Psychopathy, Psychiatry & Status Quo (declining culture and rising reliance on appeals to authority andor popularity)

Originally published as part of a conversation in my Criminal Evidence class (AOJ 206), on 2013, Feb, 22, 2013.

‘Sociopath’ and ‘Psychopath’ are unique and objective distinctions; or so echoes the author of Sociopath vs. Psychopath, Differences Between Psychopathic & Sociopathic Personality Disorders (hereafter Article).  At length, the author thinly alludes along the lines of, “THIS time, the psychopaths of The Church of Psychiatry have it right! They got it wrong before MANY times before, but THIS time, they KNOW who should be tortured with electric shocks, whose brains SHOULD be scrambled with lobotomies–albeit chemical-lobotomies now–and all other manner of mutilation.” With all the simplistic, matter-of-fact charm and authoritative intimidation of a psychopath, and the emotional detachment of a sociopath, the author makes his case, which roughly is that, “Diagnoses by psychiatrist of Psychopath and Sociopath are objective and science-based.” Yet data from the decidedly famous and undeniably repeatable “Milgram Experiments,” strongly suggests that, “Ordinary people, when put in an extraordinary situations, will react extraordinarily, even to the point of behaving in ways that are psychotic/sociopathic” (Milgram).

What follows is my attempt to logically demonstrate that “sociopath” and “psychopath” (hereafter S&P) are, in practice, just a single distinction, as well as simply a reinvention of the wheel: after all, we already have the phrase “really disobedient”–and, in the end, that is all S&P are: “really disobedient.”

History is told by the carvers

Rosemary Kennedy before and after lobotomy

Rosemary Kennedy before and after lobotomy

As mentioned in Article, “In 1941 the psychopathic personality was described as [having] poor judgment, and a lack of social responsibility.” By this definition, in the years before November 12, 1935, Rosemary Kennedy certainly fit the distinction “psychopath,” given to her by her parents, because she continually acted out and embarrassed her family–especially by her interest in boys (she was 23 years old).

Lobotomy: scientific psychopathy

Lobotomy: scientific psychopathy

And how did the non-psychopath parents of Rosemary (and JFK) deal with their psychotically disobedient daughter? well, by hiring non-psychopaths James W. Watts and Walter Jackson Freeman to carve into the daughter’s skull and mutilate her brain–i.e. “lobotomize her”–in hopes of “curing” the disobedient daughter.

Metzitzah B'peh: religious psychopathy

Metzitzah B'peh: religious psychopathy

So who behaves psychotically in such historical events? The answer seems to depend entirely on the Status Quo. Meanwhile, imagine if the parents had simply taken it upon themselves to carve up their daughter’s brain, to help her behave. And on that note: imagine  non-Jewish people openly practicing non-religious Metzitzah B’peh, simply because they think it’s a good idea.

Right, Wrong and Status Quo

“Certain studies confirm that those high in psychopathy don’t find cooperation pleasant…” — excerpt from Article

Someone with a high-powered rifle targets a defenseless person, whom they’ve never met, pulls the trigger, and literally blows the person’s head off. Should I consider that person a psychopath?…or a hero? Well, according to conventional wisdom, that depends: was the shooter a) the DC Sniper of 2002? or b) my friend Jon, a US sniper during the Second World War?

A demolitions-expert sneaks to the perimeter of a building, plants a bomb–and destroys the structure, killing everyone inside–none of whom he ever knew. Psychopath or hero? Depends: US Army Special Forces member Timothy McVeigh heroically acting on order during Operation Desert Storm? or the same US Army Special Forces member after the Gulf War, retaliating against his own government–according to him–for the killing of 76 men, women and children, by the FBI, in Waco Texas on April 19 1993?

One person keeps another person caged: but was it my father, a heroic prison-guard during the Vietnam War? Or was it psychopaths Phillip Craig Garrido and Nancy Bocanegra, who kidnapped and raped 11-yea-old Jaycee Lee Dugard?

Psychopathic language of those who should tread lightly

“In the mental health sphere the general opinion is…” — excerpt from Article

In 1935, JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, would have considered you psychopathic for doubting his choice to mutilate his daughter Rosemary’s brain and relegating her to six decades thereafter as a vegetable–and Kennedy would have had the full backing of plenty “mental health professionals.” Throughout history, the worst S&P have been those with a social-license. Still, it seems that Psychiatrists, etc will likely never tread lightly about their assumptions on how people ought to be, despite the psychotic history of Psychiatry. Still, they come with such certainty in speech as the following excerpts from the Article:

  1. “Psychopaths are forged by natural selection and devoid of social emotions.”
  2. “Psychopaths act without feeling any guilt or remorse[, and] they don’t have capacity to feel attachment, empathy or shame.”
  3. “[Those capriciously designated, whether by consensus or authority, as non-psychotic can think and behave as psychotically as they want, towards those capriciously designated as psychotic–and yet, no matter what, the non-psychotics will still be good people who are just trying to help.]”

The farce of objective political-mandates

“The sociopath [will not] feel guilt [when] breaking the law” — except from Article

The above quote is perhaps the least tenable of all.  The implication is that the erecting of legal lines, however capricious andor arbitrary andor venal, will somehow necessarily activate, in normal people, a magical-morality-mechanism–and that, lamentably, S&P lack this magical mechanism.  However, and conversely, all my family and friends who have served in combat, particularly in special forces, live with constant regret from all the ‘heroic’, decidedly non-psychotic, terror they wreaked while in the military–almost as if capricious legal allowance and venal popular consensus are not necessarily enough to bring the objective peace-of-mind that seemingly should come from abiding by the objective political-mandates that had activated the non-psychopath’s magical-morality-mechanism.

Sources Cited

Article. Sociopath vs Psychopath, Differences Between Psychopathic & Sociopathic Personality 2012, Feb, 21.

Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority. New York: Perennial Classics, 2004. Print.

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2 Responses to Psychopathy, Psychiatry & Status Quo (declining culture and rising reliance on appeals to authority andor popularity)

  1. Ramona Lidmila says:

    As a student at UW-Whitewater, I had the pleasure of doing volunteer work (within a sociology class) at St. Coletta’s (where Rosemary resided). Her decline was difficult to observe and the choice her father made was a horrid one.