Reader D. Birdick shares a pretty charming book review of one of the more alarmist of pop sociopath "literature":
Hey, how goes it?
I came across this review of Martha Stout's book The Sociopath Next Door on Amazon that I thought you might find amusing and even a bit insightful:
Dark Mechanicus JSG "Black Ops Teep"
Welcome to my World!
Yep, many have called me a sociopath in my day. Only one of them, however, got to say something after that, and that was only because the gun jammed.
Ha! Ha! Kidding. Martha Stout has put together this slender little tome, packed with pop science and plenty of white desert-like margins, that sets out to let you know that:
1)Four percent of the population exhibits sociopathic qualities. For the mathematically challenged---that is, pretty much 96% of the population---that means 1 out of 25.
Think about that statistic for a minute.Take an office with 25 people, and chances are Herbie the Courier Guy or Roald (you know, Roald, the guy with glasses and the shaky sweaty hands, the Quiet One. Roald. Sheesh) has invested in some XP-142 Night Vision goggles and a serrated knife, and, um, a GPS device that might lead him to your front door.
At 2 in the morning. Just so we're clear.
2) These sociopath guys, like the Wu-Tang Clan, ain't nothing to mess with. No sir. They can't love. They don't feel emotion. They're Republican. They're corporate chieftains. They ride in the Lear, the Limo, the Maybach. They invented War. They smear cats with napalm, then duct tape them to the underside of your car, right by the rear exhaust, with a tricked-out bic lighter just waiting for ignition.
Sorry, I made that last one up. But you get the general gist of the book.
"Sociopath Next Door" is simply not scholarly, and verges on dangerous. Sociopath is a pop-term, like psycho, like axe-murderer, like boogeyman, El Diablo, or Janet Reno, with about the same level of erudition & exactness. It's jarring to see the term used so callously. Isn't it dangerous to fling terms and profiles, particularly ones as crudely formed and ill-defined as this, in what is essentially piece of pulp pop-science?
"Sociopath" even tries to put together a home-made psycho alarm for the Gentle Reader, the better to ferret out whether weird Mr. Fishbein, the crazy coot who lies next door, lies awake on his bed at nights dressed only in a giant plastic baggy whispering to his AK-47 and plotting your demise. Guess what should set off alarm bells & unleash the hounds?
That's right: someone who asks for pity. For mercy. For clemency. A pity-junky, according to this book, is a ravening sociopath probably plotting to get you fired, pour acid on your car, and eat your firstborn child with some fava beans and a fine chianti.
"Sociopath" also spends some time talking about the supposed human superstition against killing: according to her, people really kill only when supervised by (you guessed it!) a drooling sociopath. The irony here: the author indicates one means by which men make their subjects kill is by de-humanizing the Other: using language to demonize, to turn the Outsider, the Pariah, the Unclean (usually some target ethnic or religious group), into an "It".
It's a fair point.. But skim her book, and simply replace sociopath with any ethnic epithet and take a look at how it reads. Avoid the devilish sociopaths. They don't feel. They're not human. They have cold blood. They're killers. Four percent of the planet is responsible for all the rape, the killing, the torture, and the endless popularity of David Hasselhoff.
Hasn't this book demonized sociopaths as brutally, as unfairly, as unjustly, as anything any Monster of History did with their fave victim class? Where's the Love for the American Psycho? Are we not also Human? Cut* us, do we not bleed? Cut us twice, do we not make you bleed more?
But what "Sociopath" edges away from is the really interesting question here: what if sociopathy is not a malady? What if it's evolution? What if the guy who doesn't get all weepy over "Beaches" is really Humanity New New Thing, the silver-suited astropath who will transcend this miserable mortal coil and help us defeat the Ichthyoid Nasties from Betelgeuse 14?
In the meantime, using the book's 'method' for spotting psychos is about as useful as playing spin the bottle. Intuition, instinct, and your own experience probably cuts the mustard, and you don't have to waste your money on this one-way ticket to Paranoia. Granted, instinct isn't perfect.
But it sure beats fretting over whether your trip next door to borrow the lawnmower should include a can of mace, a sawed-off 12 gauge, and kevlar body armor.