May 31, 2011
May 18, 2011
Recent reports of bad boy behavior among the high and mighty (Strauss-Kahn, Schwarzenegger) have dovetailed with a couple of other news stories about bad boy behavior in the Ivy League, specifically at Yale and Dartmouth. These elite institutions are, of course, the breeding ground for our future leaders, and I am wondering if we are not seeing a pattern here. More to the point, I am wondering where our leaders get this outsized sense of entitlement, that they can run roughshod over common morality with such impunity. JFK and Eliot Spitzer are two other such egregious abusers of women (their concubines and their wives) who spring to mind. And there have been so many others.
I am beginning to think a significant proportion of the people we elect to high places are sociopaths. Definition: “A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.” Sociopaths are often oh-so-charming, slick and manipulative, without any capacity for empathy—solipsists to the core, in fact, for whom no one and nothing exists except to serve their own gratification, amusement, and enrichment. How else can one account for the mess we are in today?
Of course, we are all solipsists to an extent. It takes a real effort to imaginatively experience the otherness of another. When we do, it sometimes comes with a euphoric shock of recognition and, for me at any rate, a welcome understanding that I am not alone “in this dark world and wide.” But the Profumos of this world (and he was the earliest manifestation of this sort of thing in my memory) have no such epiphanic moments. They live locked in a world of their own exclusivity, unable to share in the wonder of the other. Which, I guess, would be fine, except sociopathy so often manifests itself in pursuits inimical to a healthy society, from running for office to serial killing.
Is there some way we can identify and filter these people out of our political process? Probably not. Unless we can find a way to identify the right people (rather than allow the wrong ones to self-select themselves for political office), and encourage and support them in their races. Otherwise, we are left with the non-solution proposed by Gore Vidal, that “[a]ny American who is prepared to run for [office] should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.”
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