Why the sociopaths are winning and the obvious thing we’re not doing about it
The culture war is not fundamentally between left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and reactionary, tolerant and intolerant.
Fundamentally it has nothing to do with ideals, values or visions of the future. It’s a fight between decent people and sociopaths.
Psychopaths are congenitally shameless. Born, that way, they are neurologically deaf to the inner nag of empathy.
Sociopaths aren’t born but made. Some are brainwashed but many are not. Many are motivated sociopaths because being one is tempting, satisfying, efficient and effective.
Sociopaths learn how to be shameless. We underestimate the appeal of shamelessness. Shame constrains us. Shamelessness is a liberation. If you learn to be absolutely shameless – even shameless about your shamelessness, you grant yourself the ultimate dream come true, a reliable feeling of perfect freedom and perfect invincibility, as though you can do anything and whatever you do beats all. Sociopathy is like being granted a wildcard/Trumpcard.
Learning to be absolutely shameless is easy. It takes no study and very little practice before you get the hang of it. Whatever path you’re on has easy detours down to the haven of motivated sociopathy.
There are many ways to learn it. They all boil down to learning to blurt words as if you really mean them, without you thinking about their meaning at all.
What words? Any words that declare you the winner. No matter what you do, you can always find words to blurt that will do the trick and if you don’t care which words you use, but use them with intense conviction, the trick will work – so long as other people misinterpret you as meaning your words
Once you’re getting away with it, it’s smooth sailing. Even if people say “shame on you!” you can just blurt more shameless words that make you feel like a winner.
Once it’s smooth sailing your conscience just atrophies. You don’t need it anymore and it only gets in your way. Eventually you become a proud, deaf shameless sociopath blurting whatever makes you feel invincible no matter what you do.
People become proud motivated sociopaths by many routes. Some just get fed up, say “Aw, hell no! I’m tired of being pushed around” and start blurting cliches they get from popular culture. For example, they can say “just deal with it” to people who are already dealing with it by challenging them. And weirdly the people back down. If they grab a cliché that works, they’ll use it more.
Some people fall into a patch of such cliches all clustered around some brand-name ideology which enables them to make a crusade out of proudly, shamelessly insisting that they’re the winners. It could be any brand, left, right, spiritual, religious, philosophical, whatever.
As a cluster, the words are hypocritical ways to play god or a god or demagog’s humble servant lording it over everyone.
Omnipotence: “I’m heroic because I’m winning/I’m heroic because I’m losing.”
Omniscience: “I know everything/I don’t know about that, so it’s irrelevant.”
Omnificent: “Shame on you for not living up to my moral standards/Moral standards are for losers”
Motivated sociopaths take shameless pride in their hypocrisy. Still, they’re consistent about one thing: “I never contradict myself and no matter what happens, it proves I’m right, righteous and heroic.”
Sociopath simply means “socially-sick” – pretty vague. There are vulgar names for them too, also vague. I call them Trumpbots – lowercase “t” not after the Donald though he fits the description perfectly as would a leftist parroting the same cliches.
The word “trump” means both fake as in “trumped up” and “beats all.” A Trumpbot robotically plays fake trump cards. Again, it’s a tempting lifestyle that one can fall into from any angle, left, right, center, religious, spiritual, philosophical. One can become a Trumpbot for anything or nothing. Once one falls into this tempting lifestyle there would be no reason to leave so long as one can get away with it.
So how can we keep them from getting away with it? How can we make motivated sociopathy costly? How can we honorably shame the absolutely shameless? How can we humbly humble people who will say anything to avoid humility?
The answer is simple and obvious and yet consistently overlooked in our culture wars: Expose and flout their Trumpbot formula; taunt and flaunt the alternative.
Expose and flout their trumpbot formula:
Flout: Care about their words as much as they do: Not at all. You’ve been taught to listen, value and be open to everyone’s ideas. That’s wrong. Do that with decent people but with trumpbots it’s as enabling as listening to a psychopath.
Expose: If you have to deal with a trumpbot, simply declare over and over that they’ll say and do anything to pretend they’re right and righteous. You know what they’ll do in response? They’ll confirm your diagnosis. They’re one trick phonies. They’ve got nothing else. When they trumpbot at you in response, say “there he goes again.” Again and again. They’ll give up and declare themselves the winners but you will have cost them, especially if you do it in front of others.
Taunt and flaunt the alternative:
Taunt: What’s the alternative to being a trumpbot? Being human, trying to guess what best to do. Experiencing ambivalence and being brave enough to show it. Trumpbots want you cornered, wincing at your moral failings. Trying to prove your morality to them is deadly. They don’t care about morality. They’ll shame you for immorality and then laugh at you for caring about morality. So be yourself. Stand your ground without trying to prove it. Your power lies in taunting them with brave honest humanness while they’re robotically playing God.
Flaunt: If they accuse of you of violating some moral code (that they don’t care about) don’t deny it. For example, if they shame you for shaming, say “Of course I shame, like everyone, like you just did, trying to shame me for shaming. I try to shame where it’s deserved whereas you pretend you don’t shame while shaming.”
It is our civic duty to make motivated sociopathy costly. The ideas in this article are from my new book on the subject.