Friday, January 19, 2007

Political Ponerology

The majority who are healthy have a difficult time understanding that some people are not — they can not fathom being a psychopath or acting like one.
For example, Lobaczewski discovered that dealing with psychopathic systems made healthy people neurotic. However, they could heal very quickly when he gave them a scientific framework for understanding what had happened and why.
Hmmm... This sounds interesting.


jj mollo said...

Yes, it is very interesting, but I am outraged at the simple stupidity of placing President Bush on the same cover with Joseph Stalin, etc., smugly implying that he is a progenitor of evil in league with the great monsters of History.

The refusal to accept the existence of evil in the world, the difficulty that a normal person has in recognizing evil, is a profoundly important issue that needs serious analysis. Unfortunately, it is entirely too easy to attribute evil to the motives of others, and people are too quick to concoct conspiracy theories to explain the bizarre happenings in human activities.

Evil resides in any decision to characterize the Other as lacking in human merit. Anyone who has power can be tempted by this error. Abu Ghraib is testament to the fact that Americans are not immune, even though we have struggled mightily since the Founders to correct ourselves.

Evil comes in degrees, and deciding not to be evil has costs. We choose to bear those costs, and one of those costs is the increasing inability to recognize an adversary. Eschewing evil means looking at your own actions with a cold eye, and weighing others with judgment and forgiveness. These are good habits, or so we believe, but I think we need to re-learn the ability to understand when others have built walls against such understanding.

Some political organizations promote evil. Some systems cause it to concentrate and grow worse. Utopian systems are prone to such a fault because they overvalue the vision of a particular future at the expense of present happiness and living humans.

Many systems, including ours, have a tendency to reward lapses from decency and honesty. People who move up the pecking order collude to suppress all manner of good things, but usually for their personal gain, not for any purely evil motive. In an open society, people with evil intentions find it difficult to mesh with the normal pack of colluders. In a society of checks and balances, the wickedness is kept at a minimum by the action of adversaries exposing the misdeeds of each other, or threatening to. Think LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover.

If you want to see evil in American government, I don't think it's that hard to find. Partisanship has degenerated to a new low with people like Abramoff and Tom Delay acting without constraints. Abramoff is a sociopath. Delay is, I suspect, a decent person who had come to the reasoned conclusion that half of the American public was not worthy of human dignity.

Well, I learned a new word today. Ponerology -- a field of study populated by self-righteous know-it-alls for the purpose of making money from leftist fanatics. Maybe that's a bit harsh, not having read the book. I'll try to hold my judgment.

Steve said...

It's interesting that brilliant people, with qualifications and accomplishments much greater than mine, hold hard positions that span the spectrum, so to speak.

It's good justification for comfort with uncertainty.

The picture of Mr. Bush (and who was that to the bottom right, Cheney?) caught my eye, too, though at first I didn't recognize him.

A friend sent me this link today. The author seems like a reasonable guy. He cites what seem like credible sources, but touches on things that seem nutty. Are they really?

One successful business guy I've corresponded with, spoken to on the phone and met at a conference or two seems absolutely brilliant, but he's a rabid catholic pro-lifer. Kleiman is brilliant but he's a prohibitionist. Leo Strauss was certainly no dummy, but neither is this guy. It seems likely that the Pope is Dawkins' intellectual equal, but look at them.

Interesting world we live in.

jj mollo said...

Now you know what its like to be an air molecule under the assault of brownian motion. Wham! Wham! People coming from every direction with devilishly persuasive arguments and self-confident demeanors. That's your fault for having an open mind!

There is a certain amount of judgment involved here. I'm afraid I can't back off my assertion that Bush should not be equated with Stalin. People can argue that he has done horrible things and that he has the potential for being worse. OK. Every POTUS has what they call the "nuclear football" following him around continuously. Every POTUS has the ability to punt that football and bring about the deaths of billions. So far, none has done so. Only HST has triggered the nukes, and he really had no choice. It is more reasonable to say that Bush has done some bad things and has made large mistakes (although it would be wrong). Mistakes are a way of life in leadership positions, and it is absolutely psychotic to compare George Bush with Hitler or Stalin except in the most glancingly metaphorical way -- unless of course one doesn't believe the stories about those two nice chaps, in which case one could be characterized as distressingly uneducated as well as psychotic.

Now, the Pope is a smart guy. Anyone who has a good Catholic education is formidable in the areas of logic and rhetoric. Much as I admire Dawkins, I'm going to go down in favor of the Pope. But Dawkins, working in the realm of reality, has a much easier job. The Popes have always had to deal with their flocks and the science problems of the day. Dawkins' position on religion is nowhere near as sophisticated as the Pope's position on science.

This guy Paul Craig Roberts certainly seems like a bright guy, but challenging the 9/11 Commission on the engineering issues strikes me as a little arrogant. The suggestion that the WTC attack was a false flag operation is just too strained. I'd like you to find me two people in Washington who would cover for someone that authorized such a scheme. A general rule of thumb is that conspiracy theories are usually wrong, and the likelihood of such a theory being wrong increases with the number of postulated members of the cabal.

Craig talks with bitterness about the Liberty. I suspect he is correct that the Israelis deliberately attacked the Liberty, but you have to remember that there was a lot at stake. I think it was a message that the US needed to be more open with Israel if they wanted to call themselves allies. The deliberate failure of the US to send a counter-attack was a signal from us that we accepted the rebuke. The fact that many lives were lost underlined the seriousness of the converstion, but allies can be very important in the world we live in.

Remember also that the Stark was attacked by Iraq in a very similar situation, probably deliberately, and we again did not respond. There was some signaling done there as well. The US does not go to war precipitously and certainly not over a single incident or some neocon theory by itself.