I.H.: I think when I say a handicap for normal people I have to be very careful about saying that because it is also what makes us human. It's absolutely the conscience and empathy and regard for other people is absolutely what makes us human. The ups with that conscience though and I think it was Martha Stout who said that if you imagine that you are a psychopath and you don't have this handicap of conscience, what are you going to do with it? And of course it's an enormous advantage over normal people. And psychopaths actually know this. They know that they have an enormous advantage.
R.K.: Well wait, let's get in to that a little more. When you say it's an enormous advantage for psychopaths over people not to have a conscience, in what way is it an advantage?
I.H.: Well let me give you an example, if you take Stalin or Mao, or others, my argument is that the history of the world has been written by these people and it has been written by violence and it has been written by people who have brutally treated the majority population that they've seized control over.
So, when you take Mao, when Mao became the leader when the communist party took over in China, the first thing Mao did, he knew that his, what he found as being not very disturbing at all, the fact that he could, in fact when he was, the first time that he took part in a raid on a village and took part in slaughtering, murder and so on, he said it was the most thrilling experience that he had ever had up until that point.
For him, killing people wasn't something that there was some revulsion towards, or something to overcome, but he realized that what he got a thrill out of, most other people find extremely frightening. So when he, the first one of the first things that Mao did whenever the communist party took over in China was he ordered public executions right across China.
There were public executions at which huge numbers of people were killed and he ordered women and children, everyone had to go and witness these executions and it was a means of Mao using his advantage of not having a conscience to cower people into submission. I think you'll find that again and again if you look at what Stalin was doing, if you look in Cambodia with Pol Pot and so forth, and what the Japanese were doing during the Second World War and throughout East Asia, the same thing comes up over and over again. They know that they have an advantage.
R.K: Now wait now, I'm not going to let you get away with this. You're giving some good examples but you're not exactly saying how it's an advantage, what the advantage is. So, what you're saying, and I like the quote that you attribute to Mao Tse Tung, "half of China may have to die."
What a horrendous way of looking at a project, but I want to challenge you on this. So you say lack of conscience is an advantage for these people. Mao Tse Tung used it to be able to kill people, what is the advantage? What are they able to do?
I.H.: They are able to frighten the majority population into submission. Part of it is frightening the majority population into submission but it's not just a matter of frightening, it's also a matter of exterminating any resistance and ruthlessly doing so. So in the first instance, in these situations we're talking about the advantage in a violent situation.
They're at an advantage because they will be the most ruthless. Again I'll give you an example from Mao. In China, relations between China and Japan at the moment, the tensions over the atrocities in the Second World War, and a lot of, one of the things we often hear about is the Rape of Nanjing and the number of people that the Japanese murdered in Nanjing.
During the Civil War between Mao and the Nationalists, Mao laid siege to a city in Northeast China and more people died in that siege in Northeast China than the Japanese killed in Nanjing. Mao's tactic during that siege, he knew he was going to win. He said, "I'm absolutely going to win here because the general on the other side is too nice a guy. He won't let everyone starve to death, I will."
R.K.: Wow. And you know, you have a line where you say it is not only the behavior pf psychopaths that is beyond the comprehension of psychologically normal people, it is their thinking too. Now, you've just given an incredible example. Could you talk a little bit more about how incomprehensible the behavior and thinking of psychopaths is?
I.H.: There's an example I'd like to give you. There's a documentary film out at the moment from Josh Oppenheimer and it's called "The Act of Killing" and your listeners may have come across it. If not, it's worth Googling and if it's in a theater nearby it's worth going to. Joshua Oppenheimer, the film is set in Indonesia and it's set during the communist purge in Indonesia when Suharto took power and he's, Oppenheimer is interviewing some of the people who took part of the mass killings at that time, this was in the mid 1960's, and he, Oppenheimer himself says that when he came up with the idea for how he would go about the documentary, when he was talking to some of these killers, and they were boasting about what they were doing.
They were taking him to see, to some of the places they committed the murders and they were saying, "oh I wish I had brought a machete with me because I could have shown you exactly how I did it." And Oppenheimer from those conversations got the idea, well in this documentary, I'm going to let them pretend they're making a film about how they went about killing these people.
And that's what "The Act of Killing" is about. It's Oppenheimer interviewing these killers and allowing them to reenact the mass murders that they committed.