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Peace and Prosperity

Are Psychopaths Running the Show?


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According to a study carried out by British researchers back in the 1990s, the number of psychopaths in any given population is one percent. In the case of Britain that means that there are roughly 600 thousand psychopaths in that country alone. The problem is that such people tend to struggle hard for influence and power over other people, in order to be able to intimidate, bully and/or harass those who happen to find themselves in positions and situations in which they depend on those psychopaths, either as their subordinates, employees or family members.

That interesting British study was seeking to shed more light on the ever growing problem of workplace bullying and harassment. Upon reading those results and explanations during my postgraduate studies in Leeds (UK) I did a bit of reflecting and realized that I, too, knew two such psychopaths who had occupied high managerial positions and made the life of their subordinates a living hell. If it is possible, which it often times is, people have no other alternative but quit and seek a new job, just to escape and not have to come into daily contact with a thuggish psychopathic boss.

In other instances the solution is divorce, if a husband or a wife happens to be a psychopath.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to recognize the scope, nature and implications of the problem at its early stages. Throughout history there appeared extremely dangerous charismatic psychopaths also among national political leaders, most prominent among whom had been Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, to name but a few. Letting people like that come to power, either through a democratic process or by seizing it by force, is a big mistake for it can even lead to global disasters with tragic consequences. It never ceases to amaze me why tens of millions of Germans, known to be intelligent and educated people, failed to notice and realize that Adolf Hitler was a textbook example of monstrous psychopath.

One explanation is that psychopaths are extremely skillful orators and manipulators. Be that as it may, it is highly advisable and useful to stay vigilant, just in case things might start getting out of control until it is too late. The price for failing to pay attention and doing nothing can be very high.

This brief glance into the past brings me to a question that offers itself almost automatically. Are there psychopaths, subclinical or downright pathological, also among today’s prominent politically active personalities or even political leaders? And what about the intellectual level of such prominent people? Just as a high school principal must not be an insane psychopath or a person with under-average IQ, so, too, anyone occupying or hoping to occupy a position of political leadership must not be mentally ill or an intellectually deficient individual.

In his recent article, entitled "Is our political class mentally ill?," Justin Raimondo poses the same all-important question and arrives at a grim conclusion. I agree with his observations also as a commentator from afar. At least in my part of the world politics used to be perceived as an intellectually demanding field of human activity where there is no place for immoral, insane and intellectually deficient individuals. But that is not what one increasingly sees even in many prominent political figures and "media personalities" of today. In other words, it seems that these days you can successfully climb the political ladder or become an editor of a national daily if you are a psychopath or an undereducated simpleminded moron.

Worse still, the more radical you are the greater the chances of your success. Rude and crude bullish radicalism tends to permeate and even dominate this upside-down world of politics, even, or especially, in English-speaking countries.

Let me give you an example. The prime minister of my country back in the 1990s had been ferociously criticized and vilified by American politicians for being an autocrat. The then-Secretary of State went so far as to call my country a black hole. But for all his deficiencies that man was an archangel Gabriel compared, say, to Bill Clinton who bombed a Serbian passenger train full of innocent passengers and even the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, George Bush who is personally responsible for the havoc, suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, or, for that mater, Medal of Freedom laureate former State Secretary Albright who said that the 500 thousand Iraqi children dead from US-imposed sanctions was "worth it." 

What difference is there between an insane radical suicide bomber who blows himself up in a busy market place or on a bus full of innocent passengers, and a prominent Western political leader ordering an invasion or bombing of a foreign country and/or imposing sanctions that kills infinitely more innocent people than a crazy suicide bomber?

Yes, Justin Raimondo is right. Today’s political class does show worrying symptoms of mental illness characterized by extremely radical, irresponsible, and dangerous mindsets, views, decisions and orders. As a result, there is ever more reason for grave concern. While you can quit a job where you suffer under a psychopathic boss and divorce a psychopathic spouse, you can’t leave your country equally easily and move elsewhere. Besides, where else could you possibly go?

Michael Zoldy was Director of the Slovak Information Agency.

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