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Updated 21 Mar 2010

ACTION ALERTS: From 28 Aug 2008

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"The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout and "The Lucifer Effect" by Philip Zimbardo added substantially to understanding how the sociopath can hijack or co-opt people of otherwise helpful movements for no good ends. Specifically on why and how George Bush came to be what he is, see: Bush on The Couch. For the longer term, derived from history and projections for how to proceed, see Walter Russell Mead. Edward O Wilson provides critical information on how deep-seated our behavior is, and how it came to be. We were stunned to learn how much of our behavior is shared by ants, Wilson's original interest. The consilience of nature is even more vast than we ever imagined.

Whether sociopaths are just the extreme tail of a genetic trait, missing something genetically, a result of evolution itself, an effect of aberrant nurturing, or a combination, only science over time can figure out. Sooner or later, that understanding will come.

How authoritarians create and corrupt systems is now well documented by Adorno et. al., Milgram, Lederer, Zimbardo, Altemeyer, Babiak and Hare, Frank, Shulman, and many others. Being hierarchical, authoritarians create hierarchical systems. Then if they happen to be the top dogs, they can legitimize their own behavior, any behavior at all. Behaviors legitimized for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo were merely replications of historical practices--The Inquisition, Witch Hunts, The Holocaust. (Psychologically, they were projections of self-images: Those of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney.) History has shown and will continue to show these behaviors do not work.

How did that happen?
  • Some did not read their history.
  • The top dogs selectively read the narrow views of history celebrating empire, war, and dictatorship.
  • The very top dog was indeed psychopathic as Justin Frank wrote in his penetrating book, Bush On The Couch.

Corrupt systems operate on both sides of the terror coin. The existence of one corrupt system does not legitimize another in response.

The relative values of the individual and the system (group) are now in sharp relief, if we dare to look. The issue is ripe for universal dialogue. We can only hope that the human race will be up to the challenge of remaking societies reflecting its best features, and where our biosphere becomes a Garden of Eden, a Nirvana, or similar metaphor.

Educating ourselves is the first challenge. Doing something about it is the second one. Anyone up for some grass-roots action?.

The best ideas on earth remain sterile until fertilized and grown by a movement.



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