Monday, August 07, 2006

Hope... or Hate?

Whew! I really haven’t spent a lot of time on the web; I had not realized what kind of essays are being posted with the implication that they are reasoned responses to the world situation. There was a very frightening blog/essay on the Signs of the Times website, one that made me think of witch hunts, heretic burnings and mob lynchings…

It seems to be an attempt to distance the author (and “us good guys”) from a group of people that he wants to de-humanize. “What if the evil we see around us in the world is not born from human nature?“ Henry See writes. “once you have studied… a psychopath's methods and means of manipulation, once you have understood the individual psychopath and have traced its [emphasis mine] predation as the most successful ones move into positions of power in the law, politics, business, the police and the military…” Granted, these are not nice people -- psychopaths -- but to call them non-humans, and to use the pronoun “it” in referring to a psychopath, put us on the very same path as the psychopath has travelled to get to his/her disconnected, uncaring perspective that others are “things” to be manipulated and/or exterminated. If we call those who act in a way that suggests they have no conscience “non-humans”, as the author did, and specifically state that “we humans” are not and would never be capable of the actions of these “things”, as the author did, we are falling into one of the oldest traps of human psychology, that of projecting all of our evil onto another.

I am not in any way defending the actions or the perceptions of psychopaths or sociopaths (I have met several in my work as therapist; they are not pleasant to be around), but I am appalled that someone who calls himself human would so callously demonize another human just in order to state that he and “us good guys” are free from the kind of evil capacity that “psychopaths” are capable of. And, as is obvious in the essay, he has widely branded many, many people as “psychopaths” with no clinical proof. No, despite his "hope", we are not so easily able to say we would never, ever, do evil to another person -- none of us can guarantee that our minds will always be sane or clear, or that a huge grief or rage would never, ever seize us and cause us to do outrageous things. Yes, there are people who we have learned will do these things repeatedly, but they are of the same human species as we are, and no one has yet found a clear, indisputable cause for their actions. There is a case to be made that there is some biologic elements, but it is a huge leap from there to “non-human”! There is also much evidence that deviant behavior is learned, that psychopaths were not born with their behavior. There is evidence that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can bring about such behavior -- which means any of us could end up acting as they do, after a certain kind of injury.

The fact that Henry See’s essay is entitled “Hope” makes it even scarier… because his hope seems to come from the possibility of “eradicating” these people, so that “humans” can live happily ever after… this is scary stuff… does anyone hear echoes of Nazi Germany’s “final solution?” Who gets to have the life/death decision in this process of first “isolation of such individuals” and then…?

I understand how frustrated and helpless many people feel right now, in the face of all this violence and runaway greed, but the last thing we need is to herd a group of people -- any group of people -- into some ghetto or to brand them as “other”. Until we learned we are all connected, on a very deep level, this kind of greed and violence will continue.

I hate to publicize his work, but in fairness since I criticized it, here is the link: You can tell me if I'm overreacting...

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