by Colin Todhunter
May 09, 2013
It is no measure of health
to be well adjusted to a profoundly
When attempting to analyze
what is happening in the world, it is important to
appreciate past economic, social and political processes
that led us to where we are today.
tectonic plates of history that led certain countries
towards fascism, communism or capitalist liberal
democracy, for example, is essential. (1) (2)
At the same time, however, it can become easy
for us to push aside the individual as we focus on theoretical perspectives
that refer to the ‘underlying logic of capitalism’ or some other notion that
draws heavily on theory.
It can get to the point where individual motive
or intent (agency) is airbrushed from the narrative because human action is
deemed to have been shaped by the dead weight of history or forces beyond
While not wishing to understate the role that such constraints have on human
action, I wish to draw attention to researcher Stefan Verstappen who
provides valuable insight into how individual agency has shaped and
continues to shape society. (3)
While Machiavellianism has long been associated with politics and public
conduct, Verstappen shifts focus somewhat by arguing that people with
psychopathic personalities have for thousands of years tended to grasp power
and impose their views and deeds on the rest of us.
In order to get power, he concludes that people
cheat, kill or lie their way to the top. Whether it has been due to the
butchery or lies of royalty, religious leaders, politicians or corporate
oligarchs, nice guys have tended to finish last.
What leads him to conclude this?
Psychopathy is a personality disorder
identified by characteristics such as a lack of empathy and remorse,
criminality, anti-social behaviour, egocentricity, superficial charm,
manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity and a parasitic lifestyle.
With that definition in mind, look around:
the criminal, parasitic activities by
bankers that have plunged millions into poverty
the destruction, war and death brought
to countries in order that corporations profit by stealing resources
the dropping of atom bombs on innocent
civilians in 1945 or the use of depleted uranium which again impacts
the many other acts, from the use of
death squads to false flag terror, that have brought untold misery
to countless others just because powerholders wanted to hold onto
power or to gain more power, or the wealthy wanted to hold onto
their wealth or gain even more
Based on these terrible deeds, it becomes easy
to argue that the people ultimately responsible for them do not adhere to
the same values as ordinary people. It may be even easier to conclude that
it’s not the cream that rises to the top, but, in many cases, the scum.
Now such a scenario might seem awful enough, but the people who tend to
control the world, the ones responsible for these acts, try to impose their
warped world view and twisted values on everyone else.
Hollywood films, commercials and political
ideology are all engaged in forwarding the belief that,
it’s a dog eat dog world
war and violence abroad is necessary
competition and not cooperative is what
aggression and not passivity is the key
success equates with amassing huge
amounts of personal wealth and lavish displays of conspicuous
“A person with a psychopathic personality,
which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to
love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme
egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.”
definition of a psychopath from
Again, bearing this definition in mind too, the
acts mentioned above are not those of properly functioning social beings
that contribute to a sense of communality, altruism, love or morality; quite
the opposite in fact.
Yet this is the type of stuff that is rammed down our throats as
constituting normality every day.
Whether it’s the ‘Big Brother’ TV show or ‘The
Apprentice’ show, these values are promoted day and night. The ‘Big Brother’
winner is the one who can survive and outdo the competition in terms of the
duplicity and backstabbing involved along the way.
The winner of ‘The Apprentice’ must be more
aggressive, more duplicitous, more devious and cunning and more willing to
trample over everyone else. And the winner is judged as such by a
multi-millionaire who himself was cunning and ruthless enough to have made
it to the top of the pile and has amassed millions for his own personal
These are the role models to be admired and
These are the measures of success, of sanity, of normality.
“It is no measure of health to be well
adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
Apprentice competitors are highly driven
individuals: not driven by a need to help humanity, but by egocentricity and
And, ultimately, these are the values that many
mainstream opinion leaders, senior politicians and their corporate masters
These values of egocentricity, aggression, competitiveness, duplicity and
greed are not confined to some TV show. There are part of a much more
They are inextricably linked to and underpin the
actions that resulted in the killing of half a million children in Iraq for
geo-political gain (5) and the sending in of military forces into
the jungles of India to beat, rape and dispose of a nation’s poorest people
because they stand in the way of profit and greed (below video). (6)
From Congo and Libya to Syria and beyond, we
witness the outcome of a terrifying mindset that is nurtured and encouraged
Too many people have become “well adjusted to the values of a profoundly
sick society,” whether residing in middle England, middle America or the
gated communities of south Delhi or Mumbai.
Humanity is being beaten down to be neurotic,
vicious and to regard these traits as constituting normal, acceptable
behavior. Thanks to the media, this becomes engrained from an early age as
comprising ‘common sense’, and those who question it are merely sneered at
or ridiculed by a system that promotes a mass mindset immune to its own
Whether this is all due to psychopathy, narcissism or ‘Machiavellian
personalities’ is open to debate.
Moreover, as implied at the outset, historical
and sociological factors often compel usually decent people to act in
terrible ways. The debate within academic sociology between structure and
human agency is after all a very long one. (7)
Whatever the underlying reason, however, as a
global community we are being force fed a diet of perverse values and
destructive actions, all spuriously justified on the basis that ‘there is no
alternative’ and ‘needs must’.
Corporate capitalism, consumerism, the new world order, a war on terror (or
drugs or poverty, take your pick), neo-liberalism - call it what you will,
but it’s all based on the filthy lie that those in control have wider
humanity’s interests at heart. They don’t.
By any means possible - war, murder, torture or
propaganda, they seek to convince people otherwise.
What price human life? None whatsoever for such
Brenner (1976), “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development
in Pre-industrial Europe”.Past
and Present 70
Barrington Moore (1993) [First published 1966]. Social
origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the
making of the modern world (with a new foreword by Edward
Friedman and James C. Scott ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.
Defense Against the Psychopath (2013): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgGyvxqYSbE
Polaschek, D. L. L., Patrick, C. J., Lilienfeld, S. O. (15
December 2011). “Psychopathic
Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public
Science in the Public Interest 12 (3):
Reuters report (2000),
UN Says Sanctions Have Killed Some
500,000 Iraqi Children: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/072100-03.htm
BBC Newsnight interview with
Arundhati Roy (2011):
Colin Hay (2001), What Place for
Ideas in the Structure-Agency Debate? Globalisation as a ‘Process
Without a Subject’: