February 8, 2007
EVIL: 1 a: morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked <an evil impulse> b: arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct <a person of evil reputation>2 aarchaic : inferior b: causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive <an evil odor> c: disagreeable <woke late and in an evil temper>3 a: causing harm : pernicious <the evil institution of slavery> b: marked by misfortune : unlucky [Merriam-Webster Online]
Canada’s Red Pill press has recently published psychologist Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s book Political Ponerology (Red Pill Press, Canada, 1998 and 2006) in which the author expounds on his observations that during his years of clinical work in Poland, he noticed a high correlation between acts that most people would label as "evil" and various pathologies. The most apt diagnostic labeling of these individuals in modern psychological jargon would be sociopathic, the most important characteristic of which is the seeming absence of a conscience or empathy in relation to other living beings. Lobaczewski and some of his Eastern European colleagues working under Soviet rule decided to take this study to a higher level and researched how sociopathy was playing out in government, in business, and in other social groups.
Political ponerology (originating from the Greek word for evil, poneros) is a science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes which ultimately on a larger scale results in a pathocracy. The research indicates that sociopaths are found in all races, ethnicities, and creeds, and that no group is immune to them. Sociopaths constitute, according to the author, about 6% of the population of any given group. Red Pill’s editor states that, "Political Ponerology is a book that offers a horrifying glimpse into the structure underlying our governments, our biggest corporations, and even our system of law." After I read the book, a number of nagging questions about the policies and practices of government and corporate officials began to answer themselves in that Lobaczewski’s analysis goes to the heart of why the United States government has become a criminal enterprise hell bent on dominating the world and annihilating vast quantities of human beings globally and domestically.
When I first began the book I was more than a little put off by Lobaczewski’s European style of writing—his wordiness and his succinctness-challenged approach. Nevertheless, as I kept reading, and I must admit, struggling with his sentences, I grew increasingly grateful for the book and the friend who gave it to me. As a result, a few of the author’s fundamental concepts cry out to be shared, and this article is an attempt to do just that.
Lobaczewski first points out that societies are the most vulnerable to evil during good times. "During good times," he writes, "people progressively lose sight of the need for profound reflection, introspection, knowledge of others, and an understanding of life’s complicated laws." (P.85) Certainly, in my lifetime, I have not witnessed an American society willing to reflect and wrestle with the complexities of existence since the Vietnam War. Although much of the protest and activism of the sixties was naively myopic, the tension and angst of the era drove a majority of individuals in the United States to look deeper within themselves than they otherwise might have.
Following upon the heels of the war, of course, came Watergate, and further confirmation that governments always betray their own citizens and always lie about doing so. Then as the ME-generation seventies offered us the deceptions of peace and honest government, the groundwork for the current horrors domestically and internationally were being laid. America was war-weary, and smarting from the wounds of Watergate, acting out Lobaczewski’s assertion that "During good times, the search for truth becomes uncomfortable because it reveals inconvenient facts." (85) On the other hand, he states, "Suffering, effort, and mental activity during times of imminent bitterness lead to progressive, generally heightened, regeneration of lost values, which results in human progress." (P.87) Conversely, "The cycle of happy, peaceful times favors a narrowing of the world view and an increase in egotism…." Well, Jung said it long before Lobaczewski: Consciously analyzed suffering produces growth while letting nothing roll besides the good times produces stagnation and delusion.(87)
Perhaps no generation in American history has ever been so vulnerable to egotism as that of the seventies. It became known as the ME generation for a reason—not only because Americans became more personally narcissistic but also because internationally, in spite of losing our first war and weathering the Watergate scandal, we proceeded to demonstrate our superiority as we continued to stage various coups around the world and wage economic warfare on developing nations, setting the stage for Reagan’s ascent to power in the eighties and the polarization of ourselves as the savior in contrast to the "evil empire" of anyone else who dared to disagree.
It is exactly at those times of ego-delirium that nations render themselves deaf, dumb, and blind to conscience-less sociopaths who seduce them into policies and practices that are lethal for themselves and the rest of the world. Lack of reflection by definition produces human beings devoid of discernment.
One enormous problem I have with Lobaczewski’s elucidation of his theory is his use of "normal" to describe people who are not sociopaths. I wish he had used a different term since "normal" is so amorphous and laden with the naïve assumption that there is such a thing as a human being who is not dysfunctional in at least one aspect of his/her life. Nevertheless, he emphasizes that so-called "normal" individuals cannot comprehend the mind or behavior of the sociopath and are thus especially vulnerable to being harmed by them—hence the principal reason for writing a book on Ponerology, namely, to educate non-sociopaths about the pathology. The author uses the term "spellbinders" to describe psychological snake charmers who appear to be saviors, enlightened thinkers/politicians, even activists who present themselves as possessing insights based on research uniquely carried out by themselves or information gained through extraordinary channels to which no one else has access. This could also apply to cult leaders like Warren Jeffs and Jim Jones.
Yet, the author warns the reader that our own unconscious processes can cause us to block out the "red flags" that may arise in dealing with sociopaths. "Unconscious psychological processes outstrip conscious reasoning, both in time and in scope, which makes many psychological phenomena possible." (152) Thus the denial that prohibits some individuals from seeing the darkest truths of what a sociopath is trying to promote, i.e., "Our government wouldn’t harm us; our government has our best interests at heart; no president could get away with that; the rule of law is still at work in America; fascism can’t happen here; the U.S. government couldn’t possibly have orchestrated the 9/11 attacks; if 9/11 were orchestrated by the U.S. government, too many people would have been involved for it to remain a secret", and on and on ad infinitum.
Lobaczewski asserts that every society should teach its members proper thinking skills and how to detect the red flags of sociopathy. Teaching critical thinking skills in the educational process is one step in that direction, but in America’s No Child Left Behind gargantuan dumbing down project, even this first step is overwhelmingly absent.
The author states that "an ever-strengthening network of psychopathic and related individuals gradually starts to dominate, overshadowing the others." (192) This situation rapidly devolves into a pathocracy or a system wherein a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people. (193) The book’s editor, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, in her footnotes does not hesitate to name Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, under the tutelage of Leo Strauss, as principal players in America’s twenty-first century pathocracy. Tragically, according to the author, "Pathocracy progressively paralyzes everything [and]…progressively intrudes everywhere and dulls everything."(195)
If this all sounds very grim, and it is, Lobaczewski encourages us by emphasizing that, "If the ponerogenic activity of pathological factors—deviant individuals and their activities—is subjectged to conscious controls of a scientific, individual, and societal nature, we can counteract evil as effectively as by means of persistent calls to respect moral values." (180) In other words, the author insists, crusading for moral values alone, can neither prevent nor expose ponerogenic activity. In fact, he asserts, it can exacerbate such activity by distracting attention from the most ghastly forms of evil to that which is not evil at all or presents with a more complex and less blatant quality. We have only to witness the ideology and rhetoric of the religious right in this country to observe a stellar example of the latter. Professing to be a "culture of life" it is implacably obsessed with death, apocalyptic violence, hell fire and brimstone. It serves no purpose, essentially, in the current milieu but to foster and perpetuate pathocracy.
Political Ponerology is an invaluable work that every human being striving to become conscious, should read, not only for its expose of the pathology of the individuals currently in control of the United States government, but also the light it may shed on individuals closer to home, some of whom may be friends, fellow-activists, business or civic leaders. The book’s purpose is not to incite paranoia, but to cultivate discernment and buttress our trust of our innate intuition in order to navigate the daunting manifestations of evil that surround us in the twenty-first century.