20 May 2007

A Plausible Explanation

Kurt Vonnegut is dead, but his wisdom is not. In The Nation, Robert Scheer writes about Vonnegut's theory that there are Psychotic Personalities (PPs), "the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences." Scheer's article is entitled The Scum Also Rises, and focuses on the recent Paul Wolfowitz debacle, but he points out that many others in the present administration, and many of the so-called neoconservative movement, fit this personality description rather well.

This brings up the question of blame: is a person who is pathologically devoid of morality responsible for his acts? When he knowingly brings pain and adversity to others in the world is he excused by virtue of his "problem?" Scheer answers this question in pointing out that Vonnegut said quite clearly that such personalities would be fully aware of the suffering that they cause, that they simply do not (can not?) care, and so have no mental mechanism whereby to control their own actions simply because they are damaging to others. Knowing this, is it not logical and sensible that we would keep such PPs as far away from positions of responsibility as possible? Asking whether or not they are to blame is beside the point: to avoid the destruction that the Wolfowitzes, the Bushes, the Rumsfelds, the Cheneys, and other PPs both identified and unidentified, cause and will continue to cause, these misfits must not again be elected or appointed to the type of positions they occupy today.

Piece of cake. All we have to do is inform the American Public (or actually the 40% of it that votes) and at the same time insist on accountability from all elected representatives such as Senators and Congressman who investigate and approve executive appointments at all levels. Yep. That's it.

But seriously, one finds oneself wondering about this phenomenon. Is it new? And if so, from whence cometh it? Nature or nurture? Are we perhaps breeding PPs in our acquistion-crazy competitive football videogame culture? To greatly oversimplify (skipping over matters of class, environment, ancestry): perhaps some of us become Homer Simpson, some Mr. Burns. There are more Homers, but that's the way of the world. And it only takes a handful of PPs to search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in an oil-rich country ruled by an unpopular dictator, bully a law through Congress that makes a mockery of the Bill of Rights in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in US history, illegally imprison an unknown number of foreign nationals in a US military base on an island in the Caribbean, illegally and unethically commit a wholesale firing of civil servants, i.e. US Attorneys, because they failed to toe the party line and investigate "voter fraud" complaints vigorously enough, etc., etc.

On bad days, I think that we have exactly the leadership that we deserve.

At other times, I think that the tyrants of today gave up old-fashioned tyranny a few decades ago. They probably chuckle at the antics of Kim Jong Il and Senior General Than Shwe (of Burma). Our new, 21st century totalitarians are believers in that timeworn cliche from Sales meetings immemorial: "Work smarter, not harder." Why bother ordering all those people around, controlling their hearts and minds, regimenting and directing their lives? It's much easier to control the masses by manipulating the economy and starting a phony war.