Archive | December, 2012

Is American Culture Producing Psychopathy?

28 Dec

While there is no one test that measures whether a person can be placed in a camp of the psychopaths, there are markers and symptoms that bear notice, by the reader.  Before we get to these markers and symptoms, let us first define “psychopaths.”

Dr. Robert Hare defines psychopaths as “social predators who charm, manipulate, and ruthlessly plow their way through life, leaving a broad trail of broken hearts, shattered expectations, and empty wallets.  Completely lacking in conscience and feelings for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.”  (Hare, Without Conscience, p. xi)

The following list of symptoms, or markers, is not meant as a tool of diagnosis.  Lest the reader begin pointing fingers at friends and family, these are only to be considered as markers.  Remember that rule?  Pointing one finger at another means several other fingers simultaneously pointing back at you!  In fact, one can exhibit most or all of the following, and not be a psychopath.  As Hare writes:  Many people are impulsive, or glib, or cold and unfeeling, or antisocial, but this does not mean they are psychopaths.  Psychopathy is a syndrome, a cluster of related symptoms.” (Hare, p. 34)  This should be kept in mind.

Honestly, the only reason that Hare’s list is provided for the reader is to enable the reader to reflect on the question posed in this blog piece:  “Is American Culture Producing Psychopaths?”  The question is general enough for our purposes here.

With all the gang violence in inner cities,–particularly Chicago, IL–drug wars, and recent mass murders that have sparked national outcry, we have to ask ourselves serious questions that are much deeper and controversial than whether or not guns are the only cause.

  • Oklahoma City Bombing
  • September 11, 2001
  • Columbine High School
  • Arizona parking lot that ended the lives of supporters of Gabby Giffords
  • Military killing rampage at Fort Hood
  • College killings at Virginia Technical University
  • Theater killings in Colorado
  • Most recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The following list consists of emotional, interpersonal general traits of psychopaths.  These traits have been compiled by Hare’s research of psychopaths, spanning some 30 years.  The specifics of each case would warrant deep analysis.  Again, if you know someone who evidences any or all of these traits, fight the urge to classify.

To what extent is American culture feeding the development of these traits in our children and youth?  Is there a connection to our modern culture to the rise of crime and abuse in our nation, among young people and adults?  Consider these questions as you read the list below.

Hare’s Key Symptoms of Psychopathy

Emotional/Interpersonal

  • Glib and Superficial
  • Egocentric and Grandiose
  • Lack of Remorse or Guilt
  • Lack of Empathy
  • Deceitful and Manipulative
  • Shallow Emotions

Social Deviance

  • Impulsive
  • Poor Behavior Controls
  • Need for Excitement
  • Lack of Responsibility
  • Early Behavior Problems
  • Adult Anti-Social Behavior

What is it about American culture that might be leading and feeding psychopathy in America today?  Is there a connection to violence?

First, we must question whether all those hours partnering up with violence as fun, during the developmental years of children’s brains, is

  1. lessening the ability of children to feel deeply,
  2. come to terms with empathy, and
  3. whether the actions of violence as fun diminish the brain’s ability to connect real-world empathy and affect.

Finding pleasure through regular glorification of violence and killing fires up the “pleasure-producing” brain chemical dopamine and stimulates excitement.  Everything from movies to music, and video games such as Black Ops and Call of Duty, Mortal Combat, etc., are predicated on enhancing the pleasures associated with killing and violence.

Second, children today are growing-up in a high-stakes world, often pressed by parents to participate and star in athletics, and to win at all they do.  These mixed messages come across from parents who have not demonstrated their “winning” (apologies to Charlie Sheen) in relationships, education, and employment.  When children are reared by adults who choose to live in ways other that what they espouse, their children’s brains do not make sense of these choices.  Neurons do not make solid connections and emotions associated with these disconnections are often not healthy.  Children begin to “feel negativity and pain” as the norm for their lives and inconsistency may become complacency.

Third, American culture today feeds the “self.”  In fact, we are told to worship ourselves in various ways in everything from advertisements to sexual expression.  We are instructed that our sexuality is to be celebrated, and that “coming out” to identify one’s personhood by sex is to finally be honest with oneself.  If one chooses not to “come out” he or she is viewed as a pariah, and labeled as “not genuine.”  Children are confused by this.

We live in a high-stakes sexually charged environment in America today.  Children are told to allow their natural sexual urges and inclinations to emerge.  Here in California there is much controversy over assisting students who seek help in repressing homosexual tendencies and behaviors, because they think they are immoral.  Sexual and moral confusion are fed by homosexual-advocates.  Laws have been changed to guarantee immorality, and punish anyone who believes otherwise.  That is right.  The mere belief expressed is punished by those who believe “love’s expressions” should be protected.  Irony at its best, in this case–and highly intolerant.

In addition to all of this, students are also told they must achieve excellence in schools.  What we are finding is that students are cheating in great numbers just to get by.  Students are only mimicking what culture has allows for others to succeed.

Fourth, our culture glorifies death and suffering, even in the name of choice over one’s body and sexual expression.  Abortion and Shades of Gray are two examples, respectively, of the glorification of death and pain as cultural choices.  There is no right and wrong associated with these choices in the minds of advocates.  Yes, the latter is a novel.  But it is based in reality and the BDSM lifestyle.  For progressives and secular moralists, there is nothing wrong with a choice for the “self” over others.

Children’s brains do not know what to do with all of these inconsistencies in culture.  They are “excited” by so many things.  Excitement without proper filtration is asking for trouble.  Exciting “self” over service plays right into the psychopathy concerns mentioned above.  Removing morality from the basis of right and wrong and replacing morality of life with personal ethic of “self,” again seems to be playing into the hands of psychopathy.

Adults do know, and somewhat understand, that when children begin to live as if life and pleasure are all about them, conflict begins.  But what is done about it?   Some adults live in ways they tell their kids not to live.  In our culture today, how many children are actually taught self-control through discipline?  In schools, those educators who dare to discipline students are labeled “bad guys.”  Expressing the “right thing,” like the possibility of sending a disturbed child away could results in a mass-killing–such as we saw in Connecticut!

Another problem in our culture is that schools have become student-centered and this is a great mistake.  When a student decides to act on his or her centeredness, what then?  Does it not sound trite to merely blame guns as the cause?

It does not take long for people to observe today’s culture and conclude that self over others has replaced the Golden Rule.  Win by any means has replaced manners and graceful courtesy.  People with concern and consideration for others are often viewed as weak.

Here is an example of our American culture-gone-wild.

Crimes are up in my community, because the governor of my state decided to release many criminals back into communities, due to budget cuts.  Prison has not reformed those people who burglarize homes.  So, burglaries in the area are up over 200% since the release of the criminals.  Burglars have been shot and people decry the use of excessive force, in protecting their own property.  We are a mess.  American culture produces many things.  How about we consider that it produces criminals too?

It has been said that “we cannot legislate morality.”  Well, with all of our laws in this nation, it is certainly true to a large extent.  However, when politicians decide to remove rights from people because their political leanings this is anathema and confusing to current and future generations.  Leftists have allowed the moral slippage to occur, codified the slippage into law, protected certain classes of immorality, and deny there are consequences.  The consider themselves heroic because they read their media clippings and associate with the fringe-in-their-favor.  Such actions force one’s secular morality upon an already bankrupt culture.  Nothing changes.  Then we are told that the blame should be placed on inanimate objects, such as guns–all while the politicians own weapons themselves.  I would say if guns came with videos embedded in their barrels, repeated looping the visual refrain to kill, or had audio chips clamoring and glorifying violence, then there is a greater chance of misuse.  If these are not the case, they why are they misused?

So, where does this leave us?  We are in a big mess as a nation and we not going after the real issues?  Worship of self over others, removal of morality of Judeo-Christian framework for ethical behavior, the breakdown of the family, the promotion of secular morality and behaviors–these have not helped our nation!  If this trend does not end, we will see more and more killing.  For the psychopath, it is just a matter of picking one’s pleasure . . . For the American it is a matter of getting his or her life back in order and reclaiming culture in the midst of vile name calling and death threats.

Lord of the Flies, anyone?

Moral Bankruptcy

15 Dec

We live in a morally bankrupt society.  Those of us who claim to be followers of Christ are many times indistinguishable from those who claim otherwise.  Moral bankruptcy does not produce its own moral capital.  Quite the contrary.  Moral bankruptcy feeds off the dissipation of the morality of others, thereby creating both a moral vacuum and a swirling entity of immorality.  Our parents explained it to us thusly:  “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”

Our human natures cannot be legislated, and they certainly cannot be changed at their core.  Neighborhood watch programs that merely watch do little to stem the tide.    Accountability groups such as neighborhood watch programs  are a start.  Yet, when no one is watching, to what do we resort?  Moral bankruptcy is not merely a philosophical proposition.  Actions illustrate propositions.  Is there any wonder that with fractured families sending their kids to schools devoid of moral education that there are serious issues?  Humans replace the Almighty.  In fact, students are now the almighty.  This is reflected in schools and colleges where we now find zones of student worship.  It is little wonder that violence occurs at the altar of secular culture’s sanctuary.  Destroy culture’s gods and goddesses and one empowers his or her bankruptcy.

So, this begs the question as to where this moral bankruptcy comes from and what to do about it.  Primarily, anyone who seeks to remove a person’s life must be met with the force necessary to preserve that life.  For if this did not occur there would be no need for this discussion.

Second, if life is no longer given the highest form of respect, then life is reduced to a mere thing, both the reason and result of choices.  Notice I said “respect,” and not “worship!”  Humans worship “things.”  Some of us are against this replacement of the Almighty with humanity.  This reversal results in all sorts of immorality.  “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”  Interesting parallel to today, don’t you think?

This goes directly to why so many people are against changing the definitions of life, and the very relationships that have been the hallmarks of every society since the beginning of time.  Life is no longer given the respect it once had.  The “self” is more respected than life.  Allow me to elaborate.

The weakening of society’s moral foundation involves dismantling of the family.  The moral dissipation begins there.  When children see unmarried couples birthing kids and there is no shame in that, homosexual relationships causing moral confusion, the unnatural becoming natural, and the tearing apart of innocents from the womb, can we blame them for being a mess?.  Kids are often unable in their brains to compartmentalize the differences between reality and fiction.  When something immoral begins to take root, this spins out in other areas, in terms of how they view the world.  This causes terrible confusion.  The same emotional base of a child’s brain is used to play at fiction, as well as used to play in real life.  So, does the brain even know the differences if it is trained to view immorality as moral?

Children are not reared in a vacuum.  Likewise, the actions that emerge from moral bankruptcy are not vacuous.  These actions actually bleed the moral lifeblood from a nation and have already chipped away at the fundamentals of the nuclear family.  Our culture is a mess.  Hence, violence done to children is often accomplished at home.  This violence is accomplished through literal violence, and it is accomplished through violence to one’s developing morality and brain wiring.  Assaults on marriage are violence to a moral compass morality and to life itself.  Yet, even with “perfect” wiring and ideal upbringing, these alone cannot overcome the human condition that besets us all. Yes, we live in a morally bankrupt society. However, we also live with the unintended consequences of this bankruptcy.  Did anyone stop to consider the fallout of worshiping self?

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

We live in a violent society that glorifies death.  Some would argue that having deadly-force weapons in the hands of those morally bankrupt is a reason not to have weapons in anyone’s hands.  One of the problems with that reasoning is that morally bankrupt people making laws and restricting rights for other morally bankrupt people usually do not play out well.  It would be like homosexuals making marriage laws for the nation, or pornographers making laws regarding the First Amendment, or even Planned Parenthood defining privacy.  Morally bankrupt people do not seek to elevate the morality of others.

Using weapons to defend against moral bankruptcy—when one is morally bankrupt himself—implies that group accountability cannot check those who would act on their bankruptcy.  I disagree with that and I am in good company in my disagreement.  Agreeing to be held to standards based on truth, with the knowledge that we are flawed is a hallmark of a society that knows itself.  We were founded on this principle of a social contract.  Moral bankruptcy is evidence of a society that has lost its way and has violated the social contract.  We know one thing.  Government cannot protect us, so we must protect our own lives, liberties, and personal property.

How else besides moral bankruptcy could one explain how a woman can choose to kill a baby, engage a doctor’s services to perform the murder, and then decry the mass killing of other children?

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Like it or not, we are seeing our society play out exactly what we feed it.  We are moral debtors, running up a tab, and then blaming the utensil.  The equivalent to this is running up thousands on our credit cards and blaming the plastic for the debt.  It is not a woman’s choice to kill a baby that causes the baby’s death.  It is the doctor’s D & C procedure.  Yet, without the choice, the doctor would not do the procedure.  How many of us actually think that abortion would end if we banned all abortion machinery?

The changes that must occur in our society of come not from more laws.  Disobedience is rampant already.  The only changes come from a regenerated soul and a shift in worldview and corporate practices of the people of that society.  Those with a life-affirming worldview must begin to live as a group to demonstrate the light.  The darkness will not like it much.  It never does.  However, living the light is attractive to many seeking answers to society’s plight.

Human nature is flawed, tainted, and full of every evil waiting to happen.  Given the right circumstances, imbalances of chemicals, extreme anger and frustration, substance and liquid abuse, immorality, coarse and debasing entertainment, political hatred and forced, punitive policies, mental illness, these—and many other things—might cause any one of us to wander off into the deep end, leading to our own form of tragedy.  I argue that when we make choices to exercise self over family, a personal choice over the good of us all, or worship our own identities because we “feel” true to ourselves, we inch toward the deep end.  Moral bankruptcy does not produce better swimmers.

It is difficult to know what causes a person one day to choose to come out as someone who kills others.  One wonders whether such a person is just being true to the way he or she is born.  After all, we are told that people are born certain ways and are not able to change the way they are identity-oriented.  If this is true, then those who are morally bankrupt by birth are wired toward this from the womb.  This warrants further discussion.  Can people’s morality just “snap,” in their brain and discover something that was latent since conception, or birth?  Again, the human nature is flawed and full of every sort of moral bankruptcy just waiting to happen.  None of us escape this reality.

Guns are not the reason Lanza went over the edge.  His humanity, moral bankruptcy rooted in society, personal mental illness, and his strained relationships with his family comprise the root of all that ailed him.  In one sense, we are all Lanza!  America played a role in this tragedy.  The means to kill is not the main issue.  The reasons for the killing are the main issue.  The killing is the result of something greater than bullets.  The political left in this nation generally seeks to control the symptoms, whereas the right seeks to root out the causes.  The left wants to control the trigger, whereas the right wants better control of the trigger.

When will our nation ever wake up to realize that what it places into the brains of morally bankrupt people by other morally bankrupt people will result in acts that defy logic?  This is true whatever the issue is.  In the state of moral bankruptcy, we cannot protect our most precious assets . . . our children.   Therefore, we must discover that moral bankruptcy can be reversed by the One who has paid it all for us, as we turn to the One in Whom we have our Blessed Hope!

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”  (II Chronicles 7:14)

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