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I've been watching The John Wayne Gacy Tapes on Netflix, which features previously unheard recordings of the serial killer known as "The Killer Clown" who murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in the 1970s. I wasn't able to finish it because I don't have that kind of stomach, but what jumped out at me listening to him was the way he talked about how much he loved power and what an easy time he had manipulating his way up the ladders of political influence.
Really makes you think about how many psychopaths who are just a little bit more functional must be in politics today, on all levels. Psychopaths who are deeply messed up inside but not quite so messed up that they enjoy strangling teenage boys to death after raping and torturing them. Or if they are that messed up they're clever enough to avoid getting caught. Or if they are that messed up and not clever enough to avoid getting caught, but their fetish for murder and suffering is satiated by something that's considered politically acceptable in our society, like war.
I mean, think about it. What kind of person seeks power over others? Psychologists have been saying for years that psychopaths routinely ascend to power not just in political spheres but in business, academia and law enforcement as well. The competition-based models that shape our society tend to reward those who are willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top, and the type of person who is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top happens to be the type of person who enjoys the power which comes from being at the top.
When all your systems inevitably reward psychopaths with power and money, you will necessarily find yourself ruled by psychopaths. That hunger for power which saw John Wayne Gacy photographed with the wife of a US president is the same hunger for power which caused him to enjoy strangling young men to death while they were handcuffed and powerless in his control.
Our lives are directly affected by the fact that psychopaths consistently both seek and attain ascension into the halls of power. But our lives are also directly affected in countless ways by the same dynamics of power which are especially manifested in the worst psychopaths.
Power is control over other people. The extent to which you control someone's fate is the amount of power you have over them. The number of people whose lives you can exert control over, and the extent to which you can do so, is the total amount of power you have. If you are a government official, a billionaire CEO, a judge, an influential pundit, or the pastor of a giant megachurch, you will have a great deal of power. If you're an ordinary working person, you won't have much.
But we've all experienced the impulse to exert control over others in our lives, even if it's been relatively slight. You might not seek power for its own sake or obtain gratification from holding someone's life in your hands like Gacy did, but you've surely wanted to control what a loved one does or doesn't do at some point, or wanted society to be a certain way that aligns with your ideals. Even if it's for the noblest-looking reasons, we've all desired control at one point or another.
The impulse to control is so pervasive throughout our species that it plays a foundational role in the expression of our personal psychology. The emergence of the ego, the illusory sense of being a separate self in the world who stands apart from life and from the rest of humanity, is born out of the human organism's desire to exert control over its fate in early childhood when presented with the frightening prospect of being a powerless infant surrounded by giants. Building a conceptual framework around a "me" character provides us with the reassuring sense that we can use thought and language to exert control over what happens to that character, a sense that is ultimately entirely illusory since nothing's ever really under control in this world.
A psychopath is just an ego taken to its most toxic and destructive extreme. A desire to control which pervades every aspect of one's personal experience.
It's this same impulse to control which has seen the emergence of empires throughout history. The inability to just be okay with the fact that there are people in other lands doing things you can't control is intolerable for particularly inflated egos; recorded history is largely a story of troops being sent out to conquer foreign people to bring them under control and give those inflated egos a temporary sense of security.
We see this desire for control plainly with today's dominant empire in the Wolfowitz Doctrine, a US government policy laid out immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union that no other superpowers should be permitted to emerge who might challenge US hegemony. The goal of perpetual US unipolar domination, now simply the standard orthodox position throughout the entire western political/media class, is the ultimate expression of this desire to control as many humans as possible to the furthest extent possible. And it undergirds the dynamics behind every major international news story of our day.
Whether it's out of fear of the barbarian hordes or fear of a rising China, every empire that has ever existed was created and maintained out of an impulse to control. Empire building is just egotism at mass scale. Varying gradations of psychopathy controlling the fate of vast numbers of people.
And now this impulse to control has our species on the brink of a nuclear war with Russia due to the US-centralized empire's agenda to encircle the nation and topple Moscow. We are at a point where our desire for control is threatening not just our ability to live harmoniously with one another, but our very survival.
If humanity is to survive into the future and move out of its psychopathy-enabling competition-based models into a collaborative relationship with all of humankind and with its entire ecosystem, that future will necessarily come with an abandonment of our ancient impulse to control. Our impulse to control nations, to control each other, to control life itself. It will come with an abandonment of empire, an abandonment of power agendas, and an abandonment of the human ego.
Every species eventually hits a point where it must adapt to changing conditions or else go extinct. It is clear now, as we face existential threats on multiple fronts due to our destructive attempts to control each other and our ecosystem, that our own species is at such a point right now.
If there is a humanity on the other side of the existential hurdles we now face, it is a humanity that has let go of its impulse to control and has instead learned to move in harmony with what is. It's hard to imagine from where we're at right now, but that's only because we've never seen it before. We've also never seen anything like our current situation, though. There's a first time for everything. We'll either pass this test or we won't.
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For me, the standard of psychopathy at the highest levels of political power is readiness to use the massively destructive force of the American military to crush weaker states for the fun and profit of inflicting mass death and immiseration of whole populations. Trump tended to be wary of war, Obama too, and Biden seems to me the paradigmatic opportunist: not so much sadist as insatiably hungry for power and attention. Cheney, Nuland, Hilary are out and out war mongers, and don’t even seem shy of escalating to nuclear. I might be wrong; it might have more to do with the first three being Presidents and the second three not being that.
My life experience took me inside the halls of political power. I lobbied state legislatures, regulatory agency rulemaking, consulted for election campaigns, local, state, federal. I've been with the Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives in his office, with a US Supreme Court Justice in his inner chambers. I've met US President's, worked and socialized with presidential cabinet Secretaries, been in the homes of US Senators, shared drinks and social company with Governor's...and their mistresses. I've been to more than my share of the social functions, charity balls, holiday gala's, fundraisers, house parties, clinked glasses and shared hors d'oeuvre with the powerful in many communities, judges, corporate executives, medical, media, energy, education, transportation, senior military, you name it, moguls from all walks of life, those who've earned and inherited great fame and fortune. Been welcomed by them, taken calls from them, called on them. I know these people. Some even intimately. It draws the very people you describe.
As for elected officials it takes a special person to even put their name out their to run as a candidate. To submit oneself to the approval or rejection of their community takes a level of ego and confidence. Most people don't have the resilience to deal with rejection. Especially rejection in a race that is usually a close contest. Plenty of people will run fearlessly as shoe-ins or sacrificial lambs. But it takes a strong ego to deal with losing something you could've won. The line between healthy strong ego and unhealthy strong ego is thin.
Take that same ego and have it amplified by approval, winning an election. Ego's grow with approval. Then comes the power of office. Seductive, alluring, especially for the ambitious. Recognize the difference between being in a minority party with little actual power or a majority party with real power. The ambitious get to chair committees, leadership posts, those have even more power. The axiom power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely holds true. Watched many an aspiring politician, the insurance salesman, entrepreneur, nurse, run for the first time, disgusted by the system they see as outsiders, driven to be change agents, become who they wanted to replace once they get power. Rare is the person who's ego stays in check.
All you have to do is look at an HOA board to see how people become when given power. Sames. The human condition is the same. And as the stakes grow so do the egos. The control gets addictive.
The dynamic is very similar to what most of us experienced in high school cafeterias. The "cool kids" tables were where many wanted to be. Few really liked being at the "nerd" tables, who you were seen with said much about your status in the school. That's what the political scene is like. In state capitols, in DC. Lobbyists, legislators, media, even the gadfly's all wanted to be invited to be with the cool kids. Which involved the same type of social interactions and powerplays in high schools, but done by adults...making big decisions about how the rest of society lives. That is just as petty, conniving, duplicitous, etc as school was, but with more experience and skill involved.
All the while pretending to be better than it is, hiding behind protocols and titles, calling themselves, or being called "The Honorable" a lie in and of itself. Those social parties I described going to, all just huge ego strokes. "Hey Bob, hearing great things about your latest nonprofit work, so wonderful you care so much, helping so many in need!" "Thanks Warren, it's hard work, but so rewarding. And how is your investment in African water delivery systems doing? So great when you can make a living doing what you love!" "Let's get together and see how we can help." "We're going to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day next week, so powerful a moment. We'll connect after." Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Ego strokes the whole time, jockeying for influence, networking, access to power. They all eat it up.
I was in the public policy arena for two decades. I observed that decisions are made based on what I called the three C's: Constituents, Caucus and Conscience. Coined for the elected official decision making process, but can apply with slightly different terminology to most any position of power in an organization, Pastors, Executives, Administrators, etc.
Constituents - the community that put them in power. Caucus - the party apparatus that helped them get power. Conscience - their internal moral compass. When all three C's align that's an easy decision to make. But when it's 2-1 or 1-2 that's where negotiating the conflicts occur. And that negotiation is going to be a product of the ambition they have. Do right by constituents and conscience, but go against caucus means future ambitions may be limited. Maybe results in not being able to help constituents or advance personal agenda items successfully in the future. Do right by conscience but cross constituents and caucus, may get unelected and have nothing to show for it. Do right by conscience and caucus but screw over constituents, may get unelected but caucus may make sure you get taken care of. Do right by constituents and caucus but know you sold out your conscience.
The negotiations they make guide all decisions. Negotiations driven by ambitions. Lots of rationalizing and justifying. They truly do talk themselves into believing they are uniquely capable of making the best decisions for others in that environment. They get told it over and over and over by ego-stroking rent-seekers.
Which is why limited government is the only government that can preserve individual liberty and freedom, the US Constitution intended to limit, not expand. Two centuries of expansion has made it unrecognizable, individual liberty and freedom might as well be under glass in the National Archives building in DC next to the original document. The negotiations of ambitious men (and women) over two and a half centuries has used linguistic gymnastics to contort it into a meaningless relic.
I knew these people, many still in power today. Most are not respectworthy. They've made too many negotiations, their ambitions blinded them to the damage they do to the people they lead/control, stuck on rationalizing and justifying why they must harm the people to help them...for the greater good. The cool kids at the high school cafeteria table who weren't that smart to begin with, weren't and aren't very wise, but are very good at playing the game of manipulation and duplicity, silver tongues. Believing that makes them better than the rest of us, makes them good leaders.
The self-deceit that comes with the trappings of power and ambition was known by the founding fathers who studied all attempts at self-rule that came before the US and failed. Because man is as fallen today as he was then. And the absence of faith in God, true faith, has taken freedom and liberty, peace and harmony to a perilous cliff. We must return faith and God to his rightful place in our society, in our hearts. And spread truth, his truth, the truth those of us who have awakened to the awful leaders we suffer to our friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, strangers we meet. Or we will descend into a long, suffering darkness until enough wake up from their apathetic slumber and misguided trust in fallen men.