It's nice to revisit casual assumptions every once in a while, to check out whether what rolls off the tongue with such casual and assured ease has some basis in reason. Failing to do this allows for a sloppiness and sometimes harm that can be seen, for example, in those willing to say that the Bible proscribes homosexuality or votes Republican or something similar.
For a variety of reasons, I have felt comfortable with the word "sociopath." I'm not sure that the word any longer holds an acceptable place in the realm of psychology (I have a feeling it has been redefined and then re-redefined), but I ran across a list of characteristics of the "sociopath" this morning and felt mildly relieved by its parameters: Yes, that is what I meant, and no, I'm not just a blowhard who knows long words.
On the other hand, maybe I am just a blowhard: A disclaimer at the bottom of the site says, "I, the creator of this site, am not a psychologist and no special expertise in the subject. I created the site as a public service, because no similar site existed in 2003. I occasionally get sad calls and emails. I urge you to consult either a clinical psychologist or the police depending on the problem you face, and wish you good luck."
So, just because I find the list of characteristics readable and agreeable does not prove I am any more 'reasonable' or 'knowledgeable' than any other person who finds his meanings supported by others and lies back in some comforting, biased mental hammock. But in order to know for sure, I would have to take a degree in psychology ... and even then, what would I actually know about a "sociopath?"
The "sociopath," according to the linked-list, is awash is self-centric behavior that casts aside or manipulates the needs of others. S/he "does not perceive that anything is wrong with them." But in what way does this description not fit ANY person who is mentally afflicted? Of course the specific cruelties of a "sociopath" may set him or her apart from other crazed brethren, but still ....
Puttering along in my mind, revisiting old shoes of assumption, I come to the conclusion that my desire to be 'reasonable' or 'based in reason' is just that ... a desire which, when examined and when particulars are detailed, runs out of steam. But the fact that it runs out of steam does not incline me to lie down for a moral relativism that might be taken as a reasonable outcome. Moral relativism is just laziness dressed in purple.
But there is a corollary that I think is important and this is what I think it is: Needing to be thought of as a voice of reason is aggrandizing without much usefulness. And it is in this vein that I return to my personal revulsion for "sociopaths." I am like the supreme court justice who said (approximately) of "pornography," "I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it." And what I see makes my gorge rise ... "sociopaths" are simply the "assholes" I have abbreviated them as in the past. They are outside whatever pale I have constructed. They are vile, self-important, anti-social and harmful. And ...
I don't like them.
I don't like them and ... if I haven't got the balls to shoot them and I haven't got the energy or skills to reform them, then the best I can do is ... not act like them. Speak up as circumstances allow, sure, but first and foremost, don't you do that.
PS. As if to drive home my mental mutterings, a friend sent along a blog commentary on the conviction of Monsignor William Lynn -- a commentary that lit my pants on fire enough to write a response ... as circumstances allowed:
"Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater" seems to be one of the fallback Vatican positions when it comes to the abuse of children in its care..
The sociopathic heinousness of the crimes in their particulars and the collusive cover-ups that followed in their wake are excused with the same smooth disregard that was once brought to bear during World War II: "Hitler's not such a bad guy -- he build the autobahn, right?"
One of the characteristics of sociopathic behavior is that the one suffering from a manipulative and cruelly self-centered point of view cannot see or admit to his or her maliciousness. Sweet reason, compassion, gentle promptings or hard-nosed logic are all seen as signs of weakness to be exploited still further by this voracious and powerful manipulator. Yes, indeed, let's look at all the wonderful things that were accomplished ... and dismiss or discredit the long-gone instances of what might occasion shame and repentance in another.
Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. OK ... duck and cover.
But let us thank whatever gods we prefer that this sort of behavior is finally making its way into a legal arena where it can be detailed and adjudged for the unholy human apostasy it is.
-- adam fisher