Saturday, April 14, 2007

On Chaplin's "Hope" and Political Sociopathology

Hi Shane,

Thanks for your message and your diagnosis. I'll look into those studies more. But I don't think there's really something missing about this puzzle. You said I was "infected" by the ideas of sociopaths. But am I just infected because I'm not optimistic like Chaplin? Humanity is hopeless. Our hopes are false, and we're in despair without our hopes.

I object to Chaplin's optimistic view of "human nature", and that we love each other. I don't think we do. I think that's the sort of folk-psychology we've been telling ourselves for centuries and it simply isn't true. We're deeply hopeless, and without these ideas the masses hold about religion and happy-faced political ideologies, it would be the death of the species. We're not strong enough to free ourselves from false optimism, from false hope. No one is really that serious about our condition in this way, and so when I say we're hopeless in that sense, then I'm seen as infected by the pessimists.

A lot of what Chaplin says is falsely optimistic. It's a dream and a lie at the same time. On some level, I wish it would be true. But I can't. I can only hope for a free society without a state. No state will give us what Charlie wants. As long as men are not yet free to choose and live as they please, without the coercion of the state, we will be enslaved by dictators, wherever they are.

I'm not made politically apathetic by what I see and hear from the media and the rhetoric of our political system. But I cannot "fight to fulfill that promise"--because it's a false promise, beginning with a false metaphysics and a false ethics. Still, I can fight against national barriers, against hate and intolerance.



Hi Joe,

Thank you for posting Chaplin's speech, it was the first I heard it. I didn't see your understanding of it until I read the description after I watched the video. I long held the view that humanity must be innately evil; what else could provide why we 'live' the way we do? I've shared you're hopelessness. You're interpretation and hopelessness reaches to the core of humanity's value. So your take wasn't merely a broken view of man but to me shows your own broken spirit. I think you're missing a vital piece of the puzzle.

In my search to understand 'why' I'm grateful to have come across studies of psychopathy, and importantly one called 'Political Ponerology' by Andrew Lobaczewski. It's the clinical study of evil on a macro-social scale. It shows how psychopaths in positions of influence use language to twist normal people's morality and thinking. Here 'normal' has a specific context meaning those who have the ability for conscience. These psychopaths are Chaplin's 'Machine men with machine minds'. They are the essence of inhumanity and I do not consider them to be human at all. In certain periods they infect whole nations with their thinking. They wear a 'mask of sanity' that is reflected at a greater scale in their political ideologies. I think we all suffer from being infected with their disease to different degrees. We have an inapt immune system to defend ourselves, largely because the study is so little well known. It was written in Communist Poland and the manuscript was destroyed several times. The third edition has only in the past year or so been publicly available.

In Martha Stout's book 'The Sociopath Next Door' she describes how a psychopath isn't at all as they've been depicted in media. They're much more prevalent and fit into many categories and are often non-physically violent. She describes personal and more intimate encounters with 'run-of-the-mill' psychopaths. Just as they can infect thinking on mass levels given the right circumstance, they will do the same in smaller groups. One of the great lessons I learned with the help of her book was a technique of dominance they use: they make people think humanity is a failure. When people do so they lose hope and any real resistance. We are not a failure. We're able to love; they are not. I hope you might eventually see how your own thinking has been infected. There is much valuable material out there on psychopathy that I cannot relay to you. I hope and encourage you to study these things: for your own sake and for the reason that you have a voice and are using it. Much of the real damage is spread through normal people who are infected. The SS had it's greatest influence by using German citizens as their 'eye's and ears.' I'm sure many of them were even 'well intentioned.' But to act without knowledge and understanding is, in my opinion, at the human root of atrocity.

You can read some excerpts and a more thorough description of political ponerology here if you wish:

Take care,

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