Archive | February, 2014

American Culture: The Production of Psychopaths

20 Feb

While there is no one test that measures whether a person can be labeled a psychopath, there are markers and symptoms that warrant their notice, by the reader. Before we get to these markers and symptoms, let us first define “psychopath.”

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 us! The truth is, one can exhibit most or all of the following, and not be a psychopath. Expressions of psychopathy are not enough to conclude a person has arrived at Hare’s definition. 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 is so that the reader will have a segue toward reflection 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, high-profile shootings, 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 true 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.

To what extent is American culture feeding the development of psychopathic 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

Again, I ask, what is it about American culture that might be leading and feeding psychopathic traits 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. This negativity may out itself in bizarre actions throughout the teenage and young adult years, in fact.

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. Aberrations that become norms do not grow healthy brains and they certainly do little to promote any unity beyond the self.

Fourth, 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. 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. Gender is not bent to include some 50 designations, according to Facebook. So, a person can be male, identify as a female, live out another gender identification, and we are told he/she is healthy and normal. People are no longer “born that way.” Rather, they are born make/female, and their self-expressed identity is their gender. Again, when aberrations become the norm, and self is one’s personal altar of worship, culture shifts from helping others to serving self.

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.

Fifth, 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, subjective moralists, there is nothing wrong with a choice for the “self” over others.

Our Culture

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. I contend, our culture is producing more psychopaths than ever.

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 have seen 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.

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, and many of us have been burglarized. Burglars have been shot by people defending their property andf families. Culture is now so backwards that the outcry is not against the criminal, but what some deem the excessive use of force, in protecting their own property. We are a mess. American culture has produced many things. How about we consider that it produces criminals and psychopaths 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. Political leftists have allowed the moral slippage to occur, codified the slippage into law, protected certain classes of immorality, and deny there are consequences. These people 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. Then we are told that the blame should be placed on inanimate objects, such as guns, or people with values who are somehow intolerant–all while the politicians own weapons themselves, and espouse intolerance of those they claim to be intolerant. 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 Are We?

So, where does this leave us? We are in a big mess as a nation and we not going after the real issues? We are told that making education more difficult will do the trick. But ramping up rigors with those who cannot do grade level work now, will only add to the frustration. 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. May God help us all . . .

Lord of the Flies, anyone?

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