Friday, June 21, 2013

Proper responses to evil

There's an interesting tendency for people to think that evil is something external to them -- other people, other countries, other cultures. When people think they've identified the source of the evil, they tend to be quick to attack, without much thought for either due diligence or due process. For instance, arguably a dominant reason for initial popular support for the Iraq War was latent hostility against Middle Eastern Muslim nations from the 9/11 terrorist attacks (I think perhaps most humorously evidenced by a series of SNL episodes very positively portraying George W. Bush as an avenging cowboy and Dick Cheney bragging about defiling Afghani women -- all to audience cheers). Similarly, does it now seem odd to us that people got so upset over a Muslim community center blocks away from Ground Zero in crowded lower Manhattan? If the presence of evil calls for some sort of response, what should the nature of that response be? Punishment? Rehabilitation? Education? And is that something that should be imposed largely externally, or does the very banality of evil suggest that the best way to fight evil is to start in our own minds. In an interesting contrast for the calls for blood against the alleged Nazi war criminal found in Minnesota, this New York Review of Books article "‘Jews Aren’t Allowed to Use Phones’: Berlin’s Most Unsettling Memorial"describes the Places of Remembrance memorial:

Twenty years ago this month, Berlin-based artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock inaugurated their hugely controversial “Places of Remembrance” memorial for a former Jewish district of West Berlin known as the Bavarian Quarter. At the time, Germany had just been reunified, and it was one of the first major efforts to give permanent recognition to the ways the Holocaust reached into daily life in the German capital. The 1991 competition called for a central memorial on the square, but Stih and Schnock instead proposed attaching eighty signs hung on lamp posts throughout the Bavarian Quarter, each one spelling out one of the hundreds of Nazi laws and rules that gradually dehumanized Berlin’s Jewish population.
***"We took anti-Jewish laws and regulations. On one side we had text, which we took from the regulations but made it snappy and shorter, so people driving or biking by could read them fast. And on the other side we put a picture that illustrated it. [One shows a chalice and on the other side of the sign says, “The baptism of Jews and their conversion to Christianity is unimportant in the question of race.” Another shows a radio and the other side says, “Jews must give up their radios.”]"
***
"Over there you see a sign with a telephone—right next to the post office—and the sign says Jews aren’t allowed to use telephones. Everything was meant to exclude Jews from daily life, from social structures, and to threaten them."

Rather than focus on names, either of victims or perpetrators, they chose to focus on "social and legal structures: how could this ever have happened?" How might it have happened? Step by step. First target a group and blame them for evil actions. They have now become the source of evil. Next depersonalize them. At this point, the masses will accept that not only should these people be punished for their alleged evil actions, but that they are inherently evil and don't deserve to be treated with basic human dignity. If there are laws in place to maintain equal rights and due process, make it clear that those laws do not apply to evil people -- they're a special case which demands special treatment (laws are only made to protect the best of us, after all). The rest is just maintaining the illusion by making sure people never question the original premise of evil. For instance, one of my favorite regulations was against Jewish ownership of pets, and for a very practical reason:

The reason for that is that first the animals had to go and then the owners could be removed. Because if animals would stay in an apartment, they wouldn’t get food, they’d make noise, this would cause a commotion. Maybe the Aryan neighbors wouldn’t care about the Jewish neighbor being deported but they would truly care about a little cat meowing.

But do we really need constant reminders of our own collective and individual capacities for evil? Haven't we moved past all of that?

When we were installing it, suddenly someone opened a window and yelled out: Haut ab, Judenschweine!—“Go away, Jewish pigs!” Our two workers installing the signs with us, they were completely shocked. They had thought the project wasn’t important until then and had been saying, “Come on, everyone knows this, why are you bothering?” They were speechless.

We do need reminders. And in a way that's why I think it's one of the worst times to be a sociopath -- because people have forgotten their own capacity for evil. Perhaps now more than ever people have isolated themselves from ugly aspects of the world. They eat meat raised and slaughtered out of sight, their countries fight wars in countries that they cannot point out on a map, and their sense of morality has never been tested (unless by Milgram or at Stanford), so it's very easy and convenient for them to convince themselves that evil exists outside, not in. In contrast to most people's high estimations of themselves, the straight-talking sociopath must seem like an abomination. And how should one react to an abomination? Track them down and make them suffer? Extradite that 94 year-old man and make him finally pay for his crimes? Because he's the reason that bad things happened, right? People want to believe that the only problem with evil they have is in identifying it and eradicating it in others.

Or course nobody likes to confront their own capacity for evil, and so that's why the artists for the Places of Remembrance (manipulatively) downplayed their proposed plan:

During the process they asked the artists to present their work at a public forum. We showed little drawings, not the real size, which is fifty by seventy centimeters. The drawings were like fine watercolors. They gave the pictures a softness. This was very good because everybody focused on the art. Here, in real life, it looks like brash pop art, but at the presentation it was different. It was of course a trick. You have to be very careful when you present because otherwise you’ll scare people. 

It was sneaky enough to work at the time, but people seem even less willing to confront these issues:

I have to say that in 1993 the society was open—kind of not secured. It was right after the Wall had opened. I don’t think we could do it today. 

51 comments:

  1. As Lord Buckley said, "When you tell the truth, be sure to leave them smiling."

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    1. Not very original. “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” Oscar Wilde, The Nightingale and the Rose

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    2. Ha

      VERY VERY VERY true. Thanks for that quote, anon.

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  2. “If the presence of evil calls for some sort of response, what should the nature of that response be?”

    In Iraq the matter was not the presence of evil, but the presence of oil, that made them target. The presence of evil does call for a drastic response, not the presence of economic interest. And only an evil manipulator would make a call for a drastic response using evil as an argument while he is searching for other interests. Does that behavior remind you of any type of personality?

    The rest of the posts leaves clear that "The thief believes that everybody steals" keeps on being valide, and the theme of a big part of this blog.

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    1. Being a sociopath is neither a prerequisite nor a guarantee for being evil.

      Emmie's making a point here, Jessi. Empaths feel the emotions of other people, and generally that keeps them from doing terrible things to them. In order for empaths to do terrible things, they must convince themselves that the people they are targeting aren't actually people at all!

      Villages would accuse women of being witches and then murder them. It was perfectly acceptable, though, because witches weren't people, they were evil monsters. Everybody knew that.

      The Jews in Germany were evil people, ruining the foundation of Germany! They were genetically inferior to the Aryans, who were the real good people. The only solution then was to eliminate the Jews. Everybody knew that.

      The sociopaths in the world are evil people. They are responsible for all the atrocities committed in the world. Empaths are good, normal people who do not do bad things. The only solution is to round up the sociopaths and slaughter them, so the real people, the empaths can finally live in peace. Everybody knows that.

      But it's different this time, right Jessi? Because sociopaths really ARE evil. Not one of them deserves to live, and the world will be a better place when they are all dead and gone.

      If history has taught us anything, it's that history has taught us nothing.

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    2. This mindset is so scary to me. Having grown up in 2 southern states and having attended fundamentalist/nondenominational churches, I know all too well how this sort of thing happens.
      I think of the Hitler youth movement and how it takes the moral absolutism common to the age and uses it as a tool to shape zealots who suspend their critical thinking.

      When I was about 13 I went on a youth group weekend and some of the boys found a snake (not poisonous) that was about 3 feet long and the leaders looked on as they spent a good 45 minutes torturing the poor thing before killing it. I was in tears, begging them to stop and their response was to call me evil, because women are supposed to hate snakes.

      The weird thing is that the church leaders went along with it and said, "In the bible, Eve brought sin into the world because of sympathy for the serpent" to justify letting the boys torture the snake while I was crying.

      This was the work of "empaths" who "loved Jesus". Obviously the snake and a person are different things, but when I said to stop hurting it, I got lumped in with "evil". I learned a very unpleasant lesson that day which was that is you effectively apply a label of evil to something, you can get away with brazen cruelty in innocuous social settings (in this case a church retreat)- Scapegoating is not just tolerated- it is encouraged as a means of proving righteousness.

      For this reason I think this blog, and ME's book, are very good because they provide concrete effort of the humanity of the sociopath. As neuroimaging technology continues to become more sophisticated, I really hope the public understanding of sociopathy does too, or I think brain scans could be used as a tool to commit grave evil in the goal of trying to root it out.

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    3. "This was the work of "empaths" who "loved Jesus"."

      Can you be sure of this? They could also be sociopaths playing "religion" leaders who liked to torture animals.

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    4. Statistically speaking it was unlikely. There was a ringleader who might have had sociopathic tendencies, but everyone but me joined in.

      I am using this story of an illustration of how empaths get swept up into participating in group cruelty. The idea that only sociopaths are cruel is ridiculous. The difference is in this: Sociopaths don't need to give themselves moral justification for acting out destructive impulses. Empaths need to self justify. Once evil is sanctioned by authorities, empaths can be just as (if not more) brutal than sociopaths.

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    5. "only sociopaths are cruel is ridiculous" Yes, but that there are empaths who are cruel too does not make sociopaths any less cruel.


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    6. I'm going to file that response under

      Jessi misses the point.

      (it's not a small file)

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    7. Yes, it does. Empaths feel justified in their cruelty, and believe they are doing something good. Sociopaths are ambivalent. While they may hurt you, they at least consider you a human being. Empaths have to turn you into a monster, and no method of torture is too cruel for a monster. When criminals were drawn and quartered, it didn't draw crowds of sociopaths to jeer and cheer. They were all empaths, Jessi :)

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    8. “believe they are doing something good.”

      That is what truly matters.

      “While they may hurt you, they at least consider you a human being.”

      Sociopaths consider others as objects, it is how they treat them, and that is not the way to treat a human being, so no, they don’t consider others as human beings.

      “Empaths have to turn you into a monster, and no method of torture is too cruel for a monster.”

      Empaths do not have to turn anyone into a monster. An empath who wants to do something harmful will do harm without turning no one into a monster.

      “When criminals were drawn and quartered, it didn't draw crowds of sociopaths to jeer and cheer. They were all empaths, Jessi :)””

      Again, to act against the right people for the right reason, the whole point of the judicial system. In those times justice was more severe. “Believe they are doing something good.” So you think they were too severe? That’s why some laws have changed. That’s the point of good faith, it goes towards doing things even better.

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    9. So, it's okay for people to do unspeakably cruel things, so long as they believe what they are doing is right, and it's accepted and encouraged by their peers?

      It's a good thing I follow all the rules, precisely and to the letter. It's also fortunate that I'm a straight white male, part of the majority and in power. God help those who are not, lest they be subjected to your justice, Jessi.

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    10. "and it's accepted and encouraged by their peers" this has absolutely nothing to do with doing things right (=“believe they are doing something good.”)

      If something is unspeakably cruel is it very unlikely that they believe what they are doing is right, unless the unspeakably cruel action was perpetrated by the convicted on an innocent before.

      No one is subjected to my justice as no one should be subjected to yours on a dramatic level. That's also one of the points of the judicial system.

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    11. I don't dehumanize people, or at least not that much. I enjoy hurting PEOPLE, not objects or animals. Typically I don't even hurt people but I definitely get some kicks out of it. The point is that a person is much more fun to toy with then an object or an animal. If I am cruel you can be guaranteed that I view you as a human being and not some sub-human thing. I need no justification for my actions.

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    12. "I enjoy hurting PEOPLE, not objects or animals."

      Well, then unfortunately human beings are not objects or animals for sociopaths, we would be treated better...

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  3. Andy, if History has taught as something is how important is to find out who is telling the truth and who is manipulating. A deceived person can act against the wrong people for the right reason, but a well-informed person can act against the right people for the right reason. That’s the whole point of the judicial system.

    What happens here is that that sociopaths are defined, not just by having no empathy but also by having villainous conducts. And villainous conducts should be prosecuted, independently if the person is a sociopath, a narcissist or an empathic charity worker.

    Maybe the problem you are having is by not realizing that sociopath’s traits combines non-criminal behavior: being charming, not feeling empathy, impulsiveness… with criminal behavior: abusing people, perpetrating fraud, aggressing others,... and they are to be chased exclusively for the later. If the term “sociopath” gets redefined to a term which doesn’t include illicit behavior obviously then, they should not be impeached.

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    1. Charming, beguiling, and manipulating people sounds like witchcraft to me! I can only imagine that people who do these things are witches. Everyone knows that witches are evil, and they perform foul deeds under cover of night. Even if we have no evidence that they have committed any crime, once they are identified it is prudent to punish them. Good witches only exist in fairytales. Even if someone claims not to be a witch, don't trust them! They are liars and tricksters, it is better to burn them than let them speak. It is the right thing to do!

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    2. @Andy, well, then take care with your witch hunt, you are the one to be prosecuted for the right reason. Once a bad behaviour is identified it is prudent to make it public and take it to justice.

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    3. I'm a saint, Jessi. I've never even gotten a speeding ticket, never used illegal drugs, never stolen anything, never physically assaulted anyone, and never emotionally badgered anyone enough to make them despise me. I never even got detention in school. My record and my past are so clean it's probably suspicious. If I ran for public office, my opponents would despair at the lack of ammunition for a smear campaign.

      I am a better person than you, Jessi, in every way such things can be measured. You will never even come close to the goodness with which I lead my life. Your lies may bring you comfort, but if there were an objective judge of morality, I would be placed above you.

      So, tell me for what crimes I should be prosecuted. I dare say you meant persecuted. I am both without guilt and anything to feel guilty for.

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    4. That doesn't sound saintly, just correct.

      So, you want me to believe that you have been truthful to people that approached you with kindness?

      This doesn't sound in that line...

      -"You're very nice, and trust me, you're much better off disliking, or even hating me. If you were in your twenties, I may have selfishly drawn you closer to me. Be glad that you're not, and I didn't."

      -" I might even feel pleasure hurting you, as it would demonstrate my power and influence."

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    5. I can act like a sociopath, or anyone else if I want. If I like someone, I will draw them to me. I am capable of hurting people and enjoying it, but I was fortunate to learn that such actions carry a price. I won't deny that I said what you quoted. I own my actions and my words, be they mistakes or not. What you quoted sounds like it came from a whiny emo bitch who was feeling sorry for himself.

      Honesty doesn't scare me. People making assumptions about my character based on a delusional, misguided sense of moral superiority pissed me off. Prove to me how good you are, Jessi. I am not perfect, but my record is flawless. Stop the endless excuses and scapegoating and admit to some of your own mistakes. You'll never fix your flaws if you don't own them and accept responsibility for them.

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    6. Your police record you mean? I don't think that, considering how you have talked about yourself, your life record can be as clean as you want to sell. If your record will be really clean you will not stand by Jamie's side after her confessions on scamming and using people. The goodness of people are not seen in proves of goodness but in a complete lack of contradiction to those proves. "I can act like a sociopath, or anyone else if I want." You see, I can not, it is against my nature.

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    7. You're not the only one with a sense of justice. Emmie has obviously been on the fence for a while about whether or not she will share the consequences of her revelation. She hasn't even 'officially' confirmed her identity. My guess is that she's paid tenfold for any crimes she may have committed. You don't have to agree with someone in order to understand their position and cognitively empathize with them.

      Well, I don't at least. Your lack of cognitive empathy is astounding.

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    8. "My guess is that she's paid tenfold for any crimes she may have committed."

      I have empathy for her victims and I will have sympathy for her once I get to know that something unfair it is done to her. I am not aware of that tenfold payment you are presuming and my guess is the opposite.

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    9. You believe that it is human nature to be good. I believe it is human nature to be evil. You believe evil people are very rare, and you label them sociopaths. I believe good people are rare, and call them saints. Any argument we have is underscored by our opposite belief in the nature of humanity. Maybe we both could benefit from moving towards the middle from our two extremes.

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    10. "You believe that it is human nature to be good. I believe it is human nature to be evil"

      No, I don't. I believe that human nature is free will, and from that it derives my point of view about good and evil.

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    11. I have to say I agree with andy here. Humans are selfish, the history has shown that if given the opportunity your average person will take advantage. If you leave a wallet on the ground with $500 inside it you will typically get nothing back or just the wallet or the wallet with only a portion of the money, that's just how people are.

      Also in my real life I'm thought of as a good person. Besides some fights I've gotten into at a younger age and the times before I got control of my temper when I struck my ex my history is clean. Even those I've hurt have forgiven me, including my ex. I've never broken the law and I don't intend to. Those who know me would saw near constant mockery and a superiority complex are my worst traits, and I take care not to offend anyone with those, just tease them.

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  4. This again is why prominent spiritual teachings emphasise that man's
    ordinary state is one of slumber.
    Through physological and cultural conditioning (Garbage in/ Garbage out)
    the human being is created by comission and omission.
    We believe in the "us and them" premise. Eveything that enforces "us" is
    apporiate. Everything that affirms "them" is evil. (This could be anything
    from "enemy soccer team" to the enemy religion.)
    Kill to enforce our sacred truths? Is that such a steep price to pay for
    72 virgins who will service me for all eternity and baths in rivers of wine?
    I sure as hell can't get that here now! The shiek that sends me off on my
    sucicide mission gets all the girls and liquor and I don't have two
    nickels to rub together. It's all the fault of the Jews and the illumanity. Let's cleanse the earth of them!
    Never mind the fact that the Bible says that it's traits INSIDE the man
    that defiles him, NOT the things on the outside that profane him.
    Our task is to deprogramme and to unlearn. This is what the Eastern
    religions like Taoism tell us. Such religions are considered cold and
    dispassionate-not unlike psychopaths. Practices requiring self-observation are considered "unfeeling" because you don't take sides.
    Are you with us or against us? That's the perview of the Abrahamic
    (Western) religions of Judasim, Christianity and Islam. The end justifies
    the means. By all means kill for God.
    The Mormons have this quality known as the "Mormon Glow." From where does
    this quality emerge? I don't think it's from any special secreat. It's
    from the garbage in/garbage out principle. They simplly don't imbibe
    in the typical American diet. They attend to thier health needs.
    The two states with the longest and shortest life expectancy sit right
    along site each other: Nevada and Utah. Nevada has Vegas. Utah has S.L.C.
    You don't need the excess baggage of religion. Faith is answer. Not
    religion per se. Jesus said it was the persons' faith that made them whole. Religon is replete with terror stories. For terror stories about
    Mormonism read "Finding You North Star" by ? (I forgot her name.) She
    recounts the oppression that women experience in L.D.S.
    Incidently, part of the oppression of western religion is having to wait
    for some later day utopia.

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  5. Martha Beck wrote "Finding Your North Star"

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  6. Does anyone here realize after some time here that being annoyed or irritated with someone is just a degree of their anger? I am realizing this from talking here. Has anyone had similar changes in view on their self by being here??

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  7. Evil people make life hard for others. You can recognize them by this trait............

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  8. I always had a very different view of what was considered evil by so called normal people. I think action is just action. Logical action that benefits me is that which is take.

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    1. What is your view of evil by so called normal people?

      I somewhat agree with your logical action, Ukan.

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    2. That ain't UKan

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    3. To regular people evil is an action that goes against a set of morals that is held by a group of individuals or a larger society. Anything that typically goes against morals is a course that most feel should not be taken, regardless if it's logical and will benefit the perpetrator or some greater objective or not.

      The actions I take although heralded as evil by others is the quickest way to achieve my self-interests. I attribute logical action to me being able to stay alive so long and still come out on top......

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    4. This makes sense to me. I'm not actually a believer in good or evil, simply culturally moral and immoral. Different cultures have different views on whats good or evil and I subscribe to none of it.

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    5. Apparently the term evil for you carries still religious connotations. I see a vocabulary issue here. No wonder why even in books they recently use the term "asshole" to talk about people with despicable behaviour. Maybe it is more clarifying.

      Jessi

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  9. This good and evil stuff is cracking me up! We (Emps and Socios) all do good things and all do evil things at one time or another - I think the only difference is that Emps sometimes feel guilty after we do something evil and try not to do it again, whereas the Socios would judge the benefit of the outcome before deciding not to try it again. Both have done "evil" and.... may or may not do it again. As for doing good things - Emps will do good things because (and let's be honest here) when we do we feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside and it makes us look good to others. Socios do good things because ultimately it will benefit and further their cause. Again, both have done "good" and... may or may not do it again.

    Does it bother me that Socios confess to taking great pleasure in toying with and "ruining" people just because they can? Yes it does. It also bothers me that Emps toy with and "ruin" people with their behaviors all the time simply because they are too afraid to look at themselves and admit to doing so, therefore continuing the cycle. Both are capable of doing good and/or "EEEVIL" - whether it's consciously or unconsciously the results of the individual good or evil deed, is the same.

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    1. "Emps will do good things because (and let's be honest here) when we do we feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside and it makes us look good to others. Socios do good things because ultimately it will benefit and further their cause."

      Aren't warm/fuzzy feelings and a good reputation benefits that further some cause for emps? Aren't they doing the good for selfish reasons like socios? The diff is the emps may not do evil because it will hurt their self image so much that even if they are not punished by society, the resultant negative self image is too steep a price to pay. Socios' image is apparently not affected by doing what is perceived to be wrong.

      Edwin

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    2. Good people don't do good things because neither social reputation nor a fuzzy feeling. People can be selfish and do things that benefit themselves (fuzzy feeling, reputation,..) the question is where are their limits, and sociopaths have none.

      Jessi

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    3. That is my point. We all have our motives. And from what I'm reading on this and other sites, I think the big difference, and why Socios are thought of as "evil" comes in when we talk about long term and on-going interactions/relationships with people. Emps go about obtaining their benefits/relationships while presenting themselves as they are best consciously able to. Whereas Socios obtain theirs by consciously changing their presentation to "milk" the most out of a situation.
      For example - say an Emp like dogs. The Emp meets someone who also says that they likes dogs. They start talking about dogs, but soon realize that they have other things in common. Niceness and warm fuzzies ensues. They begin a friendship that is based on their mutual love of dogs. A couple of months later...the other person abruptly states "I really hate all animals and I want nothing more to do with you!". The Emp is shocked, hurt, stunned because the person they came to know, care for and let into their lives, never really existed.
      The Socio's conscious choice to use the Emp's wants, needs and desires to mold their presentation in such a way that the Emp will gladly drop their defenses (because they believe that they have found someone who shares their idea of warm fuzzies)is the kicker. The betrayal of trust and authenticity that eventually unveils itself with a Socio is what is judged to be "evil". IMHO

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    4. Lol. Clearly emps don't usually set out to hurt you unless they really have to. So your less likely to get hurt, and you will generally lead a happier life, with less socios around you, right?

      Edwin

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  10. It seems that empaths think (feel?) that they are very far removed from being capable of hurting others, and even further removed from committing some atrocities primarily attributed to sociopaths. However, classic studies that most people have heard of (Milgram experiments, etc etc) demonstrated how normal people, under the right conditions, will choose to hurt others (or do things they think are hurting others- the people in the experiments didn't actually shock the confederates). This quandary makes empaths uncomfortable, so it becomes convenient to 'forget.' In contrast, sociopaths are aware they have the capabilities to do harmful things or pro social things. So where is the 'danger?' In those who are realistic in their appraisals of what they are capable of? what about those who ignore evidence about their capabilities (for 'evil things') just to avoid their own emotional discomfort?

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    1. The danger depends on how much harm do they actually cause in reality, and that is called antisocial behaviour which characterizes the sociopaths.

      Jessi

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    2. So you've reasoned that the 'harm caused in reality' is entirely from antisocial behavior from sociopaths? You have completely missed the point of my post.

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  11. It looks like the anons are starting to get it. Keep it up Emmie ;)

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  12. What is this "good" versus "evil" bullshit? There are no such animals in the real world. We do not live in a comic book for Christ's sake.

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