Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Portrait of a Sociopath

NOTE TO READERS:  Happy New Year! (Might as well be optimistic…or pretend that I am.) Today I will step aside and let a couple of other people assume the space at my keyboard: David Porter, MA, LADC; and Christine Hunter, MA, RCC. They authored an article about Antisocial Personality Disorder [DSM-5 301.7 (F60.2)] that was published on the website, which is where I have excerpted part of it for reprinting here (the site invites readers to share). The reason I have brought the article to my blog is that it seems to me to describe a prominent national personality. See if you can detect whom I mean.

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APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder) is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), diagnosis assigned to individuals who habitually violate the rights of others without remorse (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). People with Antisocial Personality Disorder may be habitual criminals, or engage in behavior which would be grounds for criminal arrest and prosecution, or they may engage in behaviors which skirt the edges of the law, or manipulate and hurt others in non-criminal ways which are widely regarded as unethical, immoral, irresponsible, or in violation of social norms and expectations. The terms psychopathy or sociopathy are also used, in some contexts synonymously, in others, sociopath is differentiated from a psychopath, in that a sociopathy is rooted in environmental causes, while psychopathy is genetically based.

The term antisocial may be confusing to the lay public, as the more common definition outside of clinical usage is an individual who is a loner or socially isolated. The literal meaning of the word antisocial can be more descriptive to both the lay public and professionals: to be anti-social, is to be against society; against rules, norms, laws and acceptable behavior. Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to be charismatic, attractive, and very good at obtaining sympathy from others; for example, describing themselves as the victim of injustice. Some studies suggest that the average intelligence of antisocials is higher than the norm. Antisocials possess a superficial charm, they can be thoughtful and cunning, and have an intuitive ability to rapidly observe and analyze others, determine their needs and preferences, and present it in a manner to facilitate manipulation and exploitation. They are able to harm and use other people in this manner, without remorse, guilt, shame or regret.

It is widely stated that antisocials are without empathy, however this can be disputed, as sadistic antisocials will use empathy to experience their victim’s suffering, and derive a fuller pleasure from it (Turvey, 1995). This is depicted in the classic work “A Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, as the main character entombs another man alive “…then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones.” (Poe, 1846 ). Some research also suggests that sociopaths and psychopaths do have degrees of empathy, but with an innate ability to switch it off at will. (Meffer, Gazzola, den Boer, Bartells, 2013). This connection to empathy may give hope to future successful treatment as it suggests individuals with APD may be trained.

Symptoms & Criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to the DSM-5, there are four diagnostic criterion, of which Criterion A has seven sub-features.

ADisregard for and violation of others rights since age 15, as indicated by one of the seven sub features:
1. Failure to obey laws and norms by engaging in behavior which results in criminal arrest, or would warrant criminal arrest
2. Lying, deception, and manipulation, for profit or self-amusement
3. Impulsive behavior
4. Irritability and aggression, manifested as frequent assaults on others, or engages in fighting
5. Blatantly disregards safety of self and others
6. A pattern of irresponsibility and
7. Lack of remorse for actions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

The other diagnostic Criterion are:
B. The person is at least age 18
CConduct disorder was present by history before age 15
D. T
he antisocial behavior does not occur in the context of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)


Good Ol’ Boys

By Bob Litton

I’ve recently been refreshing my memory by reading a little bit of ancient history. All kinds of visions can come out of musing over ancient history to those who are susceptible…as I am.

One fact I picked up was that the Chinese for centuries looked upon soldiers as being  on the bottom rung of the social ladder together with thieves and beggars. While most peoples had only three social classes, the Chinese had five: scholars, farmers, artisans, merchants and soldiers. Note how humanistic yet utilitarian their sense of social values was. Of course, in actual fact the warlords were frequently on top of things, from the material standpoint at any rate.

In the West, soldiers, while seldom considered to be the first in the nation — the obvious exceptions being Sparta and Rome — were nevertheless usually accorded at least second place. Plato, for instance, dreamed of a perfect society ruled by the Guardians (philosophers), protected by the Soldiers and supported by the Common People.

All this got me to thinking how we might classify people in the United States, especially in Texas. That’s how I came up with the categories of Good Ol’ Boys, Ostriches and Pollyannas. You will please forgive me if my nomenclature is not very original; I considered it important to stick to the old-fashioned names for things rather than confuse matters by inventing fancy new ones.

For those of you who don’t know or who may have forgotten, a “good ol’ boy” is one of the established figures of a community, very often the great-great-grandson of an early settler of the area.  He and his kin will own much of the property and be involved in most of the essential enterprises either directly or in some hidden fashion. He may or may not be on any of the local governing bodies, but he and the other “good ol’ boys” still dictate what decisions are made by those bodies.  He knows what’s going on in secret councils because he’s there, although he might find it expedient to deny as much. If a new entrepreneur comes into town offering something the “good ol’ boy’ either doesn’t like or doesn’t understand, he’ll try to cut the new man out by passing the word along via the other “good ol’ boys” that the fellow is to find financing hard to come by and other means of community support unavailable.

Next comes the “ostrich”. He hasn’t been around as long as the “good ol’ boy”. Maybe he’s just the great-grandson of a settler. Still, he doesn’t threaten the “good ol’ boy’s” authority and is useful for being on the front line where the dirty work gets done. Although the “ostrich” might be one of the politicians, that doesn’t mean he’s one of the decision-makers. He knows what goes on in the secret councils only because the “good ol’ boy” tells him. Sometimes edicts from the secret councils of the “good ol’ boys” are positive decisions in terms of the community. And sometimes they will have a negative effect on the community but foster the fortunes of the “good ol’ boys”. The “ostrich” realizes when either situation is the case, but he nevertheless supports the negative decision just as enthusiastically as the positive. That’s why he’s called an “ostrich”.

Last comes “Pollyanna”. Although the title is feminine, a true “Pollyanna” can be of either gender. “Pollyannas” simply don’t know what’s going on, not even enough to stick their heads in the sand. They can be dangerous for that very reason. That’s why “good ol’ boys” stay away from them as much as possible and watch their tongues whenever an encounter cannot be avoided. “Pollyannas” are not necessarily newcomers. Their lineage in a community might actually be longer than a “good ol’ boy’s”. They are simply naïve. Even when a bit of skullduggery is explained to them point by point they have a hard time seeing where the villainy lies. On the other hand, they quickly jump at superficial faults which they have learned to recognize by rote…like dirty language.

All three terms — “good ol’ boys”, “ostriches” and “Pollyanna’s” — have been around for a long time. However, I believe this is the first time they have been brought together in a sociological essay. Odd.



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