Self appointed guardians in the spotlight
We are familiar with Peter Joseph’s references to the self-appointed guardians of the status quo – those all-too-abundant, willfully ignorant members of society who seem to regard any criticism of the current system as an attack on their own dignity, self-esteem and social status, and who are all too ready with their belittling strawman attacks as soon as the RBE concept is introduced. We have all spent time sharing online resources helping to arm ourselves with various tips on how to cut through their logical fallacies and maintain a strong, credible position in any debate.
A key focus of TZM is to concentrate on the systemic root causes of problems rather than being too distracted in fighting the symptoms. If we can recognise characteristic patterns of thought in the minds of our critics and intelligently identify the psychological flaws that are manifesting these patterns, this will be an elegant way to shift the onus of credibility away from our own position and onto theirs.
A popular theme in TZM circles is the possible influence of psychopathy within institutions of power and influence in our ruthlessly competitive politico-corporate system. Dr Robert Hare is one of the world’s most recognised experts in psychopathy and author of the psychopathy checklist used by official sources in the clinical diagnosis of the condition. In the online film ‘I am fishead’, Dr Hare analyzes the workings of the corporate system and explores how they can create a career environment advantageous to predatory, psychopathic personalities. He looks at case studies comprising a few hundred individuals from the most successful one per cent of the corporate elite. His conclusion is that although there does not appear to be a higher per capita concentration of psychopaths in the elite group as compared to the rest of society, those in that group do show on average a significantly more pronounced degree of psychopathy than those in the lower rungs of society. Also, this film looks at drugs such as Prozac used as stress suppressants by individuals working in the commercial environment – and how the artificial removal of that stress (which is a normal reaction to a socially adverse environment) leaves a person in the same emotionally detached frame of mind as would be found naturally in a sociopath in the same environment.
But what are the characteristic personality traits we need to be ready to recognise and counter? And is it just psychopaths we are up against, or are there other higher-functioning personality-disordered individuals who will always be predisposed to react with a barrage of dismissive resistance to the concept of a fair, just and equal society?
Dr Hare’s psychopathy checklist is shown below: -
Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism"
• Glibness/superficial charm
• Grandiose sense of self-worth
• Pathological lying
• Lack of remorse or guilt
• Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
• Callousness; lack of empathy
• Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Factor 2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle".
• Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
• Parasitic lifestyle
• Poor behavioral control
• Lack of realistic long-term goals
• Juvenile delinquency
• Early behavior problems
• Revocation of conditional release
Traits not correlated with either factor
• Promiscuous sexual behavior
• Many short-term (marital) relationships
• Criminal versatility
• Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning
As we can see, the traits listed under factor 1 are those that most obviously describe the kinds of people who are at home with predatory capitalism and who will most abhor the notion that we can flatten the social hierarchies, remove exploitation and achieve freedom and equality for all. There are many in our society who exhibit these traits to varying degrees but who are less inclined to show the more self-destructive traits listed under factor 2 - and who are thus likely to remain invisible to the criminal justice system. Their abuses may be more subtle, insidious and an integral part of our societal model itself. Their condition has a name of its own, and which merits greater recognition: Narcissistic personality disorder.
A prevalent component of today’s social conditioning is learning to attach one’s own social status to material possessions and to the prestigious career path, and hence income that gives one access to them. If related psycho-social pressures or traumas occur in a person’s early years (especially if coupled with a particular genetic predisposition), that person may be induced to develop coping mechanisms, including an irrational compulsion to strive for disproportionate levels of status and material wealth, supported by a disproportionate sense of their own self-worth and entitlement - irrespective of any commensurate achievements that might genuinely entitle them to such recognition and reward. Such a person will have a life-long compulsion to maintain their differential advantage over others at all cost. They will be characterised by a lack of empathy towards others, and will become expert in applying manipulative behaviours, false charm and deception to achieve their advantage and control over others. They are predators living most of their lives hiding behind a contrived, false persona that mirrors the artificiality of our modern commercial world. Their own, real personality has become deeply repressed and remains in an undeveloped childlike state of emotional immaturity. Hence they know only how to mimic the outward display of emotions they require to impress, convince and influence others – and not the genuine emotions themselves. They will tend to study role models, including TV and film characters, in order to perfect that mimicry. Their social charms can therefore appear staged and exaggerated – as of course was the case with a recently exposed narcissist, Jimmy Savile.
Some debate still appears to prevail in professional psychology as to the boundaries between the psychopath, the narcissist and the malignant narcissist. The narcissist differs in the fact that they are not usually driven to such high levels of extreme risk taking that one associates with say, a serial killer, coupled with the fact that they tend to prefer their victims alive and kicking so that can enjoy the emotional feedback (narcissistic supply) that they gain from their psychological control over the person. They want to be admired, adored, worshipped and obeyed, and if that person doesn’t comply then they deserve to be crushed into submission.
The malignant narcissist is characterised by a particularly strong suppressed self-loathing and denial mechanism, and their behaviour may also be characterised by additional factors such as extreme jealousy, paranoia, and the drive to try to compensate for their own weaknesses with systematic, sadistic emotional bullying. A slighted malignant narcissist will quickly escalate their haughty, arrogant and self-righteous stance into a full-blown fury rather than lose an argument with their target – often their partner, in private away from the public gaze. This is termed a narcissistic rage. In an abusive personal relationship it forms part of a repeating cycle in which it alternates with periods of pleading for forgiveness and promises that things will become better. A true psychopath, exhibiting factors 1 and 2 is believed to have a greater genetic component to their condition, chiefly a physiological flaw in the link between the cognitive pre frontal cortex of the brain, and the emotional centre of the amygdale.
There are two individuals in my own circle of acquaintances who clearly exhibit narcissism. Both of these have reacted with hostile dismissal towards my involvement with the Zeitgeist movement, whilst remaining wilfully ignorant of any of the substance of what our aims encompass. They have both tried to undermine the credibility of TZM and its aims using childish playground insults rather than structured, logical arguments. Terms such as ‘loopy’, ‘bullshit’, ‘oddball’, etc. are the only language they can muster. When invited to offer logical arguments, their response has been to try to isolate me using that classic trick of the abuser : assuring me that other people we know are voicing the same mocking derision towards me - arguing that they are only trying to save me from making myself a ‘laughing stock’ through my involvement with a ‘cult’.
I have responded by explaining that the financial industry (in which both work, naturally!) is based upon a belief system which itself has an increasingly tenuous basis in mathematical reality, and that they are the ones who are actually embroiled in a cult. Their response to that is just more strawman attacks against my character. Both consider themselves respectable members of the community, and see the police, courts and of course the banks as playing an important and role in protecting the social fabric. They will both be quick to put up barriers if these institutions are questioned, and manufacture pompous reasons as to why such questioning is simply too impertinent and antisocial for a sane and socially conscious person to consider indulging in.
The hubristic inertia that maintains the status quo for the rigid and increasingly obsolete institutions of governance, law and finance in today’s society bears many of the hallmarks of narcissism, with sociopathy - either natural or induced – doing its bit to keep the chain of command in operation. As the monetary/market socio-economic system comes to the end of its natural life, those individuals are becoming more conspicuous in their desperation to keep the system in motion. They will be willing to exercise ever more ruthless bloody-mindedness in the face of reason in their suppression of those who are ready to leave the game. The more people there are ready and equipped to expose them, the less places they will have left to hide, and the further our society will move toward critical mass, with a new liberating confidence to embrace the brave unknown of the planetary civilisation.
Needless to say, there are a plethora of eloquent and illustrative articles, videos and forums on the web waiting to educate you. Just Google ‘narcissist’, ‘malignant narcissist’ and ‘psychopathy’.