TRUTH OR DARE? . . AND UNMASKING FEAR
Chicago. July 30, 2010. Recently Wikileaks has been all over the mainstream news, although the site had been known in other circles for quite a while now. Below is a TEDtalks interview with the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Last week the 22 year old U.S. Army PfC who leaked the papers on Afghanistan to the site was tracked down, exposed by another hacker. I dread to think the fate that will befall PfC Manning. While I can understand the security breach in this particular case, what about blowing the cover on the real truth behind war and politics and greed and business-ploys-disguised-as-wars and more so the thousands of lives of U.S soldiers and Afghan civilians who have died in vain?
I’ve always wondered why governments (be they eastern or western) and even people are often times so afraid of facing the truth. WikiLeaks had provided a safe outlet for whistleblowers for a while now, and that may no longer happen. The young Army whistleblower will learn how the world often doesn’t embrace truth with open arms and the messenger is usually shot. I know a former US marine who had fought in Operation Desert Storm and had spent 16 years in the Marines. He had joined it having been orphaned at an early age, and being very poor. The Marines was his way out. He had seen so much hypocrisy in the world that he confessed that now in his 40s he felt like a 100 year old man. How, as they were flying to Iraq back then, before even a single bullet was fired the marines were first told to surround the oil wells. How, as he tried to tell the truth about the real reasons for the war to news channels that later interviewed him, he found that truth had to be cloaked and even news channels he thought would like facts to be known did not wish blunt truth to be heard in case it enraged the ‘higher authorities.’ He’d described to me what shooting in a war truly felt like 20 years back – no Hollywood version – rather frightened 20-somethings blindly shooting in the enemy direction amidst low visibility caused by flying sand and gun fire smoke, knowing you can be killed any moment. Later he’d go on to become a private helicopter pilot. He and many of his former marine buddies still get together once a year and shed tears because the horrors of war and its hypocrisies had still not left them and they knew that their truths would never be heard in the world. He for one was incredibly pleased that WikiLeaks had exposed what truly goes on in the field. Either way the lives of the US soldiers are endangered, he said. From the moment they land into war zones. This did not increase it any more, rather it revealed the ugly truth that many soldiers battle with on their return even years after the war is over.
Whistleblowing is not easy – although people who have worked in big organizations know what goes on behind closed doors: Employees in planning offices who know where tax dollars really go, or why forests are bulldozed to encourage cookie-cutter suburban settlements (often as simple as the fact that bad planners do not care to use GIS maps to see forest locations nor think outside the box to know that houses can be laid out to encompass the woods rather than clear cutting them and the fact that developers pay campaign money to the politicians who vote on the project); The huge amount of unfathomable money spent on marketing kitschy products for big corporations and the ruthlessness of many of those marketing managers, be they male or female – who care little for anything else except their own paychecks and possible promotions; The kickbacks and corruption occurring in even certain humanitarian or ‘international development’ agencies or their use of aid money which often doesn’t trickle down to the real victims; The hypocrisies of evangelist/catholic churches or even certain new-age schools (same bullshit, different building, bottom line chant/prayer: “Give ME your money, so I can tell you how to be happy without it! Reveal to me your ‘pain’ so I can feed off it and get paid while I’m at it!”); The true stories of power-hunger and cruelty of bosses with narcissistic personality disorders, borderline personality disorders (both consist of Machiavellain personality types, and a milder form of psychopathy) in the offices of dazzling ‘leaders’, be they political, financial, religious or even artistic; the stories on how war is a business-move for many countries as it promotes sales of goods – and a chilling story I myself heard about a business owner who would sell army helmets for both warring factions and therefore heavily bribed instigators of skirmishes and gave them cuts to encourage riots and clashes……The list goes on.
Perhaps only children are truly innocent – away from the muddy twisted ways of the adult world and perhaps it’s looking at the faces of their own innocent children that make many potential or capable whistleblowers maintain their silence, lest telling the truth for what it is unleashes the bullets – not against the truly corrupt that hold power – but on the messenger himself. Those who do it idealistically thinking ‘people care’ often find that mostly, people don’t care. After the initial furore of the news they settle down, complacantly happy shopping at the big box store (that has razed the local forest), investing in the 401(k) which might contain shares of BP oil, dining in the restaurants that uses meat from some ruthless slaughterhouse, wearing clothes made by child sweatshop workers….and then watching some ‘reality’ or other tv show or computer game and forgetting about their woes and the world’s realities. This is just an observation, not a value-judgment. People have to exist, to live, to look after their children and with the intricate network of connvulated practices of various systems of production and consumption that exist in the world, what other way is there? Either becoming an ascetic or a hermit or a self-sustaining hippie? In other words a pure escapist? Or at most, becoming aware of the many aspects of reality in the world and making conscious choices or asking questions on to what extent do we continue endorsing our ‘age of excess’? We have all become part of the system no matter how much we rant about it. Perhaps that is why sometimes seeing the courage of those who do dare to reveal the true facts of the world bring that sparkle in our eyes – for they have dared, where many have chosen apathy. Like sports fans vicariously live through their favourite athletes, the average, relatively good-hearted person who desires justice and truth lives for a moment vicariously through the whistleblower wishing he/she had had the courage to do that and face the aftermath.
I have included here his Ted Talk interview
Earlier this year I’d seen a touching film on the whistleblower who changed the course of the Vietnam war – Daniel Ellsberg’s story (The most dangerous man in America – Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.) I saw this week the movie ‘The Yes Men Fix the World‘ which was released on bit-torrent last week, though the actual film is a year old. It is a one-of-a-kind film, sort of a ‘comedic vigilante justice.’ Two real -life professors who literally masquarade as big company/political executives to impart hypothetical acts of justice and ethics. Or at most, draw attention to horrendous acts of gross injustice committed in the world, ranging from the Bhopal Gas tragedy to the sneaky ‘housing’ mismanagement post-Katrina in New Orleans to unethical practices committed by Exxon Mobil amidst others. And their hoaxes are not small – they are huge, at one instance, speaking out to 300 million viewers through the BBC, while pretending to be Dow executives apologetic about the Bhopal disaster and finally paying the compensation packages.
What is always interesting though, is that after every hoax is revealed, the media resorts once again in shooting the messengers, rather than acknowledging that – true, this is what Dow SHOULD be doing, or this is how things SHOULD be managed in New Orleans, if the interests of the people are truly taken into consideration. The actual sufferers be they in Bhopal or New Orleans were in fact rather pleased that the Yes Men’s spoof had highlighted at least a hypothetical act of justice. (The ‘strangling’ scene in the trailer is an act for the trailer – the women go on to speak how glad they were at the Yes Men’s spoof.) The film also interviews high level finance cads, revealing the immense greed and twisted extreme-money-driven business structures we do live in.
The final scene of the movie is like a practical application of John Lennon’s wistful song ‘Imagine.’ It is a hoax done on an exceptionally grand scale, fooling the residents of New York City, and yet for a short period of time, it is heartening to see the smiles on people’s faces to see a world filled with justice, peace and love – the way it would be in a Utopian dream. If nothing at all, the Yes Men were able to bring that smile on the faces of thousands of city folks who for once didn’t have to wake up to the usual turbulent news that persist in reality. Yes, perhaps they were being male ‘Amelies’ in some ways (Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain) on a much, much larger scale, but for brief moments they had shown a glimpse of dreams becoming ‘reality’.
A must-see film. It is available online and is distributed by bit-torrent. You can watch it here: http://vodo.net/yesmen Or, it won’t be long before the film becomes viral and might be available on other sites too. Although they have won numerous awards in film festivals, its makers do it for getting the truth out, not for the money, so they don’t care if its available free.
I have to confess objectively though that even though initially people might think that extreme socialism is good, in truth healthy, truly ethical capitalism (the key word being ‘healthy’ and ‘ethical’) is a better option as communist and other totalitarian regimes have revealed through history that once its leaders become power-hungry, the atrocities committed are far worse and horrific than those seen in any democratic, capitalist country. (Or the capitalist/socialist blends like Canada & Australia which work well.) Greed, power-plays occur in both arenas – be it extreme capitalism or communism. The truth is that without financial transparency, personal freedom and a good balance of ethics, practicality and above all justice (whether it is being just to the inventors/ the intelligent or talented to be recognized for their skills or it is being just to all citizens equally to have their human rights, standard of living, freedom and so forth be maintained at a good healthy level ), governments based on false ideologies, lies and lusts for greed and power – are bound to be unhealthy. The truth is that sadly, the choices of governements we have in the world are quite simply between : the ‘lesser evil’ and the ‘greater evil.’ Or if you are wealthy enough and enjoy solitude – to buy your own little island or a vast wooded hillside and live off the grid. (Mmm. That’s a wistful dream for me…..except I don’t have that much wealth to buy. So – back to reality. sigh.)
AND UNMASKING FEAR
So if we ask ourselves ‘Why?’ – why do we live in a world or in political, social, academic, business systems where truth is concealed, injustices prevail and truth seekers punished, or why those with an insatiable greed for power who do not seem to follow any rational ethics are often so invincible – the answers at the end boil down truly to the functioning of human minds and emotions. And at the end boils down to the Machiavellian people who are often found in positions of power in various political, financial, religious systems.
Two years back in late July I was attacked on the street by a stranger, an alcoholic serial disturbance-maker who it seems even at the time of the attack was violating his parole order, as I found out later from the police. He was trying to force his way into my apartment building on the pretext of his ‘lost’ cat in response to a series of ‘found cat’ flyers I had naively posted on my quiet Canadian residential street, completely ignorant just how stupid a move this can be to attract predators. Some day I will write a separate post about it to highlight what measures women should take on seemingly safe streets because predators can strike anytime, anywhere. I used to be so over-confident before this incident, it was a humbling though frightening experience on how women are still not safe and can any time become victims even in seemingly safe, quiet North American residential streets. Having traveled around certain far more dangerous countries of the world, I’d become complacent and over-confident of the safety in first world countries.
I was comparatively lucky as I escaped with only a crushing fist blow to my face while trying to defend myself – a hard one that made my lips and gums bleed and left my face swollen for a week, and thankfully since a witness rushed to my rescue on the street outside my apartment and dialed 911, the police came on the scene and the man was later convicted. It seems I had not been his first victim and he had sexually harassed and attacked other women too on the streets but had escaped each time, but I’d become the first who was able to provide sufficient proof by sketching his face and describing him in detail later to the police along with other factual details and gone through with the trial – something I dreaded but had to, since the Crown (state) was defending me. The detective on the case was also relentless and told me that if I was not strong enough to go through the trial, this predator would be left back on the streets to endanger other women in the future. The attacker it seemed had a violent side, enhanced more when he got drunk, as in the cover of daylight this middle-aged man held the guise of a ‘cultured artist’! He had been previously arrested for a drunken fight with a man but his violent attacks on women had hitherto avoided trial due to insufficient proof. Besides the witness had luckily seen the man from down the street hitting my face and had confronted him trying to hold him before he escaped, so his statement to the police helped. What was most disturbing to me however was that the man had used my own kindness against me and the fact that I was putting up posters for a cat I’d found had turned against my own safety as his ‘approach’ had been to claim it was his cat (which it wasn’t) to try and get access to whatever crime he intended. Which meant that even while drunk he knew how to be cunning! Thankfully I was so much luckier as so many far more horrible acts of violence are committed against women every day and many are not lucky to escape.
The incident was a turning point for me to finally read up on psychology and try to understand what the ‘psychopath’ mind was. I cannot speak for others but I’ve noticed that architects and engineers are often extremely reluctant to read about psychology as we find it rather boring. Until this incident, I certainly did find it boring and never really bothered ‘figuring out’ people – even though I had been attacked twice before but didn’t let the incidents affect me. This time, instead of getting afraid, I thought it’s better to educate oneself and not be so naive about those wearing masks of ‘normalcy’ – be they street attackers, or seemingly ‘nice, charming’ folks who hide sinister sides beneath. While male psychopathy is exhibited in openly criminal behaviours, female psychopathy can be in the form of women displaying NPD and BPD. The devastation and insidious damage they do in relations and even in work places is not much different from ‘soul-rape’. I sometimes think that male psychopaths ‘hone’ their skills by torturing animals in their younger days before moving on to human victims. And female psychopaths ‘hone’ their skills by being the ‘mean girls/bullies’ to the kinder girls in high school before going on to wreak havoc in the lives of their future boyfriends/husbands with chilling emotional and mental bullying that leave many a kind-hearted man excavated emotionally and financially. In either case the chilling lack of empathy is the common point in both. Case to point – when recent bullying victim Phoebe Prince killed herself after months of isolation and torture, one of the chief girl bullies chillingly placed the word ‘Accomplished’ on her facebook page. Lack of empathy? You betcha!
So after my attack I read up a few books to understand how the minds of sociopaths work, and for some reason, I like looking at concrete facts far more than psycho-analytical hypotheses. Academic books on mental health helped much more and also reading up on case studies. But the book I found most enlightening, that a neuroscientist gave me, was written by a woman medical engineer Dr. Barbara Oakley titledEvil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole my Mother’s Boyfriend. Although this is based on newer research, the book is an utterly fascinating read as it shows the brain scans of psychopathic minds along with many case studies of the ‘successfully sinister.’ It also combines research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, evolution, neuroscience and psychiatry that reveal how ‘double-faced’ minds work, but is written in an easy-to-read style, more like non-fiction rather than a scientific journal. Throughout evolutionary history, and especially during the time of empires and kingdoms, the more cruel/powerful men and the more manipulative women had better chances of producing a greater number of children. The tyrant warrior Genghis Khan for instance is known to have fathered the maximum number of children in the world. And if we view this simply from ‘humans as a species’ where the reproductive drive for progeny was evolutionarily ingrained in the majority, we can logically see how the assertive, the cruel, the more ruthless and the crafty were indeed able to reproduce far more throughout early history if even for sheer propagation of their ‘seed’ (whether they knew it for not) either by force or by instinct. Nature, nurture and numerous other factors certainly came into play. But the cruel/unempathetic/apathetic amongst us are in larger numbers than we might care to admit, though of course not all turn into killers or attackers – and these percentages are certainly low. The book covers not just the profiles of megalomaniac leaders and duplicitous financial organizations, it even covers the omnipresent ‘attention-seekers’ we see sometimes in showbiz, the power hungry narcissists we see even in academic and social-work settings and then gets closer to home when she analyses the minds of men and women like her own sister who showed an alarming lack of empathy and narcissism as seen in the condition called BPD. (It is important to note that not all BPD sufferers faced actual trauma in early life, though some certainly have. Many simply have a personality problem that makes them experts at manipulating, lying and wreaking havoc in the lives of their close ones – usually kind-hearted individuals who have a tendency to ‘rescue’ or ‘fix’ and fall for the ‘professional victim’ alternated with the bullying stance Machiavellians take. I am reticent to even mention the abbreviation, because sufferers of the disorder are often online and relentlessly blast and personally attack anyone who writes the truth of the condition. Even therapists and Oakley herself was not spared.)
On a personal level, my first boyfriend was a brilliant young university professor but clinically diagnosed with BPD on the NPD continuum. I had been ignorant and stupid enough to not have read up on this, having been merely told that he was ‘slightly bipolar.’ (‘Let me solve your problem’-quasi-Aspie-types like myself are incredibly susceptible to being extracted by borderlines – both male and female. You’ll be surprised how so many geeky engineers and kind, talented giving people attract Cluster Bs like honey due to their eager-to-help ‘fix-it’ tendencies, which in itself should be fixed to stop from falling as easy BP prey.) No matter how much kindness and understanding I tried to pour in, along with all-my-‘first love’-naivete, the lack of empathy he showed on many occasions and the constant changing of moods once he’d won me over, as well as the ‘mask-to-the-world’ vs. the ‘reality-in-private’ was very hard to figure out, until I read about the condition years later. It was as though light bulbs of comprehension lit up finally. I used to be very private, never talking of this neither to friends nor family – let alone online, mellowed as I was with an over-extreme ‘see-the-half-full-glass’ attitude and parents who taught me only to look at the brighter side of things without complaining, but now am comfortable stating the 360-degree version of truth for what it was without editing out its dark and painful sides, since reading online stories of other people who suffered relations with partners with BPD and NPD helped me too.
I think (and Dr. Tara Palmatier from Shrink for Men who has years of clinical experience and is a fresh breath of rationality has often reiterated) that unfortunately many therapists/books for the past several decades have resorted to asking sane or non-BPs (i.e. non-borderline persons) to be extremely kind and patient to their BPD partners thereby acting as servile ‘enablers’ to borderline/narcissistic/histrionic/sociopathic bad behaviours, rather than calling them out on their lack of empathy and remorse for what it is – incurable and chilling. And this ‘bad behaviour’ applies to both male and female partners – considering that plenty of women out there can be as abusive as men, except it’s ‘politically incorrect’ to speak up on this. In my case the BP was an emotionally unstable man, but most often BPs are women. This boyfriend came from a suicidal family, had a disturbed-though-highly-educated mother and exhibited a lot of the traits that come with this condition of BPD (i.e. rapid mood swings, quick idealisation-devaluation of their close ones, a fractured sense of self, extreme rage fits over inconsequential matters etc.) In men, this is often misdiagnosed as bipolar, but bipolar disorder can be checked by medication, ‘borderline’ is quite something else. He was not an extreme case though, certainly not criminal, rather quite talented and intelligent in his work and our good times were fun – like the highs of a roller coaster. He was able to overcome quite a few of his personality problems later in life through therapy. But the ‘gaslighting‘ and the chilling lack of empathy along with the roller-coaster mood swings remained, as one of our common friends, a doctor, ascertained years later; though it seems he had been able to control his destructive rages. It was an intense, turbulent 14 months for me – which I later found out was usually the ‘normal’ time for relations with BPD people as the non-BP partner takes upto 15 to 18 months (and in some cases, upto 8 to 13 years if one of their parents also had BPD) before they draw boundaries and defenses, and not allow further eroding by the BP. (My next relation thankfully was healthy, peaceful and sane, with a like-natured person as myself, and lasted for many years and we still remain friends with mutual respect and goodwill; and his mother still remains one of the most inspirational women I have met.) But it took me a while to logically understand the psychology of borderline/narcissistic people and that first boyfriend. Apparently throughout history many painters, writers and entertainers have also exhibited clinical borderline/narcissistic traits. The condition does not inhibit talent or intelligence but makes its sufferers extremely manipulative, attention-craving, unstable and have a black-white way of thinking.
Now, you can leave a relation with a man/woman you have known on a personal level displaying mentally unstable traits but not all-out ‘evil’, rather with mood-and-empathy-and-reality-regulation problems. You can be lucky to live in a country where a stranger psychopath displaying true sociopathic behaviour and attacking you on the street can be taken care of by the judicial and security system set up by the country and a good samaritan who you are incredibly lucky to have come up on the scene of the attack. But what do you do if you have to work for a mentally disturbed person wearing a mask of charm and sanity? Or be governed by one? Or are related to one? Or have to cope with in seemingly ‘normal’ bureaucratic/educational/social/religious systems? Or wonder how genocides in some African nations still continue, financial embezzlements have become the North American crime-du-jour, or in Iran clerics can actually endorse stoning a woman to death and crowds actually participate in this murder?! And in all cases, the perpetrators of crimes walk away with no accountability. That’s where Oakley’s book is very enlightening.
Barbara Oakley has been dubbed a female Indiana Jones — her writing combines worldwide adventure with solid research expertise. Among other adventures, she has worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers in the Bering Sea, served as radio operator at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, and risen from private to regular army captain in the U.S. Army. Currently an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the world’s largest bioengineering society and holds a doctorate in the integrative discipline of systems engineering. Oakley incorporates sociology, psychology, anthropology and biology in her analysis in her book ‘Evil Genes’
As a peer reviewer and author Cliff Pickover has written on Oakley’s book: “A magnificent tour through the sociology, psychology, and biology of evil. No one should pass up the experience of stepping through the portals of this fascinating book to answer Oakley’s crucial question: Why are there evil people, and why are they sometimes so successful?”
For a small dekko, I’ve decided to place here an excerpt from the last chapter of Evil Genes:
‘The Sun Also Shines on the Wicked’
Note: The term Machiavellian used here as per Oakley’s definition at the glossary of the book is as follows:
*Machiavellian = A person who is charming on the surface, a genius at sucking up to power, but capable of mind-boggling acts of deceit for control or personal gain. Ultimately a Machiavellian, as the term is used throughout in Evil Genes, is a person whose narcissism combines with subtle cognitive and emotional disturbances in such a fashion as to make him believe that achieving his own desires, and his alone, is a genuinely beneficial – even altruistic – activity. Since the Machiavellian gives more emotional weight to his own importance than to that of anyone or anything else, achieving the growth of his preeminence by any means possible is always justified in his own mind. The subtle cognitive and emotional disturbances of Machiavellians mean they can make judgments that dispassionate observers would regard as unfair or irrational. At the same time, however, the Machiavellian’s unusual ability to charm, manipulate, and threaten can coerce others into ignoring their conscience and treading a darker path. A synonym is successfully sinister.
“Who are the successfully sinister?
Before Hitler’s seizure of power, psychiatrist Ernst Kretscmer remarked: “In normal times we diagnose them; in disturbed times they govern us.”[i] In my reading, however, Krestschmer’s quip misses the mark in a number of crucially important ways.
Rather than being diagnosed “in normal times,” it appears that most people who interact with the successfully sinister, even trained psychologists and psychiatrists, have no idea with whom they’re dealing – not unless these analysts are given twenty-twenty hindsight clues such as a dead body or unexplained missing millions from a company’s accounts. A charming, highly successful lawyer for example, who beats and abuses his wife and children can almost literally get away with murder without being caught.[ii] A major company like Enron can run a flagrant Ponzi scheme where dozens of insiders are in a position to know something seriously strange is going on – and still no one says a word publicly.[iii] Pedophile priests in the Catholic Church can be responsible for the rape of tens of thousands of children, and the church hierarchy not only manages to keep the offenses hidden but knowingly moves the priest to new parishes, where fresh prey await.[iv] Key members of the United Nations can literally be in “Complicity with Evil” as described in Adam LeBor’s meticulously researched book of that name, in the commission of genocide after genocide. And yet those who allowed these disgracefully corrupt and malign episodes to proceed are granted a golden retirement with plaudits.[v] And individuals like Mao not only kill tens of millions but are worshiped in godlike fashion and touted as countercultural icons. Incidental death totals equivalent to a dozen or more Nazi Holocausts are minimized or tucked away from public discussion.
No, rather than being diagnosed, per Kretschmer’s quip, highly successful Machiavellians* appear to lurk in every human population. Whether their extraordinary ability to stack any deck in their favor, their relentless need for control, and their self-serving ruthlessness, those with at least a modicum of talent, looks, and assertiveness are more likely to be found in positions of power. This means the closer you climb toward the nexus of power in any given social structure, the more likely you’ll be able to find a person with Machiavellian tendencies. It really doesn’t matter what the underlying political system is – democratic, fascist, communist, or religious – or whether the social structure involves a company, university, schoolboard, religion, group, city council, state government, federal government or UN-style supragovernment; the larger the social structure and the bigger the payoff, the more Machiavellians eventually seem to find a way to creep to the top in numbers all out of proportion to their underlying percentage in society. Don’t forget the growing body of research literature that reveals how people selectively sort themselves into positions congenial to their personalities.[vi]
Machiavellians can have an incalculably restrictive, demoralizing, and corrupt effect on those in their sphere of influence. But what is worse is that Machiavellian behavior in a family, company, religious institution, school, union, or government unit – in fact, in virtually any social group – often seems to reach awe-inspiring proportions before anyone feels compelled to take solid action.[vii] Many people simply prefer to go about their everyday lives than take up a righteous cause; it is often much easier to simply ignore, evade, justify or silence the speech of anyone who does speak out than to constructively act against unsavory activities. Ordinary people’s emote control also means that sinister behavior can be seen as less important or – because of calcified beliefs about an ideology, institution, or person – even justifiable. Moreover the utter ruthlessness of some Machiavellians can mean that even the most sincere and altruistic keep quiet because of realistic concerns for themselves and their loved ones. Taking action against a Machiavellian is often a dangerous proposition, and no one takes on such a task lightly.[viii] (Friends in the know are often just being reasonable when they recommend cautious silence.) All of these factors serve to keep a stable sinister system intact, despite the fact that such a system is often less effective than other, more open systems. (Machiavellians in fact, often work behind the scenes to ensure their system is not put in a position of competing with other systems.)
Opaque organizations, systems, and ideologies that easily allow for underhanded interactions play to Machiavellians’ strong suit, allowing them to conceal their deceitful practices more easily. Idealistic systems such as communism and some religious or quasi-religious creeds are perfect for Machiavellians because they often lack checks and balances, or don’t use them.
When kindhearted people are unaware that a few leading individuals in “their group” are likely to be sinister, they are ripe for victimization. Their own kindness can be turned against them and others. Hitler’s greatest strength, for example, was his ability to appeal not only to the worst characteristic – hatred – but also to people’s best qualities – faith, hope, love and sacrifice. As with most Machiavellians, he was a master at turning people’s best traits against them. “He confided the secret of his approach to an intimate : ‘When I appeal……for sacrifice, the first spark is struck. The humbler the people are, the greater the craving to identify themselves with a cause bigger than themselves.’”[ix]
Such factors as political instability with no end in sight, worsening economic disaster, and rapid social changes have been pointed out as critical to the rise of the successfully sinister dictators such as Hitler. In reality, what these factors appear to do is merely allow the successfully sinister – always loitering near the top of every significant social structure – to not only gain ascendancy but also to rewrite the rules. As power is consolidated, the sycophantic cocoon that a leading Machiavellian is able to encase himself in can, it seems, reinforce his own narcissistic thought patterns. (as Ovid is said to have observed over two thousand years ago: “All things may corrupt when minds are prone to evil”)[x] In light of all this, it becomes clear that Kretschmer’s comment “in disturbed times they govern us” is true but misleading. Machiavellians are always present in every system that relates to power. It’s just that in times of troubles and in nontransparent systems, it’s easier for them to reach the pinnacle.
This is not to say that everyone at higher levels is Machiavellian. (One British study, for example, found that only one in six supervisors is thought by their subordinates to be a psychopath.)[xi] But certainly there appear to be high enough percentages of deeply Machiavellian individuals at powerful social levels to make for very different social interactions in that milieu. In such a high-powered setting, even if one is not deeply Machiavellian by nature, it is difficult to survive without using some Machiavellian strategies oneself.
The devious methods for success used by the sinister help explain why systems of ethics can at times be so surprisingly ineffectual and sometimes even counterproductive. Altruists who draw up rules and legislation to deter Machiavellian behavior are often surprised to find their policy turned on its head and used by Machiavellians for nefarious purposes…….”
[i] Redlich, Destrutive Prophet, p 334
[ii] Ann Rule, Dead by Sunset
[iii] Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools
[iv] David France, Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal, 2004
[v] Adam LeBor, Complicity with Evil, 2006
[vi] Carnahan and McFarland, Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment
[vii] Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, 1974
This behavior can’t help but evoke shades of psychologist Stanley Milgram’s work. In a classic set of experiments, Milgram revealed that many ordinary people will go to absurd lengths – even giving electric shocks to shocking screaming victims – in their blind tendency to obey authority. Perhaps this relates to Posner’s research involving people’s varying ability to resolve conflicting information and Wilson’s studies related to decision making and synchronized neural systems.
[viii] Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal Glazer, The Whistleblowers, 1989
[ix] Waite, Psychopathic God, p. 396
[x] Thomas Benfield Harbottle, Dictionary of Quotations, 1906, p. 198
[xi] Rita Carter, Mapping the Mind, 1998, p. 93
The book is available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Evil-Genes-Hitler-Mothers-Boyfriend/dp/159102580X.I for one wish I’d read this even earlier. It would have helped in understanding why evil exists and thrives so well in this world, and how too much trustful naivete, optimism in human sanity, and our own kindness can work against us.
And why even now, despite the truth often being exposed by whistleblowers like Ellsberg or Assange, many of the systems-of-power in the world prefer to shoot the messenger rather than acknowledge facts for what they are – cold hard truth. Perhaps those who are too cowardly to face the truth about their own dark selves but prefer wearing smiling masks before the world are afraid that the hard truth of their actions and their double standards will be exposed to the world? And their masks of sanity and charm removed? And for these hypocrites it is easier to punish the truth-teller rather than face their own Mr. Hydes (or Cruella d’Evilles).
It is a duty of self preservation for the truly kind and honest to not be made into sacrificial lambs nor pay the price for seeking justice. How do we do this? By gaining knowledge and deciphering the vile code of the successfully sinister. That, I believe, is the very first step. Knowledge, facts, wisdom. The first ‘how’ to answer the screaming ‘whys’ that resonate over the injustices, the crimes and concealments of truth that occur in the world. To remove the blindfold of Themis’ statue. And look straight up at naked Truth objectively. And without fear.