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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:00 am 
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AUGUST 15, 2018

Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths

by GARY OLSON


“You need to indoctrinate empathy out of people to arrive at extreme capitalist positions.” – Frans de Waal

My question is prompted by the recent Senate vote (unanimous as far as I can determine) for a $38-billion, ten year military aid package to Israel, the single largest in U.S. history, but it’s something I’ve pondered and written about for decades.

In the Israeli case, the best defense apologists can muster is that our spineless mollusks in Congress would do the right thing but for fear of AIPAC’s swift retaliation. While there is an element of truth here it’s unfair to our invertebrate friends. It conveniently overlooks the fact that in other situations — absent any AIPAC pressure — Congress assiduously avoids “doing the right thing.” Instead, it directly or indirectly funds brutal and barbarous overt and structural violence across the globe, a veritable galaxy of moral blind spots.

Hence my question: Are we, almost across the board, governed by psychopaths? Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not suggesting our rulers lack a conscience or any vestige of empathy. The situation is both more nuanced and more dangerous. We’re not talking about primary psychopaths like Jeffrey Daumer and Ted Bundy or fictitious murderers like “Dexter” or Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs. We need to set aside those individuals who are empathy-impaired as a result of damage to the brain’s prefrontal cortex and those born with abnormal brain chemistry.

Our focus should be on the powerful people who’ve allowed their biologically inherited empathy trait to atrophy, to be self-anesthetized in order to pursue their ambitions within the rules of the game. This “bracketing” is required by the capitalist system’s priority on accumulation, the milieu within which its “logic” dictates being highly selective about whom compassion is to be directed. Jon Ronson, an expert on psychopaths, is convinced that “the way capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy.” In his research, Ronson found that many traits found on the psychopath checklist are in fact positives for non-murderous psychopaths. Why? Because these traits render distinct advantages in achieving success in the highest ranks of politics, business and the military.

For example, on a given morning a member of Congress might present a public face of compassion as she sincerely scolds public officials who kidnap refugee children from their parents. Then, in the afternoon, she votes for U.S. military policies that terminally (as in dead) separate other children from their parents in Palestine, Afghanistan or Yemen. That evening, she embraces her partner, plays fetch with the family dog, reads bedtime stories to the kids and sleeps soundly, feelings of rectitude intact. This compartmentalization of morals classifies her, for lack of a better term, as a “secondary psychopath.” (See, Martha Stought, The Sociopath Next Door (New York: Broadway Books, 2005).

This behavior is determined by a culture which the same powerful people have helped to shape and, in turn, rely on to legitimate their actions. Little wonder these individuals not only don’t feel remorse for the victims, especially those far from our borders, but don’t even see them as victims. If seen at all, they are the necessary collateral damage required to perpetuate the system.

We have reached the point where, as Erich Fromm once observed, when operating within an insane society, the only healthy members are viewed as “maladjusted.”

If there is some merit to this argument we are far beyond just weeding out a few moral monsters on on Election Day. But neither are we without hope or alternatives. Political struggles against empathy-numbing neoliberal ideology and the economic system it serves can create conditions that enhance the flourishing of empathy and love, the foundation for our better selves.

Gary Olson is professor emeritus of political science at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is EMPATHY IMPERILED: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (New York: Springer Publishing, 2012).

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:28 pm 
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Holyman wrote:

Our focus should be on the powerful people who’ve allowed their biologically inherited empathy trait to atrophy, to be self-anesthetized in order to pursue their ambitions within the rules of the game.


We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.

Despite Israel being light-years ahead of the Muslim/Arab world developmentally, economically and militarily - Israel is still a vulnerable underdog in term of their small population, precarious borders, psycho neighbors and coordinated ant-Semitic campaigns from Europe's Leftist elite.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 5:38 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Holyman wrote:

Our focus should be on the powerful people who’ve allowed their biologically inherited empathy trait to atrophy, to be self-anesthetized in order to pursue their ambitions within the rules of the game.


We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.


You support Israel because they're an important ally in a region where you have a lot of strategic interests.

It really is as simple as that.

Or are you saying you'd be equally supportive had Israel been created in Uganda and faced similar peril from it's neighbors?

:-?

I suspect not.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:22 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Holyman wrote:
Our focus should be on the powerful people who’ve allowed their biologically inherited empathy trait to atrophy, to be self-anesthetized in order to pursue their ambitions within the rules of the game.


We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.


No you don't; and no it isn't.

What "you" have for Israel / Jewish people in Israel, is sympathy.

It's a different thing.

"You" are sympathetic to the "plight [sic]" of Israelis, because the narrative that has been woven around Israel matches the long, lost Pioneer Age of the Old West.

"You" are also sympathetic because most of Israel's enemies are also "your" enemies... Though that isn't saying much, because most other nations are "your" enemy at this stage, one way or another. Of course, having so many enemies of your own, there's no way all of your enemies are also Israel's enemies... The "arrangement" doesn't cut both ways, and Israel's massive Russian emigré population means Tel Aviv will always have a Hotline to Moscow, long after it disconnects the one that runs from Jerusalem to Washington.

Sympathy just means that you've chosen to share someone else's pain.

Empathy means you can't help but feel others' pain.

You are sympathetic to the Israeli position, therefore you choose to "feel their pain".

You are not at all sympathetic to the Palestinian position, therefore you do not choose to feel (or even acknowledge) their pain.

If you were capable of Empathy, you would not be able to *NOT* feel the pain of all parties involved.

Yes. I know. It's complicated.

You'll get the hang of it though: what other choice do you have?

;)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:49 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
Foota wrote:
Holyman wrote:

Our focus should be on the powerful people who’ve allowed their biologically inherited empathy trait to atrophy, to be self-anesthetized in order to pursue their ambitions within the rules of the game.


We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.


You support Israel because they're an important ally in a region where you have a lot of strategic interests.



Huh???

The easiest thing for the US would be like Europe and throw Israel under the bus so we could suck up to OPEC, Russia, Iran and the Arabs for cheap oil and remove the pretext for Islamic attacks on the US.

There is really no strategic value in supporting Israel other than moral.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 6:51 pm 
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Holyman wrote:

If you were capable of Empathy, you would not be able to *NOT* feel the pain of all parties involved.

Yes. I know. It's complicated.

You'll get the hang of it though: what other choice do you have?

;)


I see - "empathy" by itself is considered an absolute good?

So if I say I have empathy for the KKK and the Nazis, that means I am enlightened and capable of appreciating both sides?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:04 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
Foota wrote:

We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.


You support Israel because they're an important ally in a region where you have a lot of strategic interests.



Huh???

The easiest thing for the US would be like Europe and throw Israel under the bus so we could suck up to OPEC, Russia, Iran and the Arabs for cheap oil and remove the pretext for Islamic attacks on the US.


Well that's bollocks. Like hell would America find it 'easy' to suck up and make itself subservient to Russia and the ME. Far better to remain a superpower and have a powerful regional ally to keep unfriendly powers in check, no?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:40 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
Well that's bollocks. Like hell would America find it 'easy' to suck up and make itself subservient to Russia and the ME. Far better to remain a superpower and have a powerful regional ally to keep unfriendly powers in check, no?


How would we lose our superpower status by selling out Israel to the Muslim hoards?

I'd argue we would have even more influence in the Muslim/Arab world if we sold out Israel back in the 1970's.

What do you think the OPEC oil embargo against the US was all about?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:52 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
Foota wrote:

We have empathy. We support the last religious minority in the Middle East (Jews in Israel) to not be ethnically cleansed by Muslim extremists.

It is really simple as that.


You support Israel because they're an important ally in a region where you have a lot of strategic interests.



Huh???

The easiest thing for the US would be like Europe and throw Israel under the bus so we could suck up to OPEC, Russia, Iran and the Arabs for cheap oil and remove the pretext for Islamic attacks on the US.

There is really no strategic value in supporting Israel other than moral.




Moral........ =)) You don't know the meaning of the word.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:59 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
Well that's bollocks. Like hell would America find it 'easy' to suck up and make itself subservient to Russia and the ME. Far better to remain a superpower and have a powerful regional ally to keep unfriendly powers in check, no?


How would we lose our superpower status by selling out Israel to the Muslim hoards?

I'd argue we would have even more influence in the Muslim/Arab world if we sold out Israel back in the 1970's.


Huh? A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?

Regardless, America only gives billions in military aid to countries or entities who further their interests. The Saudi's also get billions in aid and despite some recent liberalisations it's hardly a regime one would support for 'moral reasons'.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:06 pm 
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Slacks wrote:

Huh? A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


How is this confusing?

If we were hostile to Israel, alot of the Arab countries that were in the Soviet's orbit since the 1960's would be more allied with America and less likely to inflict oil embargoes and commit terrorist attacks against us. Speaking of which, in addition to the hundreds of millions of people the Commies killed in the last century, they also share tremendous blame fomenting anti-Semitism in the Middle East with their Muslim allies. Abbas who heads the PA got his PhD in Holocaust Denial at a Moscow university back in the 1980's!

Slacks wrote:
Regardless, America only gives billions in military aid to countries or entities who further their interests. The Saudi's also get billions in aid and despite some recent liberalisations it's hardly a regime one would support for 'moral reasons'.


I agree.

Just saying Israel is the exception.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:07 pm 
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barcelona wrote:



Moral........ =)) You don't know the meaning of the word.


OP's loud and proud anti-Semite said what?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:12 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:

Huh? A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


How is this confusing?


Slacks wrote:
A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


Which is it?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:25 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:

Huh? A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


How is this confusing?


Slacks wrote:
A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


Which is it?


Sucking up to Muslims and Russians means overlooking their human rights abuses for cheap oil. As you point out we suck up to lots of countries (Saudi Arabia is a prime example) to keep the oil pumping and to keep pressure on Iran. We suck up to China for economic reasons and Europe sucks up to Russia to keep the gas flowing and to keep Russia from moving farther west from Ukraine and spreading radioactive poison all over major cities.

But we don't suck up to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia or the Gulf States to sell out Israel.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:44 pm 
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So in short America sucks, but doesn't suck as much as it might?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:55 pm 
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Slacks wrote:
So in short America sucks, but doesn't suck as much as it might?


We selectively suck.

And there is no major strategic or economic gain for America to suck Israel's dick all these years other than us standing up for them morally.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:19 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
So in short America sucks, but doesn't suck as much as it might?


We selectively suck.

And there is no major strategic or economic gain for America to suck Israel's dick all these years other than us standing up for them morally.




There's that word again..


Give it up Foota.. We see through you and Israel.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:59 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
So in short America sucks, but doesn't suck as much as it might?


We selectively suck.

And there is no major strategic or economic gain for America to suck Israel's dick all these years other than us standing up for them morally.


Not buying it. You'd be sucking off most of the planet just to keep the oil flowing with far less influence globally. Far better to keep a nuclear armed militarily superior ally in the region and wield power that way.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:10 pm 
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Foota wrote:
Holyman wrote:
If you were capable of Empathy, you would not be able to *NOT* feel the pain of all parties involved.


I see - "empathy" by itself is considered an absolute good?


No, no.

Empathy is considered a core component of being a functional human being.

An inability to empathise, conversely, is generally considered to be a sign of a dysfunctional human being.

In any case, Empathy isn't something you do: it is something you feel.

There is no rational agency involved, therefore the ability to empathise is neither good nor bad. It just is what it is: a naturally developed social practice that presumably helped early hominid communities cohere, Back in the Day...

Foota wrote:
So if I say I have empathy for the KKK and the Nazis, that means I am enlightened and capable of appreciating both sides?


You can't have empathy for the KKK and/or the Nazis.

You can sympathise with their views, but you can't empathise with something that is not a living, feeling being.

Crazed ideological organisations may do most of the thinking for their followers: but there's very little feeling involved.

However, you could empathise with someone who is a member of the KKK and/or Nazis.

You don't have to sympathise with or even accept their point of view; but you can attempt to understand why and how they arrived at their ideological point of view.

It was probably just something all his mates were doing, and he just went along to see what all the fuss was about.

:-??

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:04 am 
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Foota wrote:
Slacks wrote:
Foota wrote:

How is this confusing?


Slacks wrote:
A minute ago you argued that it would be easier to 'suck up' to Russia et al and now you're saying you'd have more influence?


Which is it?


Sucking up to Muslims and Russians means overlooking their human rights abuses for cheap oil. As you point out we suck up to lots of countries (Saudi Arabia is a prime example) to keep the oil pumping and to keep pressure on Iran. We suck up to China for economic reasons and Europe sucks up to Russia to keep the gas flowing and to keep Russia from moving farther west from Ukraine and spreading radioactive poison all over major cities.

But we don't suck up to Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia or the Gulf States to sell out Israel.






There's a load of sucking in that post.

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