?
13. Are they quick to lose their temper?
14. Are they sexually promiscuous?
15. Do they have a belligerent, bullying manner?
16. Are they unrealistic about their long-term aims?
17. Do they lack any ability to empathise with others?
18. Would you regard them as essentially irresponsible?
Recognise anyone? Take care, now.


bazza said…
Good Lord! That list almost defines politicians. Also film stars, CEOs and many people one knows.
I can see it all so clearly now. Fascinating post David!
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Dear bazza,
Yes, it is all rather worrying.
I first heard of Jon Ronson's book on BBC2's "Culture Show" and myself found it a fascinating idea. And, yes, that list does seem to define the nature of many of the so-called great and good.
I have ordered a copy of Ronson's book and it will be extremely intrigueing to see what he found.
Thanks for the comment, bazza.
Yours with all the best,
The Manic Chef said…
My dear fellow blogger David, you do write articles to 'kick start' the mind into action. I would have to state that I agree most Politicians do fall into this category. And your list instantly brings into mind B. Obama, Clinton, Bush1&2, Reagan he was an actor, LBJ, Nixon, the list goes on and on. Now this list also pertains to some of my family members, particularly one. Life as we know it is NUTS! Later...
dcrelief said…
Hi David ~ and OMG!!
I may have to move, but to where??
Great post!
David said…
Dear Manic Chef,
I would definitely agree with you about many politicians. The way politics has become more of a game of PR seems to me also to play into the hands of people who have psychopathic qualities.
Anyway, thanks, once again, for commenting.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Dixie,
Yes, be afraid, be very afraid. They could be everywhere!
Seriously, though, Dixie, I hope that you are not too alarmed. I just thought this was a very interesting idea and it was not my intention to start people panicking.
That said, I could just be lying and my secret intention is to take over blog-land and then the world, laughing hysterically and muttering to myself as I go. After all, you never really know, do you?
Take care, now.
Yours sinisterly,
David, you raise valid issues with this post. I think politicians are manipulative, lying, power-hungry - just to lend a few adjectives to their personality traits. It almost seems I was raised in a different realm - my mother taught me faith, tolerance, empathy, compassion. She always told her children that one's life revolved around their generosity and kindness to others. As you say, it seems people live in a 'moral vacuum' nowadays. Many seem callous, hardened, unrepetant of any misdeeds. The world is changing, David. It's kind of scary, actually.

Great post,
David said…
Dear M.,
Yes, it does seem that the world is becoming, as I say, just that little bit nastier.
I think your Mother raised you in the "right" way, though, and I beleive that the values you mention are still shared by many- if not by those who govern us!
Thanks for commenting.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

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