Leadership: What You May Not Know
Are You as Good and Kind as You Think that You Are
By: J. Marlando
Author of: Succeeding In Business for the Love of It
& The Politics of Childhood
We simple folks often will wonder why we have not made more of ourselves than we have and why some people who seem to be ruthless and non-caring get all the breaks. I just read the most intriguing article in Scientific American with title, “What Psychopaths Teach Us about How to Succeed” by Kevin Dutton. The inspiration for this text!
First of all, when most of us think of psychopaths, we think of cold killers, child molesters and rapists; unemotional thieves and other ruthless gangster types who would harm us without giving it a second thought. Dutton gives the example of Robert Maudsley, who he refers to as the “real-life Hannibal Lester”
Remember Anthony Hopkins in the role?
a man “who would take a fellow inmate hostage, smash his skull in and sample his brains with a spoon as nonchalantly as if you were downing a soft-boiled egg.”
I have known some extremely cold and heartless people in my life—I was once hired to write the story of a man who had murdered 18 people who happened to be out of prison on a technicality. He was frightening to be around as it was impossible to know what put his “killer-wheels” in motion.
I was once hired to write for a man in Hollywood with five children who had ambitions to become a movie star. He lived in a big house on snob hill through constantly lying and intimidating others. He was your friend as long as you were of use to him—when your uselessness waned he either hated you or simply turned cold and aloof. I was in his office one day when his six-year-old came in and said, “Daddy, can I have a bicycle.”
The man answered, “Yes, of course, go steal one.”
I have met others over the years but none to match the heartlessness of these two.
But this does not describe all psychopaths. There are many people holding (or have held) top positions from CEO of gigantic corporations, bankers, lawyers, doctors and yes, I would guess, even presidents and other dictators.
In fact, Dutton tells us that traits common among psychopathic serial killers are: “a grandiose sense of self-worth, persuasiveness, superficial charm, ruthlessness, lack of remorse and the manipulation of others—are also shared by politicians and world leaders. Individuals, in other words running not from the police, but for office…”
The question is might any of us become psychopathic in our thoughts and actions? It is my intent to answer this question by the end of this narrative.
Who Is Psychopathic
Kevin Dutton also tells us that psychopaths are “fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused. Historically this certainly describes at least a few popes and kings. And what of famous warriors such as Alexander (called the Great) and who is given a hero’s status to every school child. Yet, in all history I do not know of a book or, for that matter, a teacher who tells the stories of his victims who were left in the wake of his victories.
Think of the men who is said to have “built our country.” Judging from their actions, might we suspect them all of being, in the least…heartless: John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Philip Armour, James Mellon and J.P. Morgan. Howard Zinn reports that Morgan, the son of a banker, bought five-thousand rifles from an army arsenal for $3.50 each…he sold them to a general in the field for $22 each. The rifles were defected and shot off the thumbs of soldiers firing them.
These men built their fortunes by the misuse of labor—demanding workers to labor for extremely long hours for very little pay and often in very dangerous environments, and by doing the most unsavory and unscrupulous to stop the competition by acts of calloused greed. Yet, they are often hailed as our cultural heroes revealing our reverence for the successful and wealthy regardless of how they got to where they’re at; a revealing of a kind-of trickled-down psychopathic tendency throughout the memes and values of the entire society. Social Darwinism is a direct result of this tendency!
There are few exceptions in the world—indeed, I project that at least 95% of ALL human hunger and suffering is not created by nature but rather by regimes and governments; dictators and tyrants. Look at the genicides of Rwanda where during 100 days of hell the Hutu Majority slaughter 800,000 minority Tutsis. Another modern day holocaust is in Darfur with 400,000 human beings killed and over 2.5 million forced from their land. (Note: It is extremely difficult to find photographs of the actual atrocities as they have virtually been made taboo for public viewing).
After the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews and millions of other people(s) they deemed inferior and that war finally ended in 1945, the international community swore that there would never be another holocaust.
Where is the international community in Darfur for example? Does it not take psychopathic minds to stand by and see other human beings tortured, raped and murdered?
And so as it turns out, the psychopath is not just that man or woman hiding in the shadows and waiting for a next victim, the psychopath can be anywhere and quite often clad in the guises of righteousness, even wearing the skirts of politics, religion and community/business leadership.
When you’re questioning the validity of this, Dutton tells us about a study done at the University of Surrey in England that made a study of what makes business leaders tick. They took three groups—business managers, psychiatric patients and hospitalized criminals to see how each group fared on a profiling test. “Their analysis revealed that a number of psychopathic attributes were actually more common in business leaders than in so-called disturbed criminals—attributes such as superficial charm, egocentricity, persuasiveness, lack of empathy, independence, and focus.
Perhaps you saw the motion picture, Wall Street and remember Gordon Gecko’s, played by Michael Douglas famous line, “Greed is good.”
Greed itself is psychopathic and it rivers through the most unexpected places—the charitable organization, for example. Invariably a charity begins with the best intentions. Let’s say, a cause to feed hungry children living deep in some wasteland. In the beginning 90% of every dollar donated goes to the children…but then, in a short period of time that number reverses and soon enough over 90% is going to the staff and operations of the charity. Check out your favorite charity and you may find out the even less than a penny out of every donated dollar goes to the cause…This Gordon-Gekkoism is seen in both the congress and senate of democracies as well, not to mention the apparent cold-self-centeredness of dictatorships and tyrannies.
Nearly all bureaucracies are clearly psychopathic at bottom line gaining the mind-set of arrogance and callousness over time.
With all this in mind—what about the rest of us?
Are We People Psychopathic by Nature
When is normal survival tactics turned into heartlessness?
It is frightening to think what we “good and ordinary folks are capable of. Michael P. Ghiglieri, in his book, “The Dark Side of Man,” gives us a frightening account. He tells us that, “When the British colonized Tasmania, for example, they used diseases, dogs, horses, rifles, starvation, imprisonment, poison and bounties of five British pounds per head to eliminate the Tasmanians, who had been isolated there for thirty thousand years. The British murdered thousands, with the last two Tasmanians dying in captivity. The Dutch did the same to the San Bushman is South Africa; the Spanish killed all the Arawak Indians in Namibia; and both the British and Americans tried to annihilate the North American Indians.” Both are known to have gifted grateful Indians with blankets…blankets, however, that were infested with deadly diseases killing countless men, women and children—what can be more psychopathic than this?
In regard to this, Ghiglieri tells us that, “The U.S. Calvary in the late nineteenth century was primarily a government instrument of genocide. As directed by Washington, D.C., it nearly extirpated all Plains Indians and replaced them with white Anglo-Saxon Protestant pioneers in little houses on the prairie.”
And going back further into history what demonstrates psychopathic behaviors more than that of the crusades and the inquisitions?
For that matter what is more psychopathic than racism and sexism? We have had thousands upon thousands of years as a species to simply figure out that we are all the same and that our differences are only apparent!
There are also a great many subtle acts of psychopathic behaviors such as price gauging and all kinds of social prejudices against the poor; unfair taxation, two standard rulings of law for the masses and the elite few. That people are suffering and dying unnecessarily today because they cannot afford medical care is nauseas to me; that there are hungry/starving people in the world because of the gluttony of governments and armies is shameful. And finally when any system fuses the individual with the collective, that system itself is, in the least, sociopathic. I simply believe that in the wake of all this we can have a better, kinder, safer and more loving world.
As I have written many times before we have had the answer to solving all the world’s conflicts for thousands of years—it has been given us by all the great religions of the world—Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism who tell us to treat others as we would be treated. If we merely made this much a practice in our private life, in our public life and so, in the actions of the governed and the governing, most all the world’s psychotic behaviors would simply go away.