The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast

Mikhail Lyubansky Varieties of Evil, Varieties of Justice

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Mikhail Lyubansky  

Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a managing editor at OpEdNews and a member of the teaching faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity and Theories of Psychotherapy.

His research and writing interests focus on conditions associated with changes in social identity and beliefs about race, ethnicity, and nationalism, especially in immigrant and minority populations. He is a regular contributor to edited volumes on popular culture, including Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and House MD, published by BenBella and recently co-authored a book on the Russian-Jewish diaspora: Building a diaspora: Russian Jews in Israel, Germany, and the United States. An autobiographical essay of his interests in race relations and basketball is available here. His Psychology Today blog about race is called Between the Lines.

Follow Mikhail on Twitter.

VERY rough interview notes

Mikhail doesn't like the word and would rather not use it. Evil implies intention to harm. But sometimes people are harmed even when no harm is intended.  The intent is not irrelevant, but I want to have a broader discussion that includes all behavior that harms others, regardless of intent.  Another reason I don't like the term "evil" is that it's very subjective. Depending on your politics, you might have considered the Bush Admin or... the Obama admin evil. I don't want to have a political debate.  I want to talk about behavior that is harmful to others and how society can address or respond to such behavior.

Rob: Evil is such a core part of just about every culture. Can't we define what is really evil, or is the word abused. 

In some types of evil, like psychopathy, there IS intention , and people are generally most comfortable talking about Evil in the context of Psychopathy.  But just one percent of the population meets criteria for psychopathy, and there is a lot of harmful behavior that is perpetrated by the other 99%.

Not psychosis, psychopathy.

Mikhail provides differentiation between psychosis and psychopathy. 

Rob: I recall, from when I worked in emergency psychiatry team-- there's Looseness of association, auditory hallucinations... and inappropriate affect (think hebephrenic or bizarre)

Mikhail: Psychopathy is a personality disorder-- A Psychopath hurts people and doesn't feel bad about, no remorse, no regret, doesn't feel emotionally aroused during that kind of behavior, doesn't even necessarily feels pleasure from inflicting pain (not necessarily sadistic). Antisocial, violent behavior... the Joker, in in the latest version of Batman, is a psychopath.

Rob: that makes about 3 million Americans are Psychopaths.

Mikhail: You can be a psychopath without engaging in really severe behaviors. Some people are psychopaths in their interpersonal relationships but they don't engage in criminal behavior.

Rob: there are at over two million people in US prisons. Where are the rest of them? Oh yeah, Washington.

Mikhail doubts that most politicians are psychopaths.  Psychopaths can be charming, in a superficial way, but politics is a long term endeavor that requires empathy...some amount of perspective-taking, in order to close a deal.

Mikhail lists ways psychopaths are impaired. 
  • perspective taking
  • empathy
  • self centered focus
  • don't care
  • don't get aroused emotionally
  • resistant as kids and adults to punishment. It isn't aversive to them. 

The Psychiatric DSM manual doesn't use either term, instead using "Antisocial personality disorder.
Based on behavioral manifestations of the psychopath-- behaviors that go against societal norms, like violent crime, hurting others

Characterizes psychopath as gene-based and sociopath as formed by society, but most psychologists are not particularly interested in this distinction.  The research data suggests that genes and environment are both involved in the formation of the psychopath/sociopath.

If you want to study psychopathy, go to a prison. 

Life expectancy of psychopaths is lower. 

The criminal justice system is designed to deal with this kind of person. it And this may be a reasonable societal response, particularly as psychopathy is a condition we really do not know how to treat. 

Rob: I mention my interview with Thom Hartmann, last year, where he suggested that to be a CEO of a megacorporation, you almost have to be a psychopath.

Mikhail: I don't know any CEOs and don't know how top-level decisions are made, but I suspect that they are made by committee and that there is a lot of diffusion of responsibility involved in making decisions that have known harmful consequences.

Mikhail wants to discuss Unintentional evil-- with unintended consequences, collateral damage--
Cites Toyota and the people hurt by car flaws as example.

We discuss restorative justice
  • don't assign blame
  • don't punish
  • Restore things to the way they used to be. 

Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, following Apartheid as example

Cultural Evil

Slavery and racial segregation (Jim Crow) as historical examples of cultural evil.  There is cultural evil now, though we may need the benefit of hindsight to see it.

In the future, we may ALL look at eating meat, factory farming, treatment of Gazans as evil. 

Rob: How does it happen? How is it stopped? How is it healed?
Mikhail: these are the kinds of questions asked about the holocaust. Here are some factors:
  • there were scapegoats, 
  • ordinary people allowed it to happen, 
  • ordinary people put into inordinary circumstances, 
  • Pressure to follow orders, 
  • Conformity pressures-- you don't want to be the one who sticks out. 
  • put a uniform on people and the act differently
  • poverty, financial need

We discuss Stanley Milgram's and Phillip Zimbardo's studies-- subjects shocking "subjects" until they scream, and subjects acting as guards who become cruel.

Rob: So, what's the corresponding justice to this kind of evil?

Mikhail: Agitation for policy change that addresses it.  The abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement were two examples of structural justice.  The current fight for universal health care can be seen through this lens too.

We then talk about some other varieties of justice to deal with these evils--

Traditional Justice
Vigilante Justice
Structural Justice
Restorative Justice
Compassionate Justice and
Zen Justice

Mikhail (in conclusion): Imagine a world with two systems of justice, instead of one.The system we have now-- the criminal justice system, and another system, a system of restorative justice, which can be accessed by anyone who wants or needs it to deal with any type of conflict at all, from marital disputes to the TRC in South Africa and Sierra Leone.  This is what I'd like to see.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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this was a fun interview on a fascinating subject.... by Rob Kall on Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 at 10:26:53 PM
And I'm sure most of OEN's readers don't do them e... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 8:26:46 AM
Without having a clear picture of how they want to... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 8:45:10 AM
Just click on the LISTEN button, then click on the... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 9:36:35 AM
I'll do that in a while. And won't listen for the ... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 9:43:36 AM
I haven't (yet) read Rawls, but from your descript... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:26:59 AM
Looking at the current situation, though, at what ... by Ian MacLeod on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 12:09:49 AM
I wonder if Michail remembers this old Jewish stat... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 10:07:30 AM
Interesting...I'd like to read something where thi... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:34:11 AM
"No good deed goes unpunished"?But I think what it... by Maxwell on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 2:02:37 PM
Mark. Thank you for it, and for your kind words.If... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 2:12:56 PM
I hope this... ....gets a lot of discussion. EV... by Ned Lud on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:20:48 AM
I'm using Firefox, Vista and just downloaded what ... by Margaret Bassett on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:25:07 AM
I just tried it in firefox, using Vista and it wor... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:44:38 AM
"switched to google chrone"OMG !!Welcome my son, w... by joe r on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 4:04:57 PM
Whatever or whoever that picture is.Looks like a '... by Ned Lud on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 9:35:59 AM
I had no problem with Firefox either but if I were... by Maxwell on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 1:53:37 PM
There are many levels. Soul and physical. As Sashi... by mikel paul on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 1:07:33 PM
Regardless, here's my small contribution to ponero... by Ian MacLeod on Thursday, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:12:00 PM
would describe the attitude of a large percentage ... by Oh on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 1:52:43 AM
Another aspect of our conundrumis (was?) a promine... by GLloyd Rowsey on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:24:59 AM
You make some interesting points, Ian. Thanks for ... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 6:30:25 AM
People put themselves on rooftops since they don't... by Ned Lud on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 7:42:04 AM
There is no escape....but there is freedom....JBTh... by mikel paul on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 1:30:07 PM
Dear Ned,The issue of GMOs is clearly important to... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 3:28:05 PM
One distinction I would make, or message, is that ... by Ned Lud on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 9:19:38 AM
"psychopaths acquire power because too many peopl... by Ian MacLeod on Friday, Apr 23, 2010 at 7:21:20 AM
I thank both Ian and Mikhail for their responsiven... by Oh on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 10:18:36 AM
I like to swim against the stream.Ian McLeod is bo... by GLloyd Rowsey on Saturday, Apr 24, 2010 at 8:02:18 AM
I need an editor. Just can't choose what to leave ... by Ian MacLeod on Tuesday, Apr 27, 2010 at 7:15:24 PM