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Why sociopaths win & why, no, you don’t want to be one of them

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you’ve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it’s moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows

Leonard Cohen

---

“I’m sure you have the answer, you and Ron Paul and all the other pot-smoking libertarian do-gooders have it all figured out. But what I’m saying is, no confidence means end of the confidence game. That’s what Lehman showed. Every single player in finance suddenly had to face the fundamental problem—this whole fucking economy is built on fraud and lies and garbage. So when Lehman collapsed, every single player panicked, going, ‘If Lehman was nothing but a Ponzi scheme—and I know what I’m running is a Ponzi scheme—holy shit, that means everyone else is running a Ponzi scheme too! Run for the exits!’ No one trusted anyone else, everyone pulled out, and the entire global economy collapsed just like that. And that meant your parents, my parents, every teacher, every fireman, every person in the country going into retirement, every price on every asset—wiped out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sociopathy lately, after reading the article I quoted above. Here’s more:

…let’s throw the book at every firm and every executive that our people can make a case against. Because you know, gosh, it’s all about rule of law and blind justice, just like Che says.’ OK, so now this means indicting just about every serious player in finance, so they take down Goldman Sachs, they take down Citigroup, JP Morgan, BofA… and they also serve all the big funds who are at least as guilty, if not more. So they shut down Pimco, Blackrock, Citadel… maybe they indict Geithner and Summers, haul in some of Bush’s crooks… right? …OK, now guess what you’ve just done? You’ve just caused the markets to completely tank. Remember what happened after the Lehman collapse? Remember how popular that made every politician in Washington? Still wondering why they coughed up a trillion bucks? They were scared for their lives; that’s why they voted for that bailout. You’d have done the same goddamn thing. But if we go after everyone guilty of fraud and theft, the market crash this country would see would make 2008 look like Sesame Street. Open that can of worms labeled ‘Fraud’ and the whole fucking economy collapses. You may as well prosecute people for masturbating. No one will know where the fraud investigation stops and who will be charged next—everyone will try to cash out, and the markets will tank to zero. And guess what happens when the markets tank to zero? Every fucking American with a retirement plan, or an investment portfolio, or a 401k—every state pension plan in the country, every teacher’s pension fund, every fireman’s pension—every last one of them will be wiped out. That’s what the Lehman collapse taught us.”

I thought back to the question Catherine Austin Fitts asked:

In the summer of 2000, I asked a group of 100 people at a conference of spiritually committed people who would push a red button if it would immediately stop all narcotics trafficking in their neighborhood, city, state and country. Out of 100 people, 99 said they would not push such red button. When surveyed, they said they did not want their mutual funds to go down if the U.S. financial system suddenly stopped attracting an estimated $500 billion-$1 trillion a year in global money laundering. They did not want their government checks jeopardized or their taxes raised because of resulting problems financing the federal government deficit.

We haven’t built a big enough prison system to handle it all. Unless you’re causing trouble, and even if you are, you are contributing to it. And if you are contributing to it, you are just as guilty as they are. That’s the story. And even if you don’t want it to all fall down, even if you love capitalism and wave your countries’ flag proudly, even if you are willing to bail out the banks by increasing your tax dollars, and handing over your kid’s inheritance and are willing to trade their capacity to live on this planet for another gallon of gas, it’s too late. Too late for a shiny new President to walk in and make it all better. Too late to punish the “rich bad men” who stole our wealth and polluted our planet.

And it’s your fault for letting it happen. And you’re naive if you think you can fix it.

But here’s what I really want to say, as a psychologist, to all of you: Sociopaths lack something 95% of us have: They lack a conscience. They lack the capacity to feel empathy, to feel guilt, to feel bad about doing bad. When you lack Vitamin E(mpathy), you hate people who have it. You walk around with an expensive suit and you have a black card to pay for an expensive dinner, and you buy and sell people and marry the hottest mates around, but it’s all for nothing. You can’t attach to other people, even though you know it is something you should want to do. You can only treat people as pawns in a chess game, because you can’t relate to people as anything other than suckers or fools to manipulate. You “fuck” your husband or wife, because you have no clue what “making love” would feel like. You cheat and lie because it helps you to get what you want. Money and material wealth, along with a sense of increased power, are your only true motivators.

But getting “powerful” is just too easy, you see? “Suckers” let you take it, and they seem happy to give it to you, get it? They’re such “idiots.” The “suckers” will sacrifice anything for what they love and value–things like their families and principles and their religion and their environment. They take out money from a weekly check to put toward retirement or toward a college education for their kids. To a sociopath, these things are truly alien. They couldn’t believe how easy it was to stop paying for the retirements of their workers, and make the workers pay for it, instead. It was unbelievably easy to convince the workers that they needed to lived on less, and put the money into the stock market for their retirement, for their kids’ college education. The corporations had to pinch themselves! The money they pay workers went right back into the hands of these very same corporations, as stocks. It was too good to be true! Now they could leverage even greater wealth with these same dollars! Like taking candy from a baby.

There is no point pitying the “suckers.” They hate the “suckers” for loving and valuing these things, for wanting to take care of themselves and their futures. For believing that if you worked hard, you could be rich or grow up to be president one day. They didn’t realize that the tough part is that first million. The next ten million are much easier to make. The suckers don’t “get it.” They still believe in the great and powerful Oz. But just along side the theft and rip-off is the disdain. They want to prove that nobody feels true compassion and caring. No one actually wants to be responsible, when they can make someone else do it. A sense of principles are for hypocrites and fools, and if you try to push some of them on the sociopath, they are taking everyone down with them–your parents, your teacher, the firefighters, all of it. Without Vitamin E, life is one big fraud, and the emptiness inside rings as clear as a bell when someone shakes it:

‘Hey, assholes, you’re supposed to be hypocrites, OK? You’re supposed to be two-faced free-market liars, not libertarian Quakers! You’re not supposed to believe in anything—your job is to get up in front of the public and lie about free markets and the rest. Period.’

That’s it, how fucking hard is it? Look, watch my face: Say one thing out of one side… and do the other out of the other side. Got that? Let everyone else whine and cry about, ‘Ooh, that’s not fair, ooh, that’s a bailout, that’s socialism, that’s corruption.’ That’s what losers do—they whine. …you whine all the time…

Yes, they say, “You aren’t adults. You aren’t mature enough to get it. There IS nothing to believe in. Principles and integrity are for babies or fools. The politicians are doing their job by lying and that’s how it is suppose to be. Corporations are there to rob you and your role is to shut up and take it. Even when you have to bail them out. Shut up and get out of our face. Let the scam continue, and stop whining about what’s fair, because nothing is.

…look at you… Can you pay the bill for this meal? Is there a libertarian on earth who can afford to buy a decent meal in Manhattan? And now, look at me: I’m a hypocrite. Hell yes I am! I lie every day of my life, I lie to myself in my sleep. Hell, I’m lying to you right now, in fact I don’t even know what the fuck I’m saying anymore because I’m so used to lying. And yet—who’s the guy with the black card? Who’s the one who’s going to pick up the check tonight? Guys with power, guys like me, we lie. You got that? ‘Lie’ as in ‘My Lai’ the massacre—as in, ‘My Lai you long time, me so free-markety.’ You distract the dumbshits with free-market B.S. because hey, for whatever reason, that’s what the public likes to hear, it doesn’t really matter what lie you feed them so long as it’s the lie that puts them in a trance. And then behind the scenes, you do the very opposite: You fix the game, you cover up this problem here with those funds there, you move shit around, you skim budgets and you subsidize the system, you cover up the bad shit and once in a while throw a has-been to the wolves to keep the public entertained—that’s the way the system works, and anyone who’s an adult understands that.

Like in a war, you shoot someone in the head in cold blood and you say “That’s war.” Nothing personal, dude. When you shoot the economy in the head, when you destroy every element of an economy, entire countries, and you take the entire world down with you, you show contempt for those who have the nerve to suggest that there is anything wrong with it.

It’s what adults do.

And the whining “babies,” the ones who’s parents and grandparents haven’t committed some “big crime” to allow them to enjoy the mega-wealth of status and privilege, the “suckers” who haven’t figured out how to make their first million yet, these are the ones you put into a trance, that you feed the ‘bread and circuses’ to. Only the grown-ups know this. The wise-guys. The insiders. Only the whiny babies cry when they put a gun to someone’s head and pull the trigger. To be a real adult is to be heartless, and to lie. Only a fool believes that there should be any honesty or devotion or empathy in the world. All others believe in cash.

Here’s my advice: Back away slowly when you hear this.

You can tell the sociopaths because they are so charming and convincing until they bare their teeth. Then they are terrifying and crushing to our spirits. They lull us into believing that we’re either going to be a part of the “action,” a real “grown up” or we’re setting ourselves up to be objects of ridicule. And they are great at ridicule in the form of “friendly advice:”

“Here’s the thing: I think it’s great that you and your friends memorized Road to Serfdom in between Star Trek episodes—no really, I’m happy for you. Yeah, we’re all so proud. But here’s the thing: We grown-ups are really, really busy now trying to sort out the free-market mess you made with that Lehman move of yours. Yeah, so why don’t you run along to your libertarian chat rooms and have your little debates about Jekyll Island and the gold standard, because it really means a lot to us. And report back to me as soon as you have it all figured out, m’kay? Just get the fuck out of my face and leave the adults alone.”

If you don’t get out of the face of a sociopath, they will try to remove you. They’ll buy you or kill you or cripple you, but deep down, they know that they are a small minority, and maybe they’ve got a bunch of “friends” all “acting” like them, but without the real stomachs for it. These “friends” have a big enough dose of Vitamin E, that it is wrecking their marriages, causing them ulcers, impacting their self-respect. And things turn quickly when they turn. When those “suckers” come out of the trance, you better have the “cover story” all set up, and the jet planes ready to evacuate because things can get ugly very quickly. And even in the chaos, you’ll have that 5% directing you, pointing out the way to salvation. And you can tell who they are, when they aren’t baring their teeth, because they seem like the most trustworthy folks in the world. They have a bright smile and a warm handshake. And when they say “Trust me” they sound so confident and certain that you do.

Psychologist can’t really treat sociopaths, because we’ve not figured out how to provide Vitamin E to those who lack it. Sometimes aging makes them less dangerous, but they are never truly like the rest of us. There is a steel gaze in their eyes, when you block them. When you see it shining back at you, you can never feel completely comfortable with them again, despite the charm and the wealth that successful sociopaths can offer. And if you marry one, you stop feeling human after a while. You can’t appeal to their humanity, because they have none.

And when sociopaths rule every aspect of our lives, when the largest organizations are modeled after sociopathic humans, it takes the rest of us a long time to figure out that we’ve been suckered in. We’ve been tarnished and harmed by it. The reason is that, having empathy, we bend over backward trying to believe there has to be some logic to completely merciless, cut-throat destructive action. Having empathy, we can’t believe anyone would do that “for no reason” or only “to make a buck.” We keep thinking that anyone who has gotten to that level of power and authority has to know better than we do, what they are doing. And when we finally get it, when we finally realize that, no, there is no “deeper purpose” other than profit, there is no “master plan” other than getting richer at any cost, most of us feel deeply, deeply impacted. Depressed, or angry, or speechless, or outraged.

When this happens, we stop shouting at them “Don’t you CARE!” because we understand that they don’t. They can’t. As long as we are shouting “Don’t you care!” the sociopaths secretly laugh at us. When we finally “get it,” realize just how disordered it all is, and stop putting ourselves in the same pool of “humans” as those with sociopathy, our actions can be much more effective.

Before we understand the sociopathy of the system, we keep believing that if we protest, and shout loud enough, the system will respond. But once we understand that this is a sociopathic system, devoid of Vitamin E, we have to start looking at how we, ourselves, have been suckered into acting like sociopaths too. We’ve been seduced into believing that our own internal greed, our own desire for “something for nothing” is the best part of us, the normal, adult part.

When we really get it, deep down, the vast majority of us are going to do some soul-searching, because we have a soul to search. And we’ll be tempted to believe that the “anxious” or “depressed” part, the part were we’ve “got this broken feeling, like their father or their dog just died,” is the part we have to kill off with drugs manufactured just for this purpose by the sociopathic Big Pharm. And the sociopaths score again. Those pills that are supposed to make you “larger” and feel “less,” are worse than the “ones that mother gives you that don’t do anything at all”: they might make things worse. If they kill you or cripple you, the sociopaths pay the lawsuits. No big woop. But they make a lot of cash in the meanwhile.

When you’ve, been well lubricated by this system but still have a healthy dose of Vitamin E, you start having problems if you don’t start causing trouble or withdrawing your participation. In fact, when we start to believe that only the “babies” and the “suckers” are the ones who don’t lie constantly (even in their sleep), when only fools “don’t ‘sell their own grandmothers for a buck,” and we start trying to join them instead of beat them or withdraw from them, that’s when we become mentally ill. And our mental illness might be the first clue to those of us who have bought in, that something, something deep down has got to change fundamentally about how we relate to other people, to ourselves, and to the planet.

Editorial Notes: UPDATE (July 1). Reformatted Leonard Cohen poem at top of article. -BA

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