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Friday, May 26, 2017

Just an average guy, morally

The frequency with which I castigate sociopaths might lead you to believe that I see myself as some sort of shining beacon of moral rectitude. I don't.

If someone were to give me insider information I thought would profit me, and I thought I could get away with it, I'd trade on it.

If Angela Jonsson were to beckon, I'd be hard pressed to say no.

I feel no overwhelming affection for the vast majority of people. And I feel zero loyalty to any of the schools I attended.

When I read of a tragedy that strikes people I don't know, I feel nothing. (Except, in the case of recent terrorist attacks, when I feel anger against those who insist we let more Muslim immigrate.)

I often fake a friendliness I don't feel. Overall, I'm a little on the cold side.

I don't think these attitudes and actions are unique to me; in fact, they're fairly typical. But there are people who feel loyalty to institutions, and who care about strangers. I'm just not one of them.

I'm also not a sociopath, since I'm capable of feeling shame, and even mortification at times.

But the reason I understand sociopaths, and see through them, is because I occupy the middle ground, morally speaking. I understand their motivations, because I feel those motivations too.

If I were some sort of angel, sociopaths would probably still be a complete mystery to me. I'd be the kind of guy who, after hearing of a particularly gruesome crime, shakes his head and says, "I don't understand how a human being could do something like that!" Or, "That guy's gotta be crazy!"

If I were an angel, I would ascribe the best of motives to everyone else, and assume that others -- even politicians -- were being truthful most of the time.

But, I'm no angel. I know what it is to hate people so much I want to see them dead. (That's "people," as in plural, which makes me a sort of serial killer in my own head.) And I, like Bernie Madoff, would prefer for me to have the money than for you to have it.

Don't worry, I don't have the nerve to act on these impulses; I'm too inhibited. And, I fear the consequences of my actions. (Or, if you prefer, I'm not man enough to follow through.) These things differentiate me from sociopaths. But the previous paragraph does describe how I sometimes feel.

To tell the truth, I don't even think those feelings are unique to me, either. (Although admitting to them is certainly not the norm.)

I also enjoy admiration as much as anybody. (It doesn't embarrass me in the least, I just soak it right up.) I'm just not quite willing to lie to get it.

I'm past the age where it would make much sense to either take steroids or get plastic surgery, two things sociopaths are more likely to do. But as I said in a recent post, if I had my life to live over again, I'd advise the young me to go ahead and get the surgery. And, frankly, I'm still curious to see what I'd be capable of physically if I juiced.

A sociopath's stock in trade are often mockery and intimidation. I don't intimidate. But as to mockery, well, I do write this blog.

Again, if I weren't this way, I'd never be able to understand sociopaths. (Saintliness may be admirable, but it doesn't lead to a greater understanding of one's fellow man.)

Anyway, next time I write a sociopath alert, feel free to think, ah, no wonder he understands them so well. Or you can even think, he's just trying to make himself feel virtuous since sociopaths are the only people he's better than.

But please don't think, oh, that self-righteous twit is at it again, trying to make himself out to be some kind of saint. 'Cause I'm not.

If morality were measured purely by honesty -- and that is one measure -- then I'd lay claim to being particularly upright. But there are a lot of facets to morality beside that, and on virtually all of them, I am, at best, average.


GT said...

The only thing, in my eyes, that puts you in the middle ground is your relationship with animals. From what I have read in your prior posts, you are indifferent to animals/ Pets. That is a red flag for me.

Everything else you describe seems pretty normal to me. The very fact that you can't act on your impulses is what makes you normal.

John Craig said...

GT --
Being indifferent to animals is a red flag for sociopathy??

Otherwise, thank you.

Mark Caplan said...

Morality is largely a matter of restraining oneself from acting on your natural, human impulses or temptations. I wouldn't call it a moral weakness to desire to have nonconsensual sex with a beautiful woman, so long as you don't physically manhandle her.

The ancient Greeks held that people will act immorally if they strongly believe they can get away with it. The same idea can be expressed as "power tends to corrupt." By that view, absolute power would tend to bring out the inner sociopath in all of us.

How large a role does patriotism play in your moral universe?

John Craig said...

Mark --
You're the second person to bring up that point about rape (the first was via email). No, I didn't mean hurt, simply nonconsensual.

Agree about power. (Unfortunately, I've never had any, so have never had the chance to allow my inner sociopath to blossom.)

Good question about patriotism. I suppose if patriotism can be measured as something one is truly willing to make a sacrifice for, then yes, it's a component of morality. But who really makes a sacrifice in that regard? Politicians? Almost always not, they are merely looking to gild their own careers, and gain power and glory. People who work for the government? For the most part, they're just people who need jobs and like the benefits. That leaves people in the military, especially those who are in the combat positions. But even there, the motives for enlisting are complex and can sometimes include the desire for a job, for adventure, to prove themselves, and even the desire to kill. So, it's hard to say; but if anyone deserves credit for that, it's the military guys who sign up for combat positions. And it's impossible to look to a guy like Pat Tillman, who was sacrificing both career and money to serve his country after 9/11, and not think, ah, patriotism.

The other thing about patriotism is, usually, the louder people speak of it, the more they're like those who are referred to in that famous phrase ago patriotism being the last bastion of the scoundrel. Think of Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, both whom used their supposed love of this country as cover for misbehavior.

Anonymous said...

The prize for the most Honest Guy goes to John.

Are you an average guy because of social constricts? What if you were born in the Paleolithic era, what kind of savage would you have been? Did your early Christian indoctrination affect a kind of repressive effect on your natural urges and desires? How much of nurture affected your
inherent nature?


John Craig said...

Sherie --
Thank you.

I think in a sense we're all born sociopaths, and then, due to a strong bond with another human being (usually our mothers) in the first year or two of life, we're socialized. Those who do not have that strong bond grow up to be sociopaths. So, yeah, it seems to be mostly nurture.

I didn't really have much in the way of early Christian indoctrination: my father comes from Presbyterian stock, my mother from Shinto, and they tried to bring us up as little Quakers, but they stopped making us go to Sunday School when I was 12. And from what I've seen, religious background seems to have little to do with character anyway, witness all the priests who molested little boys, or, for that matter, all the terrorism that's committed in the name of Islam today. Religion actually seems to provide some cover for a certain kind of sociopath; witness all the televangelists who use religion to get rich.

If I'd been born in the Paleolithic Era, I suppose the type of person I'd have been would similarly have depended on what sort of bond I'd had with my parents. But without modern laws, I'd undoubtedly have gone along with whatever savagery was considered normal by my fellow cavemen.

GT said...

John said: Being indifferent to animals is a red flag for sociopathy??

It is a red flag for me. I find people who don't have pets to be a little on the cold side. I little less empathetic. It is a major chore to take care of an animal especially if you don't have a desire to bond with it.

On the extreme side, serial killers start out abusing animals due to a lack of empathy and their inability to control their own impulses and your garden variety sociopaths have used animals as a prop to seem more caring but once the prop had severed it's purpose either abounded the animal or killed it.

John Craig said...

GT --
Fair enough. (Though I don't see it as a red flag, but I suppose that's a little self-serving on my part.)

I guess you'll have to take my word that I neither use our dog as a prop nor intend to kill it.

Anonymous said...

There are the kind who cry at funerals of strangers, then later like to brag about it in a way I've seen. Talking about what compassionate sensitive people they are. But is the urge to cry at a funeral of a stranger really something to brag about like it is something you have accomplished when it is really something that was felt because of your nature?

It bugs me how "empathy" is thrown around so much, being on the spectrum, I see this word on the internet everywhere from both sides of the arguments going on about ASD, and it is driving me nuts. I won't dwell on it. What I define it as is it is something, a type of process, that a person DOES, it is not a basic drive like hunger and many disorders get in the way of this progress because of a character defect where they don't want to (sociopathy or narcissism) or a weak central coherence/overarching executive dysfunction (autism, schizophrenia, very heavy alcohol use, dementia). And empathy isn't always the same thing as sympathy.

What people who talk about "empathy" who throw it around in every other sentence are referring, seems to me to be not as unconditional as they claim, it looks more like drive. These people have a tendency to do this kind of "empathizing" with people they can relate to or see themselves in. You see someone claim to be so empathetic when they break into tear comforting a stranger whose grandmother passed away, but then they shed no tears when a suicide bombing happens.

If someone offered their condolences in sobbing tears because they were so driven to do it by feelings inside they couldn't control themselves, is that better than someone who isn't moved to crying who does it because they believe it is the right thing to do even if they don't feel the same drive? Yet people will chew out the second person for not being genuine or as compassionate or empathetic, but if he or she doesn't offer any condolences, there will still be chewing out. Maybe in some cultures, the person who is getting chewed out is reversed. Then there is also the problem of agreeing on defining any of the terms I used.


John Craig said...

Ga --
The thing about "empathy" is, a lot of people conflate it with sympathy, which is different. From the blog:

"To sum up the differences between the most commonly used meanings of these two terms: sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another."

As far as I'm concerned, crying it's particularly affecting, but not by a faraway disaster and a recitation of the number of victims.

Actually, the whole point of this post was to explain why I feel *empathy* with sociopaths (and to absolve myself of any taint of trying to appear a saint, which has never been my intent). And at the same time, I feel zero sympathy for them.

Ironically, the people who try hardest to broadcast their goodness are sociopaths. I wonder if some of the people you describe who were so self-righteous about their "empathy" were from their ranks.

Mark Caplan said...

Dogs have evolved over tens of thousands of years to induce humans to want to take care of them. If some people feel no sentimental attachment to dogs, maybe it just indicates that doggie evolution still has a ways to go.

"K9 Kobus paid the ultimate sacrifice"

John Craig said...

Mark --
I'd say doggy evolution has done a good job; I can see why people love their dogs. I like dogs too, just not as much as some people, and I can't see myself effectively taking on the work of another child, for a creature that's not a child. Also, please keep in mind, that time I wrote that post about being the only dry-eyed one in the house when our previous dog died, it was partly because I was sort of overwhelmed by everyone else's grief.

By the way, almost all of the responses I've gotten on this post via emails from friends is about the rape line, so I think I"m going to take that out. I know, after giving myself credit for being honest, it makes me a little hypocritical to take it out, but it seems to be distracting from the two main points of the post, which are (a) I'm not trying to portray myself as a saint, and (b) this is partly why I understand sociopaths. Plus, everyone seemed to think that I somehow wanted to beat up women as well, when that was not what I had in mind at all. So, if you want, I"ll take out your earlier comment (and my reply to it). Or maybe I'll just put in an update at the end to explain the deletion.

Mark Caplan said...

It's certainly okay with me to delete any of my comments or portions thereof.

Anonymous said...

The argument, that if we live in a material world that is merely cause and effect, whether sociopaths can help it or not is irrelevant towards sympathy. They simply don't feel unhappy or suffer, they also don't want sympathy, if they do it only is to gain control to manipulate. You don't have to give it to them because they don't need or truly want it, and how fortunate this answer exists. It can prevent headaches and hours of thinking for the layman.

If we argue about whether a person can help it or not, and that it doesn't matter with sociopaths, it opens up a bunch of complications and can be turned against anyone such as whether a person who is forced to rob a bank because he has a collar bomb attached to his neck shouldn't be given any mercy because it doesn't matter, we would be judging by results, not culpability. This is the problem with trying to use logic to answer everything.

The existence of sociopathy conflicts with certain religions except for maybe buddhism or some karma based ones, and deterministic forms of theism:

The Buddhist answer of culpability is that a sociopath would still get negative karma for their actions since the universe is unfair and karma is an impersonal force, and possibly being born a sociopath can be caused indirectly by bad karma, since it puts a person into a position to accumulate even more bad karma leading them to hell until it is all burned off then they will find themselves as maybe a mangy dog which only commits more bad karma then follows a loop until chance breaks you out of it (temporarily), in some other cases though, finishing a sentence in hell can mean a lot of a person's bad karma is exhausted leaving good karma from other lifetimes you may be reborn in heaven experiencing pleasure, but you can then fall to hell or earth again, you can be caught in several loops. The goal is to get out of the cycle. But it also says some things can't be explained or understood by an unenlightened person, even the Buddha refused to answer 14 questions:

He used the parable of a man struck by an archer, refusing to get the wound treated until he found out who did it then dying. Don't waste time pursuing a definite answer if it will take up your entire life. You can pursue questions within reason, but if you cannot answer a question because it is beyond your skills you will ever be able to gain, don't expect an answer like it is your right, leave it to someone who can, and sometimes no one will ever be able with our limited human minds.

Unlike a very theistic religion which has to reconcile the omnipotence of God, and sociopaths existing, Buddhism says "shit happens, sometimes over and over".

Calvinist/Reformed Christianity (and some Sunni Islam branches) is quite scary, but it fits into a nice logical package which is why it is a popular evangelical (ironic) movement among millennials. But it has it's own paradoxes where they say "God will explain later". The Catholic writer GK Chesteron blasted Calvinism for trying to be too logical and neat. He said "The madman is not someone who has lost his reason, the madman has lost everything except reason" leaving no room for common sense, flexibility, accepting two things from experience that are clearly true despite conflicting, and the ability to enjoy things without having to add extra meaning or to remove all meaning (which is a kind of assigning meaning). Gk Chesteron would say "let God answer you in heaven, and move on", I would say contemplate, but sometimes accept an answer that isn't purely based on mathematical logic, don't let yourself go mad using only fact based logic trying to figure everything out.

You don't have to put extra effort into forcing yourself to despise or have sympathy for sociopaths if you have no feelings about the matter, just avoid them, figure out how to prevent them from controlling the world, how to recognize them, etc.


John Craig said...

Thanks Mark.

John Craig said...

Ga --
I think that sociopaths are immune from certain types of pain, i.e. those brought on by guilt and shame and sadness and grief. But they can certainly feel the types. And the Munchausen's Syndrome variety of sociopathy is supposed to be caused by a bottomless need for sympathy and admiration and just attention.

Karma is a nice concept, but I don't believe in it. It's basically similar to Christianity, saying we will get our just desserts after we die (in another life, according to Buddhism, or in the afterlife, according to Christianity).

Also, G. K. Chesterton (I used to read his Father Brown series when I was a kid) seems to have it backwards: he's describing sociopaths, not madmen. A madman by definition has no reason. to be "mad" is to be crazy, i.e., psychotic. But we're probably just talking about semantics here.

Lucian Lafayette said...

You sir are a cad, a monster! Your prejudice against red-heads is a calumny that demands retribution!

Seriously, even your "cleaning up" of your original post is completely normal.

"None of the Earps were flawless saints but they also were not shady characters who lucked into heroic places in Western history. What they did do, Wyatt especially, was to exaggerate their accomplishments and completely ignore anything in their past which reflected badly on them. In this, they were typical of men of their time - and men today."

"The Last Gunfight" - Jeff Guinn

In spite of the attractive nature of the young lady you mentioned, I bow to my genetic heritage and have an affection for the red-heads.


John Craig said...

Luke --
That was exactly the point of my post -- that despite my constant condemnation of sociopaths, I'm not trying to position myself as any better than average. (Or, frankly, worse, even though I admit to bad thoughts.)

Interesting -- I hadn't realized that Wyatt was his own PR department, though I suppose there's no reason to be surprised by that.

I'll make another confession here that's even more shameful than anything I said in this post: I don't think I've ever been with a redhead, and that wouldn't have been a matter of volition.

LBD said...

I really like animals, have had dogs and cats and other assorted critters. I think kindness to and empathy with animals is the hallmark of a developed civilization. Contrast the attitude of Christian nations (and Israel) to dogs, and the Arab nations. Arabs are actively cruel to animals, zero empathy. If necessary. I could live with Russians but not with Arabs, the cultural gulf is too wide.

However, people who are overly sentimental about animals I find annoying. Perhaps it is because I find their "love" insincere, since they are not taking the animals on their own terms. They create neurotic pets just as they create neurotic children.

Some years ago I used to breed Abyssinian cats. Once in a while a mother cat would reject a particular kitten. First I would find it pushed to a corner of the nursing box. Thinking it an accident, I would place it back at the mother's side. The next time I checked, it would be pushed to the edge again. The kitten would die, I would have a postmortem done by the vet, and inevitably there would be some anomaly or anomalies invisible on the outside. Animals know when something isn't normal and they refuse to waste resources on the abnormal. People in our age seem to defy nature by glorifying all that is the most abnormal and bizarre (like the current transgender mania).

Animals are loving and loyal, but they live best when they are being animals rather than pseudo children. They are a lot of work, and in late middle age it's realistic to decide against keeping them.

John Craig said...

LBD --
That IS a pretty good marker of the difference between a civilized country and an uncivilized one, although not a perfect one. (In Japan, people rarely have pets, but if you forget your wallet on the train, the odds are that someone will return it to you, everything intact.)

And yeah, people do tend to try to "humanize" their animals, and it is a little pathetic.

LBD said...

In Japan people don't have dogs because of the tiny living spaces, but they're nuts about cats. It seems like three quarters of the "cute cat pictures" on the internet are from Japan. Hello, Kitty! Many Japanese gardens have a pet tortoise.

To me the marker is not so much indifference to animals, but the tendency to inflict needless cruelty. If someone can take animals or leave them alone, well, that's exactly how most sane animals react to one another. Keep to your territory and I'll keep to mine (unless I'm a large carnivore and feel a bit peckish).

John Craig said...

LBD --
I haven't been to Japan in a long time, but it's my impression that they like the cute cat pictures a lot more than they like the actual pets.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Interesting that pets and behavior towards animals. I'm with John in that pets don't bring me much enjoyment so I just prefer not to have any. It is a lot of work to take care of them and there's no point if you don't even like the pets.

I don't hate animals or anything (although sometimes I'll say I do to elicit an emotional reaction and make conversations more interesting), I just don't really like them.

And honestly, everyone's circle of empathy for animals ends somewhere. I don't hear anyone ever carry on about how we need to be kind to cockroaches even though they are just as much animals as dogs and cats are.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
You sound like my kind of conversationalist.

Ha, that would actually be a great way to demonstrate what an incredibly good person you are, by waxing on about your love for cockroaches.

LBD said...

My stepson got a miniature pig for the children, since they have allergies to fur. They adore it, but although I am an " animal lover", I just don't. First, it is very intelligent and purposeful. Most animals, as said before, will keep to themselves if you just leave them alone and don't try to touch them. This pig, while I was reading at the kitchen counter minding my own business, came up and bit my foot for no particular reason. Its high intelligence tells me it did it on purpose.

No matter how many articles are written about how pigs "are really very clean, dirty pigs are a myth", don't believe it, they are filthy. They can be housebroken but can also backslide. The poop is not nice little pellets like goats-- it's like human waste because they eat what we eat (omnivores). Pigs are best left on farms where they can be dirty and happy with other pigs and not suburban homes.

I dislike monkeys, too. Mcost people find them cute, but to me they are too close to human and give me a creepy feeling. They can be quite aggressive, have very sharp teeth, and are best left in the wild. In general, I don't like seeing super smart animals in captivity because they seem so aware of what's going on and I feel bad for them.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Pigs are supposed to be the smartest of the hooved animals. I can see how people would find them cute, I was at a farm in New Zealand once and saw a litter of small ones and they were sort of adorable in their own way. But it would never occur to me to keep one as a pet.

People -- like Michael Jackson -- find baby chimps cute, but they're incredibly dangerous when they get older, so have to be gotten rid of. And I've heard that monkeys -- of the type you're talking about -- are filthy too, and will pee everywhere. So, no thanks to these little human-substitutes.

Anonymous said...

".. no overwhelming affection for the vast majority of people.." that is proper. You be a sanctimonious phoney or emotionally unbalanced if you did. It's all about the monkeysphere.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I just Googled "monkeysphere" and got directed to "Dunbar's number." You just taught me something new, thanks. I have to say, my number's lower than 150, though.

europeasant said...

"I'm too inhibited"

It's amazing how some people are so uninhibited. Last week I ran into two strangers who asked me for money. This was in Tennessee and Kentucky and their story was that they needed a few bucks for gas money so that they could get back home. I felt sorry for them even though deep inside my mind I knew they were scamming me. I would have given the young man a dollar but I only had ten's and twenty's. The next day I gave an old woman a dollar bill after hearing her sob story.

I myself could never ask people for money because it would be shameful to me but some people have no qualms about asking.

Mark Caplan said...

Cats carry a microbe that spreads to rats and mice and causes them to, in essence, commit suicide by running toward instead of away from cats. About a third of humans around the world are infected with the pathogen. "In humans, studies have linked Toxoplasma infection with behavioural changes and schizophrenia" [1].

In light of the West's seemingly unrelenting drive to commit demographic suicide by welcoming the West's worst enemies to settle within its borders, the Center for Disease Control should look into whether taxoplasmosis might be the underlying cause of this self-destructive insanity. The similarity of the deranged, infected rat befriending the cat and white Leftists befriending Third World predators is too obvious to ignore. A simple vaccine might set everything back to normal.

1. "Parasite makes mice lose fear of cats"

John Craig said...

Europeasant --
I had a similar experience once. I was walking down the street in NYC when a young white guy in a sports car (it looked like an old MG, but I'm not sure) stopped alongside me and asked for gas money. I told him, "Why don't you sell your car." He said, "Thanks," sarcastically, and drove off.

The sarcastic "Thanks" -- as if I had done something wrong there -- was exactly what you'd expect from someone shameless enough to pull up next to a pedestrian while driving a decent sports car and ask for money.

My guess is those two strangers were scamming you, but you never know.

John Craig said...

Mark --
I've heard of that disease. And that's a great analogy.

I read somewhere recently that the Chinese now have a new word meaning, "white liberal." It's evidently pejorative.

Anonymous said...

About the part about hating people enough to wish them dead. The word hate itself is vague, scouring the web I found this:

A Latin language distinction between "loathing" and "hostility" hatred.

I have been accused of "hating" myself by other SSSers because I hate my disabilities. Maybe, but "self loathing" is more precise. I do not feel hostility towards myself or think myself bad, but I do hate the qualities found within me that I wish were not there without seeing satisfaction nor wanting to do myself harm. I having "loathing" for other SSS people who hurl "you hate yourself" at me.

The "hostility" kind of hatred I believe is only justifiable in certain cases. If a man murders your family, you have the right to feel that, but if you challenge someone to a game of chess and you cheat, but he still wins yet you wish him dead, that is not justified. There are many people like that who get all mad and vengeful over frivolous reasons, and I having "loathing" to them for that, (but do not have "hostility").

I think "hostility" towards non-people can be acceptable like mine towards the autism pride movement. It really gets to me. Sometime I even find myself wishing to punch the face of some of the members, supporters, enablers, like Baron-Cohen or one of those hipster Ted Talk speakers. Of course I know this is extreme and not really deserved, rather I should just having "loathing" for them as they have not personally hurt me or anyone close to me. (But I feel they are screwing up people's lives in huge ways)

Also "hostility" to individuals is usually more justified than towards, say, entire countries' people like the anti-americanism fad from 10 years ago.

Likewise, you can not like someone but still love them. Most teenagers in a rebellious phase against their parents are familiar with this. This "hate" can coexist with "love" but other kinds of "hate" cannot.

But too much "hostility" is not good for the person feeling it. It is painful and damaging to your mind. You don't have to forgive someone but you shouldn't let the rage eat you up like poison.