Sunday, June 21, 2015

"I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup" -- a review

I dated someone that used to give me a lot of flak for saying that I didn't particularly like white people -- that I was being very racist by saying such a thing. At the time I defended myself. What I meant was that I didn't like the expectations that white people have of me -- to act a certain way or else I'm making a bad name for the rest for "all of us". I got the same vibe often from women and mormons for similar reasons. Sometimes lawyers? Sometimes people of my same generation or social class. Sometimes musicians. If there were ways that I didn't quite fit into my "groups", I felt some degree of conflict over it. In fact, I was thinking the other day about how the racism and other isms that seem to affect me personally the most (not surprisingly being born white and privileged) are the aggressive attempts to include me within a particular group and keep me behaving rather than any attempts to exclude me from anything. But how have I let that all affect me, is an interesting question to explore.

This article "I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup" was a very interesting article about the way people form group identities and what it actually means to be tolerant of someone who is different from you and how easy it is to deceive ourselves of our level of tolerance (myself included). I guess I realize now more than ever that the fact that although I am fine with certain hated groups like pedophiles (or it used to also include transgendered people back when there was still a predominant ick factor about them in society, does anyone remember that from about a decade or two ago?! It's crazy how fast the world is moving), that doesn't necessarily make me a particularly tolerant person. Because do I have a lot of love and tolerance for moral hypocrites and those that claim to have empathy for every group but none for sociopaths? No, obviously not, and I now see that as a personal failing of mine.

Worth reading in its entirety, here is just the beginning:

In Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, a beloved nobleman who murdered his good-for-nothing brother in a duel thirty years ago returns to his hometown wracked by guilt. All the townspeople want to forgive him immediately, and they mock the titular priest for only being willing to give a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection. They lecture the priest on the virtues of charity and compassion.

Later, it comes out that the beloved nobleman did not in fact kill his good-for-nothing brother. The good-for-nothing brother killed the beloved nobleman (and stole his identity). Now the townspeople want to see him lynched or burned alive, and it is only the priest who – consistently – offers a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection.

The priest tells them:
It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

He further notes that this is why the townspeople can self-righteously consider themselves more compassionate and forgiving than he is. Actual forgiveness, the kind the priest needs to cultivate to forgive evildoers, is really really hard. The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.


  1. :D Chesterton was a smart man, very observational. Especially about the role of cheese in poetry ;)

  2. M.E., you began this blog as an exploration in self understanding. You
    were tired of living in a rut, not making any progress, and repeating the same
    mistakes over and over again. You seem to have obtained your objectives
    because you've continued the blog for 7 years without let up.
    You also said that you'd like to change the impression empaths have about
    sociopaths. There IS away you could do this.
    Casey Anthony would like to reemerge. She COULD get an interview with N.B.C
    IF she could get a book deal. N.B.C. can't look as though they are paying her
    up front. They must do it through a publishing company. So she's still in limbo.
    If you colaborated with her on a book, it would be published under you name and
    you would get the proceeds. Casey could get the interview, and you could divide
    the funds later.
    Casey would ADMIT that she killed her daughter. She could reenact the crime
    on location. Double jepordy laws would protect her from prosecution.
    What's in it for you? Plenty. A second best selling book. And helping out a
    fellow sociopath. You could prove your theory that rehabilitation of a sociopath
    is possible.
    Casey hasn't killed in 7 years. There's no particular reason to believe she'll kill
    again. If she can be reformed, ANY sociopath can.
    You lose NOTHING if the effort fails. You are ALREADY economically set.
    Please consider it. It's another book, more attention, and will add spice to your

  3. Sociopathy cannot be rehabilitated. And ur the educated one?

  4. Great article, M.E. The many ways in which we deceive ourselves about our virtues never ceases to amaze. Life is truly a series of rude awakenings. Thank goodness, otherwise I'd remain fast asleep, dreaming of who I might be instead of who I really am.

    The only thing I find truly intolerable is lying to myself.

    Thanks so much for sharing this article. Much food for thought on which to stew this lazy Sunday morning.

  5. I kind of find tolerance from certain people to be obnoxious, even if they tend to agree with me. I've noticed that lots of my peers seem over eager to be seen as tolerant (Caitlyn Jenner provided a good opportunity to observe this) but they are filled with hatred for people they disagree with on other issues, like politics. Their tolerance seems like desperation to be part of the in-group, which seems insincere to me.

  6. M.E. wants to change the way people view sociopaths.
    There ARE high functioning, productive sociopaths.
    Sociopath DOES NOT necesasarrily = monster.
    Only M.E. (The only self-admitted sociopath who's written a book.) can help
    If Casey was willing to admit she's a sociopath by willing to admit she killed her
    child, do you have ANY idea what that would mean for sociopaths?
    M.E. could be the "Moses" that leads her (and other sociopaths) into the
    Promised Land.

  7. I was first thinking about women-hating serial-killers, psychopaths or psychotics "gone savage" after women rejected them. Then my thoughts drifted to women, the victims: aren´t women in general acting exactly like "cold, vicious sociopaths" when dating men, discarding poor men just like soiled napkins, on a whim. One day "love you" next day "bye-bye" for little or no reason? Has anybody dared to insinuate that they behave like "psychopathic fiends" and that this behaviour is so common, "almost all" women behave the same way in these matters..?

  8. So M.E. - do you imagine that the people that want to restrict your autonomy somehow have agency and are freely choosing to do the things they do that bother you?

    If so, it makes sense that you get angry at them.

    You wrote, "But how have I let that all affect me, is an interesting question to explore" -- the same way that anything happens.

    They had had impulses and acted on them. They didn't choose their impulses. They didn't choose to be incapable of reflection and restraint - that's just how they were. Just as you didn't choose to be a sociopath, they didn't choose to be bullying conformists.

    There's no evidence that anyone has free will.

    Whatever thought or impulses crosses your mind won't be controllable by you. If you have a thought and think "I thought that" that's just more of the same.

    The people that fear sociopaths and want to see them burned alive aren't choosing that. If they restrain their impulses (or don't) it won't be because they managed to (failed to) control themselves with some magical agency.

    If it were the case that people had agency they'd behave well all the time and be happy all the time. That's not how things are.

  9. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. animation exposure sheet pdf


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  12. I've been described several times as hard and unforgiving.

    I actually don't really think much about forgiveness. You'll probably never hear me say I've forgiven someone, because I don't think in those terms. Nor in terms of 'wiping the slate clean' - that would be a lie: I have a good memory (it was very good before the seizures) and I don't kid myself that won't inform my attitude to some degree.

    If I think a person will genuinely put a past event behind them and attempt improvement (whether it be simply in their interactions or something more concrete) then I am willing to draw a line under the event/chapter and go forward. It would be with 'increased alertness' and different from my attitude if we had no history; for instance, if someone had lied about something of significance and did so for... detrimental reasons, I would probably seek outside confirmation of what they said for a while. If the lying stopped I would presume them truthful until they proved otherwise. I would probably never lose the awareness that they might lie.

    If they gradually slip back into the previous pattern of behaviour I will probably detach from them. That will be an indication that they are not capable of the change that would allow continued interaction.

    If I think, or see clear indications, that they will not alter a behaviour and the event will be repeated I just won't waste my time. The point about mistakes is to learn from them (and by that I mean my mistake in allowing whatever it was to take place). If it's a second occurrence, that's an indication of lack of ability/willingness to change.

    But the concept of forgiving doesn't really enter into this process. Saying "I forgive you" means no more than saying "I'm sorry": they're just words until translated into 'real' terms - actions and attitudes. It's the Tit For Tat progam, basically.

    I'm told that makes me cynical ;)

    1. I'm sorry to hear you have seizures, I too have had some difficulty with memory but I have had to admit the unpleasant truth of the matter and recognise that in fact I have an exceptional memory, and yes it does affect my attitude.

      For those who's slate has been wiped clean I feel sorry, in doing so the ability to be aware is removed, I consider that to be too close to a lobotomy and as such anti life. I prefer to keep the bill where i can see it, and know that i am owed....this does not mean that i expect payment or apology, I'm not that naive but it does mean that I could contemplate continued interaction with someone who was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing (even if they originally chose to be there) but the slate would alway be in sight as a reminder of the potential.

      I think so much of the sociopath's suffering (because sociopaths do suffer) is connected to trust, and ironically it's also often the domain of a sociopath's pleasure toying with the "naive" empaths trusting nature, thereby honest interaction does become a tad tricky.

      it's interesting to read your comment as I sense a desire to be trusted and to trust. Trust is what connects us to each other as humans, it's a way out of fear and to be able to trust it is necessary to recognise our venerability as mortals that can suffer....this is very scary, vulnerability means danger but it also means connection.

      If the sociopath can overcome pride, superiority and fear of non acceptance and the non sociopath world can overcome righteousness, superiority and fear of abuse we could probably all get along swingingly. If sociopaths could find inclusion it might be possible to develop the trust needed to feel connected.

      I'm intrigued by "allowing whatever it was to take place" and "lied for detrimental reasons"....on the one hand the lie is "justified" and on the other hand it is considered a mistake.
      If you are so dead against forgiveness how do you deal with letting go of regret?
      "regret" is implicit in the idea of "mistake"


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