I'm not sure when I first became aware of the term sociopath. I feel like I've always known about it but never really knew what the term meant. A couple of years ago I got curious and checked out The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout, PhD., from my local library. In the book, Dr. Stout writes a list of the traits of a sociopath with the statement, "Chances are good you're a sociopath if you possess three out of seven."
- failure to conform to social norms
- 2. deceitfulness, manipulativeness
- impulsivity, failure to plan ahead
- irritability, aggressiveness
- reckless disregard for the safety of self or others
- consistent irresponsibility
- lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another person.
This list got me to wondering if I knew any sociopaths and it brought me to my own backdoor. My ex was extremely handsome and charming and could manipulate anyone, including me, to get what he wanted. I'd long suspected something was off, but being the good girl and dutiful wife, I put him through law school, against my better judgment, only to be ditched, after seventeen years of marriage, as soon as he passed the bar exam. Turns out he has three of the seven traits of a sociopath.
Now, I realize I'm not the first woman to be dumped after putting a man through law or medical school. But it was the way he handled it that shook me to my core. I won't bore you with the gory details. Let's suffice it to say he'd always had a coldness about him, a lack of empathy, and a strong sense of entitlement. And then there was the charm. According to Dr. Stout:
One of the most frequently observed of these traits is a glib and superficial charm that allows the true sociopath to seduce other people, figuratively or literally--a kind of glow or charisma that initially can make the sociopath seem more charming or more interesting than most of the normal people around him.
Before reading Dr. Stout's book I'd always thought of a sociopath as someone like Charlie Manson or John Wayne Gacy or a ruthless madman like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Idi Amin. But it turns out there are many gradations of this antisocial personality disorder, beginning at the low end of the spectrum with narcissism.
I guess I ought to be grateful. At least I didn't put Ted Bundy through law school. Once I made the realization regarding my ex, I began to look deeper into this disorder and what I learned is far more disturbing.
According to Stout one in twenty-five people are sociopaths. That's 4% of the population. Donald W. Black, MD, author of Bad Boys Bad Men, estimates 3-4 1/2% of the population may meet the criteria for this disorder. We're talking about one quarter of a billion people on the planet and at least eight and possibly as many as twelve million in the U.S. alone. That's a lot of people. Most of us are not aware such a large number of them walk, live, and work among us. Turns out they're everywhere. Some are in prison, some can't hold jobs, but many of them are in high places in our society, from CEOs of large corporations to high positions in our government and the military.
When I read the following statement in Dr. Stout's book a chill ran down my spine:
If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction. In fact, terrorism (done from a distance) is the ideal occupation for a person possessed of blood lust and no conscience, because if you do it just right, you may be able to make a whole nation jump. And if that is not power, what is?
The first image that came to mind was George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their Murder, Inc. cohorts, conspiring and starting illegal wars based on lies, and with the help of the media banging the drums for war until, finally, the American people cried for revenge, even though Iraq and Saddam Hussein had no connection to 9/11. Amazing how well their little shell game worked. Seems people are easily manipulated especially when fear is applied.
But the Bush administration is no longer in charge. We now have a kinder gentler face of empire. The velvet glove with the silver tongued president. Obama came into office promising hope and change and transparency. He promised to fight the "good" war. But now five years later he's expanded the wars. And according to Jeremy Scahill's film, "Dirty Wars," we're entangled in illegal covert actions across the globe.
We've learned Obama enjoys holding his "Terror Tuesdays," where he decides who will live or die, and without due process. He is prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, all in one. And then there's his fascination with drone warfare, and using the Joint Special Operations Command ( JSOC) as his own private military unit. According to Scahill, JSOC is currently in one hundred countries where they engage in covert actions and drone strikes, become attached to local forces to hunt individuals, run night raids and who knows what else. There's also a program called Find, Fix and Finish where they target, fix their pattern, and finish them off. Obama is deeply involved in the third F, or Finish.
Here we have a commander-in-chief who has never served in the armed forces, never served his country on the battlefield, but yet is filled with blood lust. He has a private "kill lis t" and has ordered the assassination of four American citizens (that we know of) without due process. In fact, after ordering the assassination of the American cleric Anwar Awlaki, he then ordered the assassination of his 15-year-old son who hadn't seen his father in years, Obama ordered him killed for who he might become. This makes the Thought Police from Orwell's 1984 look like good Samaritans.
Stout asks, "Why do we allow leaders who are motivated by self-interest, or by their own psychological issues from the past, to fan bitterness and political crisis into armed confrontation and war?"