Monday, September 30, 2013

The Gervais Principle (part 3)

A reader sent me a link to the latest edition of the Gervais Principle. From the reader:

Have you read the final installment of the Gervais Principle? You mentioned the previous installments in older posts, but the last section is much more insightful and relevant to sociopaths than the previous ones. 

Venkat basically describes sociopaths as ultimate social nihilists that progressively learn that every single ideal or moral calculus that gives meaning to human existence as social constructs. In the end, sociopaths find immense freedom in a world that has no meaning except what they create or choose to acknowledge. This means that sociopaths can still coexist peacefully (social contracts), both with empaths and other socios. I identify very strongly with this nihilism, and I have frequently mentioned the idea of an absent god before I read the Gervais Principle, but I also feel that you do not identify very strongly with this description, given your adherence to the tenets of Mormonism, unless I am misinterpreting you. What are your thoughts? 

Here's what I replied (makes the most sense if you read the article first):

Thanks for this! I enjoyed it a lot. I especially liked this part:

"The mask-ripping process itself becomes revealed as an act within the last theater of social reality, the one within which at least manipulating social realities seems to be a meaningful process in some meta-sense. Game design with good and evil behaviors."
I feel like a lot of sociopaths stop at that stage for a while. They give me a hard time for revealing their methods, as if playing a game was any less meaningless than everything the empaths are up to.

I think it is that sort of nihilism that allowed me to write the book and be so flippant about it and possible ramifications. Some people think my zen attitude is from my mormonism. Maybe. It is true that if you believe in religion then a lot of things in life just don't matter much. But if you don't believe in religion, then for sure nothing in life matters much. So that's where I sort of am on Mormonism. I'd like to think that I will continue to exist forever and be a god. If that doesn't work out, oh well, there's really no such thing as "wasting time" doing one thing over another. But I do think my conception of God is really different from most people's, including most Mormons. The Otherwise Occupied God, or the God who might care about us but has the perspective to not really be as caught up as we think he might be in what all we get up to (or he cares about different things than we think).

The article's most basic argument, in reference to the emphasis that the "losers" place on social interactions and the accompanying emotional checks and balances:

But by their very nature, emotions overweight social behavior over material substance. Having a $100 bill thrown contemptuously at you hurts. Being politely handed $10 feels good. The Loser mind, predictably, sees the first act as a slight and seeks revenge, and the second act as nice and seeks to repay it.

We saw an example from the The Office last time. In the sales-commissions episode we find that for the support staff, sharing in the salespeople’s commissions and being thrown a thank-you party are emotionally equivalent. Both heal the emotional rift, but one leaves the salespeople vastly better off.

The Sociopath as Priest

It is this strangely incomplete calculus that creates the shifting Loser world of rifts and alliances. By operating with a more complete calculus, Sociopaths are  able to manipulate this world through the divide-and-conquer mechanisms.  The result is that the Losers end up blaming each other for their losses, seek collective emotional resolution, and fail to adequately address the balance sheet of material rewards and losses.

To succeed, this strategy requires that Losers not look too closely at the non-emotional books. This is why, as we saw last time, divide-and-conquer is the most effective means for dealing with them, since it naturally creates emotional drama that keeps them busy while they are being manipulated.

Sociopaths encourage this mode of processing by framing their own contributions to betrayal situations as necessary and inevitable. They also carefully avoid contributing to the emotional texture of unfolding events, otherwise their roles might come under scrutiny by being included in the emotional computations.

For theatrically skilled Sociopaths, other non-vanilla affects are possible. “Divine anger” (Jan),  ”charming but firm elder” (Jo Bennett) and “unpredictable demigod” (Robert California) are examples. These framing affects are designed to shape outcomes without direct participation, in ways that cannot be achieved by neutral low-reactor affects.
***

These non-vanilla personalities operate by adding to, or subtracting from, the net emotional energy available to go around in Loser emotional calculations, but without intimate involvement. Sociopaths basically create the emotional boundary conditions of Loser life in simple or complex ways, depending on their skill level.
***
Guilt is the one emotion that Losers cannot always resolve for themselves, since it sometimes requires quantities of forgiveness that mere humans cannot dispense, but priests can, as reserve bankers of the fiat currencies of Loser emotional life.

Other good nuggets:

  • manufacturing fake realities is very hard. But subtractive simplification of reality is much easier, and yields just as much power.
  • Sociopaths exercise agency on behalf of others. They do not grab power. Power is simply ceded to them.
  • Sociopathy is not about ripping off a specific mask from the face of social reality. It is about recognizing that there are no social realities. There are only masks.  Social realities exist as a hierarchy of increasingly sophisticated and specialized fictions for those predisposed to believe that there is something special about the human condition, which sets our realities apart from the rest of the universe.
  • There is, to the Sociopath, only one reality governing everything from quarks to galaxies. Humans have no special place within it. Any idea predicated on the special status of the human — such as justice, fairness, equality, talent — is raw material for a theater of mediated realities 
  • Non-Sociopaths dimly recognize the nature of the free Sociopath world through their own categories: “moral hazard” and “principal-agent problem.”  They vaguely sense that the realities being presented to them are bullshit: things said by people who are not lying so much as indifferent to whether or not they are telling the truth. Sociopath freedom of speech is the freedom to bullshit: they are bullshit artists in the truest sense of the phrase.
  • Non-Sociopaths, as Jack Nicholson correctly argued, really cannot handle the truth. . . . The truth of values as crayons in the pockets of unsupervised Sociopaths. The truth of the non-centrality of humans in the larger scheme of things.
  • When these truths are recognized, internalized and turned into default ways of seeing the world, creative-destruction becomes merely the act of living free, not a divinely ordained imperative or a primal urge.  Creative destruction is not a script, but the absence of scripts. The freedom of Sociopaths is the same as the freedom of non-human animals. Those who view it as base merely provide yet another opportunity for Sociopaths to create non-base fictions for them to inhabit.
  • Morality becomes a matter of expressing fundamental dispositions rather than respecting social values. Kindness or cruelty, freely expressed. Those who are amused by suffering use their powers to cause it. Those who enjoy watching happiness theaters, create them through detached benevolence.

20 comments:

  1. All of this heavy intellectualizing. Where does it get you?
    Life is actually very simple. Life is NOT an acquiring process. It is
    actually a ridding process.
    First, we have to differentiate between "wants" and "needs."
    The truly wicked people-even if they are well intended-most aren't,
    want to confuse the meanings of those two words. There are
    unavoidable NEEDS, but the exploiters task is to get you to WANT
    what they sell. This applies to every area of life. Economics, Religion,
    Social Acceptance, Satiation, Sex. you name it.
    I need a certain amount of water every day to keep from dying of
    thirst. The advertiser's task is to make me WANT to substitue soda
    pop: empty sugar laced calories that promotes obesity eventual
    diabetus and DEATH.
    Man is a social being. He needs approval, acceptance and love (Sex?)
    So the advertiser says purchase this product-that has nothing whatso-
    ever to do with these objectives and you will be loved. How so?
    "Well, if we can get everyone to buy this product, then everyone else
    will want to buy it and we'll all be one big happy diseased family."
    In the early days of "smoking," the tabacco companies were faced
    with a problem. Women, for some reason were reluctant to take up the
    habit. That ment that 50% of potential buyers rejected the product.
    No why would that be? Ciggerates were good for you. That's what
    the advertisers said. At that time, there was no proof to indicate
    otherwise. It appears that many women believed the habit to be more
    geared to men, "dirty" and unladylike. So the people who produced
    these death sticks decided to appeal to the advertisers for help.
    It is not an exaggeration to say, that over a course of a weekend, the
    sales jumped off the chart. How did they do it? Probably an appeal to
    social proof. Once a trend gets started, everybody wants to get in the
    act like a perpetual motion machine.
    Why do people engage in self-harming activities? Only because they
    don't recokognise them as self-harming. The sociopath is a risk taker
    and gambler. He has myopia in a sense that he can't corrolate this
    risk taking with harm to himself and others. He can't stop because he
    has no internal braking system.
    Whether it's because of a lack of brain chemical, or the general hypnotic state that society is in, or both, he can't stop.
    It has been shown in the case of the male sociopath that the anti-social
    behavior tapers off when he becomes middle-aged. 50 years or older.
    Not so with the female sociopath. Some poisoners continue into their
    50's and beyond.

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  2. Venkat basically describes sociopaths as ultimate social nihilists that progressively learn that every single ideal or moral calculus that gives meaning to human existence as social constructs.

    Yes, true so what?

    In the end, sociopaths find immense freedom in a world that has no meaning except what they create or choose to acknowledge.

    Well apparently it has one meaning. Power and money. And winners, clueless and losers. Or the neo-Darwinian Garvais Principle? Doesn't it?

    So sociopath is only a new word used for much older dynamics?

    From my perspective: To succeed you have to turn into a servant of the powers that best guarantee you come out financially on top as ideally "one of them" further down the road. What would be the ultimate freedom in this system? Death? Or is this one of the meaningless principles? How about getting as close to doing what you actually like to do?

    In M.E.'s narrative, of course I may be mistaken, I found one clear message and meaning. Never turn into a "looser" like your father. Or maybe as a close second don't trust emotional outbursts too much. So, can you really get rid of whatever type of meaning? Will neo-Darwinism always suffice to explain life satisfactorily?

    Not that it matters much:
    To succeed, this strategy requires that Losers not look too closely at the non-emotional books. This is why, as we saw last time, divide-and-conquer is the most effective means for dealing with them, since it naturally creates emotional drama that keeps them busy while they are being manipulated.

    Once I told a friend about my experiences about temping in the most diverse work environments. Some of them I would describe as rat nests. It usually get much worse when the firm is in a downward spiral anyway.

    I wouldn't really describe them all as psychopaths no matter if on the top or on the lower to mid level, but I met a lot of people that tried to manipulate the process to their own advantage on every level. Lots of charmingly normal attitudes with knives drawn behind each others backs.

    A friend, when I talked about it, asked me if I would be willing to do such temp jobs for her. With degrees in sociology and systemic psychology it was in fact her job to look into these matters when they seemed to hinder the normal work process. But her job was less focused on human interaction usually. It is what it is.

    But the damage some love to inflict on each other tends to inflict damage to the usual work flow too. Something that tends to surface in pure numbers on a level we call Controlling over here occasionally, you may use comptroller. But that term does not work since the accounting and finances department is often a separate unit over here. All heads of "Controlling" I met were mathematicians. But more often it surfaces in illness rates for instance. One of the tools in both the "clueless" and the "losers" toolbox. Which may sometimes even have a very, very simple reason. One person that tends to be ill repeatedly for longer periods, leaving a lot of work for others to do as well. So why not take a couple of days or weeks off yourself? Pretty complicated. But it may also be a signal for other things that are wrong ....

    Besides I find the idea that sociopaths, according to the Gervais principle are always only the ones on top pretty simplistic. People generally try to play games with each other on all levels. ... And occasionally the system may be described as tendentiously idiopathic too.

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    Replies
    1. happens all the time ;): "looser" someone that is less rigid, more relaxed versus a "loser" that tends to blame destiny, the system or others, finding it hard to relax.

      Delete
  3. I don't think sociopaths are true nihilists. Their need to remain dominant in social interactions tips their hand. Sociopaths may not care about the things (at least not to the same degree) more conventional personalities do, but they still exhibit a strong streak of self preservation. If nothing matters, then why care about keeping the upper hand?

    I think one advantage sociopaths do have is they are less driven by the need to justify themselves. They feel no need to fit a cohesive narrative they have cooked up internally about who they are and what their life means. There is no need to act a certain way to prove "I'm a good person" to themselves.

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  4. The Gervais Principle is available on Amazon as an ebook. The Be Slightly Evil newsletter is an ebook too. Acording to the descriptions both of them have bonus essays.

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    Replies
    1. Now the links to the ebook are appearing on the website. Before they weren't. wonderful.

      Delete
  5. This is amazing bullshit.

    "Sociopathy is not about ripping off a specific mask from the face of social reality. It is about recognizing that there are no social realities. There are only masks. Social realities exist as a hierarchy of increasingly sophisticated and specialized fictions for those predisposed to believe that there is something special about the human condition, which sets our realities apart from the rest of the universe.

    Sociopathy itself is a reality, you moron. My need to love and be loved is a reality, as well. Both sociopathy and empathy are closely linked to brain structure, which is a PHYSICAL REALITY. This physical reality is manifest in SOCIAL REALITY. Your sociopathy and my empathy are then both real - physically and socially. Get it?

    This is the problem with sociopaths. They project their lack of identity on everyone and everything else. "If I wear masks constantly, then you must, too." BULLSHIT. So much of who I am is innate. It's bizarre that sociopaths despise empaths for projecting their emotions and morality on everyone else. Sociopaths project their lack of emotion, lack of empathy, and lack of identity on the entire world. Clearly.

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  6. Sociopaths project their lack of emotion, lack of empathy, and lack of identity on the entire world.

    True.

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    Replies
    1. Sociopaths project their lack of emotion, lack of empathy, and lack of identity on the entire world.


      ^what does that mean?

      i understand when i project. I understand, for example, that if i feel annoyed with someone and i accuse them of being annoyed with me that that is projection. But what does "to project" mean in that other context?

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    2. It means that they think everyone and everything functions the way they do. It's a natural human tendency. Empaths, for example, project a conscience onto sociopaths. This is often why they can't see that they are being manipulated.

      Delete
    3. oh. Thank you. that's where the paranoia comes from then.

      Delete
    4. There is one basic piece of wisdom that is really old about not judging too easily. I guess you missed that one. But one can of course use the term project always only for others without too much reflection about to what extend we mirror our own state of mind on the however defined: " other".

      Both sociopathy and empathy are closely linked to brain structure, which is a PHYSICAL REALITY. This physical reality is manifest in SOCIAL REALITY. Your sociopathy and my empathy are then both real - physically and socially. Get it?

      So empath are the ones that "get it" while sociopath are evil since they do not feel empathy the way you do? And you always feel it? Every time something bad happens to anyone around you? Even a neighbor you don't like that much, really? Someone wounded in a traffic accident, you don't even know?

      How much do you understand of brain science or Neuroscience for that matter? Should I assume you are an expert and are familiar with all the controversies in the field? Why do you think "brain structure" is an easy one way road to "social reality"?

      Emotions and/or empathy is as many things in life something along a pole from extreme to no response at all. Emotions are also very subjectively connected with yourself. The rest no doubt is to a large extend social convention:

      Emotions in history This is an ebook, one of the chapters is about empathy. Maybe you take a look at what you take so much for granted as "natural physical reality".

      Delete
    5. I guess this should be extent not extend. Noticed to late.;)

      Delete
    6. "So empath are the ones that 'get it' while sociopath are evil since they do not feel empathy the way you do?"

      So that's not what I said at all. Try reading. I didn't say sociopaths were evil because they lack empathy, not did I say empaths were inherently better for having empathy.

      My frustration with the blog post stemmed from the author's insistence on an absolute truth - the absolute being that there are no absolutes. This is illogical on its face. You can't propose subjectivity as an objective fact of existence.

      "And you always feel it? Every time something bad happens to anyone around you? Even a neighbor you don't like that much, really? Someone wounded in a traffic accident, you don't even know?"

      And yes, asshole, I do empathize with others almost all the time. I can walk into the funeral of a complete stranger and start crying. This is who I am. It is not a fucking act. It is not a "mask" I wear to gain others' sympathy, nor is it some form of primal stupidity.

      Of course there is a spectrum to emotion. Almost all human characteristics fall on a spectrum.

      The problem with your skepticism is that you equate empathy with sympathy. They are not the same thing. I am not at all sympathetic to your dismissal of my argument, largely because you didn't read it. I can, however, empathize with you, to a certain extent. I can understand why someone who has never felt empathy would be skeptical of its existence, and I respect that.

      I'm telling you it exists. I'm not putting on a mask, trolling, or otherwise fucking around.

      The idea that sociopaths' are somehow doing society a favor by "dismantling" (really, disrespecting) others' perception of reality is self-aggrandizing, self-justifying, lazy bullshit.

      Delete
    7. I can walk into the funeral of a complete stranger and start crying.

      Is it because you know what they feel because you have felt the same type of loss?

      I can do it while watching a movie, i think. But it does feel like crying for myself not for the other person.. Is that considered empathy? That I can identify with another's pain and cry for myself?

      Because that doesn't seem like it is about the other person.

      Delete
    8. You're right; empathy is self-referential in that sense. "I've felt this way before" or "I can imagine feeling this way." (One of the hazards of empathy, of course, is thinking that you know everything someone else's feeling, when in reality you cannot know the full extent of someone else's emotional world. However, most people have experienced another person assuming they understand how you feel. As a result, they are hesitant to assume they completely understand what other people are feeling. If that makes sense.)

      Empathy is seeing another person in pain and feeling pain in response. The necessary subsequent step is wanting to help, expressing sympathy, or at least refraining from hurting them because you feel their pain.

      What makes a movie different from real life?

      I've been wondering what effect music therapy would have on psychopathy. Movies have soundtracks. If you asked a musically-inclined psychopath, "what would be the soundtrack to this interpersonal situation?" would they then empathize with others? Would this then lead to sympathy for the other person?

      Incidentally, I wouldn't be crying for the dead person, necessarily. I would be crying for all the people who had lost him or her.

      Delete
  7. having empathy is having a good heart -its a warm peaceful feeling - i feel someones pain suffering even without knowing them - Human suffering is upsetting 2 me and yes i do cry alot

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