Extra Crispy Musings
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Politics these days just doesn't make sense, does it? Sure, it has never quite made sense in the past, but these days it really doesn't make sense. Or does it?

I hear the frustration and confusion on Air America every day. At times, I get the sense that some of the hosts know they are missing something, but all too often they seem to blithely assume that the Bush administration is merely incompetent. I think they are missing something, and I don't agree that this administration is incompetent. I think this administration is fiendishly competent and knows exactly what it is doing.

What they are missing is the element of psychopathy. We've been conditioned to think that psychopaths are all of the Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter sort. A little research on the subject will show you that this is not the case. Psychopaths make up, conservatively, about 4% of our population. I say conservatively, because that is the figure estimated by the psychologists who specialize in the study of psychopathy. Professionals in any field must always work with conservative estimates. Anything less than conservatism puts their professional credibility on the line.

Let's start with a brief definition of psychopathy. A psychopath is a person who, apparently genetically, is without a conscience. They have no feeling whatsoever for other people. They live their lives without compassion, without empathy, without love and, most importantly for this discussion, without any remorse for any action they take. The overriding goal of a psychopath is to fulfill their needs, and anything they do in service to that goal is just fine with them.

A small percentage of psychopaths become killers of the sort we have been told about in books and movies. Others become thieves. These type will eventually end up in prison and get marked as aberrations, but there are plenty of others who successfully mask their true identities and live "normal" lives. These are, in some respects, the most dangerous of all.

Psychopaths are, naturally, drawn to positions of power. Stop for a moment and think about what life would be like if you had no conscience, no feeling for your fellow humans, at all. What sort of career would you choose? The sort in which people willingly give you power over you, of course. The sort where you get the most of what you want for the least expenditure of energy. Positions of authority, like teacher, counselor, or politician. Each of these careers carries with it an air of normalcy and authority, masking the identity of the psychopath while making the fulfillment of their needs as easy as possible.

Given that psychopaths would tend to gravitate toward these positions, and that the general population contains conservatively 4% psychopaths, we can also conservatively estimate that about 10% of people in these positions are psychopaths. The higher we go in in the power structure in any of these careers, the more psychopaths we are likely to encounter. Why? Because lack of conscience makes them exceptionally suited to rising in the ranks. Think about it. Who is the most likely to succeed in climbing the "corporate ladder," the person who can do anything without remorse, or the person who hesitates because they have some feeling for others and the pain they might cause? We've all witnessed the answer, even if only from a distance in the form of stories or news articles.

The picture we are painting here is a dire one. By the time we get to a level of power like that of the presidency, we can assume that probably one in four people is a psychopath. I don't have solid data to back up those numbers, though, so let's make it even more conservative. Let's say that only one in ten is a psychopath. Still, considering that they have the competitive advantage in feeling no remorse for any action they take, we can well imagine that the one-in-ten psychopath is going to have a very high position, capable of forcing the non-psychopaths below them to carry out a psychopathic agenda.

It doesn't take an in-depth reading of the news to see the marks of psychopathy in the highest positions of the current administration. Witness the lack of emotional response of Dick Chenney to his recent hunting accident and think about how you would have reacted to shooting another person in the face. Personally, I would have freaked out, rushed him to the hospital and done anything I could to make amends. What did Dick do? He had a dinner and a drink. Are these the actions of a person with a conscience?

I propose that we cannot possibly understand the actions of the current administration without taking into account the possibility that our country is being run by psychopaths. When looked at logically and mathematically (statistically) we can't imagine anything else, really. So, why do we have such a difficult time as a nation seriously entertaining the idea? Why do we seem to habitually overlook this critical bit of data when doing our political analysis?

Psychopaths are not, in the classical meaning of the term, mentally ill. Someone who is schizophrenic might do things because the voices in their head told them to, be considered legally insane and, so, not responsible for their actions. Not so with the psychopath. They understand perfectly what they are doing. It is just that what they do does not include compassion for others, or conscience. The psychopath calculates their moves, and does so more rigorously and better than the average person. After all, calculation is all they have to go on.

Consider, for a moment, what you would do if you were in the position of the psychopath? How would you go about meeting your needs with the least possible amount of opposition? I'm not asking this as a mere rhetorical question. What would you do? What is the best method of deflecting opposition? I submit that the best method is always control of perception. Anyone even mildly interested in the history of Nazi Germany knows the name Joseph Goebbels. Why? Because he was in charge of propaganda for the Nazi party, which was critical to the rise to power of Hitler. He was in charge of controlling the perception of the Nazis. In the case of the psychopaths running the show in the U.S., making the definition of the word "psychopath" something so specifically abhorrent that the average person refuses to pin the label on any but the most degraded members of society is one of the techniques they appear to employ. In other words, they work to cement in the mind of as many as possible the picture of Hannibal Lecter in association with the word psychopath.

I can see how that might seem counterproductive at first glance. You are a psychopath and you are making the label psychopath fit the most horrifying figures of our nightmares. But, the point is to set the bar as low as possible. Only the worst of the worst are correctly identified. The rest are believed to be just like you and me, conscience and all. This gives them a free pass to move in society without fear of being found out.

This puts a different spin on the popularity of films like The Silence of the Lambs, doesn't it? One might well figure that any industry like the movie business (with the power it holds over molding the collective dreams of the culture and the amount of money and influence available for doing very little) would be the sort of business a good psychopath would want to be a part of. It is, in fact, exactly the sort of business that a psychopath would not only want to be a part of, but would excel at. Given their penchant for calculated moves, we can also assume that movies that paint psychopaths as not only cold blooded killers but people that we could all recognize, even without the ominous music playing in the background, are meant to intentionally shift our perception of the psychopath from what we commonly find around us to the type we would rarely, if ever, encounter. Very clever, really.

Explore the situation for yourself. If you have been scratching your head concerning the machinations of the current administration, perhaps you have been manipulated to not consider a critical bit of data. If so, think about what that critical bit of data means to the whole equation...and think about what all this means. If you are the "typical" American, you likely assume that others are acting from some level of feeling for others, bound by their conscience to do what is "right." What if that is not the case? What if the people in power can lie, manipulate and kill without batting an eyelash? What if they do not play by the same rules that you and I take for granted?

It is a sobering thought.

Further reading:
We only see what we are. We think we see the world around us, but such a thing is impossible to do with merely a pair of eyes and a brain. If we want to see the world as it really is, we have to develop other aspects of our mind, which we’ll get to in a bit. For now, take a look at how your brain works in conjunction with your eyes to give you an impressive illusion of seeing anything at all but yourself.

First, a bit of semi-technical data. Your brain is nothing more than a chemical/electrical machine and your eyes are merely an extension of that machine whose purpose is the gathering of energetic data to feed to your brain in the form of nerve (chemical/electrical) impulses. These impulses are generated by light (electromagnetic radiation, or EMR) stimulating nerve endings in your eyes. That light is energy that has either been radiated from or reflected off of objects around you.

Already, we see a gapping chasm between what you see and what really is. You don’t see the object itself; you only see the visible light, which represents a very narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum, reflected/emitted from the object in question. If this object is reflecting/emitting other frequencies of EMR you have no idea, as long as you only have your eyes to feed data to your brain. The gap between what is and what you see widens.

Now, think about what happens to that data, sent along the optic nerve, when it reaches your brain. The only thing that your brain has to work with is a bunch of neurons firing, from which it must build a picture of what is in the “outside” world. The most fascinating part of this whole process is not the building of the picture, per se, but what the mind appears to add to the picture that does not seem to exist in the actual data. The most obvious to consider is color.

“Who is the wizard who makes the grass green?” the Zen master asks his student. The neophyte student might interpret this as a question about God, but it is not. It is a question about the mind. Why does the mind interpret varying nerve impulses as color, and how? Remember, this is not something the mind necessarily needs to do. Anyone who has looked at a black and white photograph knows that our minds have no problem interpreting the world around us without color. Still, color does help. For instance, brightly colored objects might either attract us or warn us of danger, depending on the context in which they are perceived. So, maybe we can live with that much of an explanation of why the mind would bother with color, but how about the “how” of the matter?

Try a thought experiment for a moment. Think of attempting to describe a color, any color, to a person who has never had the benefit of sight. You want this person to know the glories of your favorite color, but how could you possibly get that across to them?

Now, take the experiment a step further. Imagine for a moment that you are in an argument with a friend about color. The point you are trying to make is that color must be a property of light because so many people not only see it, but when they look at something that is, say, red they see the same thing. Try to prove it. There is no way to know that what another person perceives as the color red is not what you perceive as the color blue. You might argue that the fact that you can both look at the same apple and declare its color to be red proves the point, but it proves nothing of the sort. The only thing that shows is that you have both learned the same three-letter label for a specific band of frequencies of EMR, but you still have no idea for sure what it looks like to them! Nor will you ever.

Here is where we realize that the chasm between what is and what we see is wide, deep and seemingly impossible to cross. Everything we see is, quite literally, a figment of our imaginations. And, here at the edge of the chasm, we meet some familiar characters of a political and philosophical type. Since, as the old saying goes, you are known by the company you keep, I’d like to distance myself from them as quickly as possible.

First, there is the “philosopher” who takes the above argument as evidence that reality is only what you make it. That’s not a difficult position to take, once you realize that your brain is only making up the pictures of the world you see. But, this “philosophy” leaves out a critical point. Your perception of reality does not form reality itself. There is evidence that reality is altered in some way by observation, but as much as we might like to think so, we do not make up the universe out of whole cloth by gazing upon it.

Next, there are the scientists who take the above as evidence that we are nothing but meat machines with highly evolved mechanisms for perceiving the world around us. These men and women would have us accept the notion that since the brain is provably nothing more than an electrochemical machine, all of our notions of spirituality and self are nothing bur by-products of this fabulously evolved mechanization. This is a long and very unscientific leap to take from the data at hand.<

Lastly, there are the psychologists who would claim that in order to find peace of mind, one must learn to perceive the world in accordance with the status quo. Somewhere in the morass of human perception, statistically likely to be found in the fattest part of the bell curve, is a reality to which all should conform. As we’ll see, that one is probably the furthest from the truth.

The main problem with the “create your own reality” philosophy is, in my opinion, this. Just like the religion that presents a belief in a God somewhere else (perhaps in heaven) apart from us and all we see, this reality creation philosophy presents a picture of creation as something other than ourselves. In a sense, we do create our own reality, because that reality is not separate from us. We are, in other words, a part of that creation.

We are not merely a part of creation—we are the creation itself…and the creator. How does this view differ from that of the “create your own reality” crowd? It is, as you might have guessed, one of seeing or perception. If you see yourself as something other than creation, a separate entity attempting to mold the creation to your desires, this “separate” entity will not have the effect on creation it desires. When the battle comes down to one between your ego and the rest of the universe, I think we all know where to put our money.

Learning to “see” beyond what our eyes and brain can manage requires aligning with reality. It requires realizing our true nature as creators. This is not as easy as it sounds, though. The most common mistake made (the one that overtook the New Age movement, as a matter of fact) is thinking that by merely claiming that identity we have claimed our birthright. The problem is that the very “I” that makes the claim does not actually have claim to this birthright as creator of the universe. That “I” that sees itself as something separate and extraordinary is not at all what it seems. It is, as a matter of fact, really nothing at all. That is a tough one to take, I know, because it seems to so forcefully assert its “being” and identity. Yet, what it really is, is closer to what the scientist might claim as being the totality of our existence. It is an ephemeral patterning of energy that arises from the mechanics of our brains. Even worse, there isn’t merely one of those “I’s” inside each of us. There are many.

The real “I” is something we aren’t even aware exists, unless we’ve done quite a lot of work to develop it. The real “I” is not a part of what our eyes and brain sees. And, the real “I” is the last thing the “meat machine” part of you wants to become acquainted with.

The problem with the meat machine “I’s” is that they have a limited life span. This is something they do not want to accept. They are also extremely subject to manipulation and programming. They are, after all, merely machines. Without proper training, the programming of these machines always becomes hopelessly muddled, both through the many contradictory influences that serve to program them and through intentional manipulation. This leads to a situation in which the physical part of us cannot gain access to the higher, eternal parts of us. We become cut off from our own selves, accepting a cheap imitation in the form of poorly programmed neural machines.
Musings on politics, the meaning of life, a philosophy of being, and why I like potato snacks.

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Location: Glendale, CA, United States
03/19/2006 - 03/26/2006 /

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