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Sucess and the Psychopath
20 December 2011
The world is far from a fair place, and this seems to be a fact of life we’ve learned to accept. But have you ever stopped to think why the world is so dog eat dog? For most people, being cruel isn’t easy. It comes with guilt, regret, remorse and a flurry of other emotions that most people would shy away from. What about those who can use and hurt people for their own benefit, and even enjoyment? What makes them capable of this behavior? The answer is simple; they must be psychopaths. Psychopathy is a huge benefactor to the psychopath and an incredible danger to the rest of society.
There are many factors that can label someone as a psychopath. “A psychopath is a chemically unbalanced individual who feels no empathy, remorse or guilt and has a grandiose sense of self-worth. They hide behind excellent mimicking skills and are manipulative.” (Media Spotlight: The Psychopath Test). This is a dangerous combination of traits that makes these people perfectly designed for causing mayhem. And most of the time they do; psychopaths boast the ability to adapt to any situation based on their goals. Some end up as serial killers and more become successful businessmen and women.
Psychopathy in the workplace is an incredibly beneficial and twisted trait. How successful would you be if you could deceive and abuse your coworkers and clients shamelessly? You could step on them like rungs in a ladder to reach the top. For example, internationally known conman Bernie Madoff, was found guilty of robbing his investors of approximately fifty billion dollars in a Ponzi scheme. To put it simply, a Ponzi scheme has no way out. It’s an illegitimate investment scheme that requires a constant flow of new investors who supply money to the old investors. When the pool of victims dries out, the scheme collapses and the culprit can be easily caught (Kluger). It takes an incredible amount of arrogance and insensitivity to commit such a crime and believe that you can get away with it. These are two characteristics commonly found in psychopaths and that can be seen in Madoff. Bernie Madoff had a charismatic appeal that made people trust him; it’s this kind of deceitfulness that makes psychopaths dangerous and elusive.
While Madoff was only a financial threat, some become a physical danger to society while appearing normal and successful. The notorious John Wayne Gacy (also known as the ‘Killer Clown’) murdered thirty three young men, was a successful contractor, family man, and part time clown named Pogo (Tareen). Without a doubt Gacy was a man of many trades, and few emotions. He was truly a twisted and sick kind of Renaissance man. He would charismatically lead young men to his home in Chicago by promising construction jobs, or by imitating a police officer. After he led the young men to his home he would rape and murder his victims, dispose of the bodies, shower, wake up the next day and attend work or a child’s birthday party. It’s sickening to think that a human being could methodically perform these actions without any sense of guilt of regret. People are raised to believe that everyone has a conscience, but unfortunately, this is a misconception.
Madoff and Gacy share similar personality traits and patterns that classify them both as psychopaths. In order to be diagnosed as a psychopath, you have to score a twenty eight or above on Hare’s PCL-R (Psychopath Check List - Revised). The list is made up of twenty qualities commonly found in psychopaths; each characteristic can receive a score of 0, 1, or 2 with the highest possible score being a 40 (Maxwell, Leonie). The first trait on the list is superficial charm. In order to lure victims in, Madoff and Gacy had to have a charismatic appeal. The second trait is a “grandiose sense of self-worth”. Both Madoff and Gacy believed that they were smart enough to get away with their crimes even though their freedom was guaranteed to be a short affair. Based on their actions it’s safe to say that they exhibit a lack of empathy, impulsiveness, pathological lying, and lack of realistic long term goals, and a parasitic lifestyle, irresponsibility, and failure to take responsibility for their actions. All of these are characteristics on Hare’s list. They also both exhibit promiscuity (number eleven on the list). Gacy was a serial rapist while Madoff was guilty of having affairs. “Ruth Madoff whose husband Bernard L. Madoff is serving a 150 year prison sentence for conning investors out of billions of dollars, was more deeply hurt by his alleged long-running extramarital affair than by his fraud” (Hilzenrath). Although Madoff and Gacy had the same mental disorder, they differed in many ways, which exemplifies the chameleon-like nature of the psychopath.
The reason for the drastic difference in Gacy and Madoff’s lives, most likely lies in their childhood, Gacy’s father verbally and physically abused him (John Wayne Gacy), while there is no record of abuse in Madoff’s early life. The violence Gacy experienced in his early life caused him to be violent. Psychopaths are a combination of nature and nurture. Those who experience violence as a child are like to become violent themselves, “abuse more directly affects the impulsive lifestyle features of psychopathy” (THE PSYCHOPATH - The Mask of Sanity). Regardless of their childhood psychopaths become a danger to society in some way.
In the workplace psychos have a huge advantage over their empathetic coworkers. They’re attracted to the idea of taking risks that could benefit them financially. Psychopaths may seem like efficient workers and corporate saviors but in actuality they leave companies in ruins once they reach the top (Snakes in Suits’ unmasks corporate psychos). People like this can be seen all throughout the corporate pyramid.
Al Dunlap was a corporate CEO who ran Sunbeam, a toaster producing company in Shubuta, Mississippi. Shortly after he became CEO he shamelessly shut the plant down, leaving the town without its main source of employment (Ronson 139-142). Al Dunlap is renowned for firing people. There are multiple reports and occasions of him doing so with malice and pleasure. “There was a famous seven week period during the mid-1990s, when he was laying off 11,200 Scott employees, that he demanded Scott pay for two suites at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia - one for himself and his wife Judy, and one for his two German Shepherds” (Ronson 150). Dunlap had an obsession with powerful animals and power in general, according to John Ronson’s book The Psychopath Test his yard was decorated with sculptures of eagles, lions, panthers and hawks; all of which are powerful predators. A man who put 11,200 people out of a job had the audacity to ask the company (which obviously was in financial trouble) to pay for his vacation. Obviously he had a grandiose sense of self-worth, parasitic ways, and callousness.
Al Dunlap exhibited a go-getter, no nonsense attitude. Most people in the business trade view this as an ideal attitude, but in actuality it’s very threatening and risky. Psychopaths act on their desires and their desires only. If they want to become a CEO of a major company, there are no moral boundaries stopping them from taking any measures necessary to get what they want. The Coworkers of psychos are the most affected victims. Psychos shamelessly play with people’s feelings for their own benefit and are willing to sacrifice any one's reputation for their own wellbeing. According to Hare’s list, psychopaths are prone to boredom and this is the only justification for the way they treat people. Many psychopaths want people to like them for their own benefit so they appear friendly, but in actuality they have ulterior motives.
Psychopaths are hard to spot; they look normal, act relatively normal and are manipulative enough to fool people into trusting them. But despite the psychopaths chameleon like characteristics they are incredibly different from the general population. Biologically they lack the backbone of humanity; they don’t have a functioning amygdala. The amygdala is located in the temporal lobe. It controls long term memory, emotional response, and association of memories with feelings (Tkacik). Psychopaths make up approximately four percent of the population; which is more than the three percent of people in our population with eating disorders (THE PSYCHOPATH - The Mask of Sanity). Psychopathy is a little known but frighteningly common mental disorder, a mental disorder that robs people of their conscience and humanity which are the key components in a human being. “The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender” (THE PSYCHOPATH - The Mask of Sanity).Psychopaths are the people who rise to high positions of power and cause tragedies such as mass genocide and world wars. They’re the no nonsense CEOs, fearless conquerors, notorious murderers, and the charming neighbor. They can be found anywhere and everywhere; all depending on where they want to be. There’s no moral rule or regulation for them.
From all this arises the question; is psychopathy a genetic malfunction or natural adaptation? In a Darwinian point of view, it’s a huge benefit. In a civilized society it’s a possibly catastrophic factor. But how civilized it our society? If psychopaths are in positions of power is it safe to say that society is run by madness? It’s easy to see that to the individual psychopath, his “mental disorder” is a advantage he has over the rest of society. But to those he has influence over, it’s a dangerous situation.
We as humans have alienated ourselves from the savage and unfair laws of nature. We’ve created society, rules and a belief that every human has a conscience. But the rules of nature have followed us into our civilization. The concept of survival of the fittest has seeped into every aspect of society from families to businesses. Psychos are secretive and quiet threats. They’re the predators who have followed us into civilized society. They live for themselves while hurting others; they are the continuation of Darwinism and nature’s laws. Like Gacy and Madoff they appear harmless but once they are exposed it’s easy to identify them as psychopaths. They act without remorse and can ruin lives without a second thought. Like snakes in the grass they are a constant hidden threat and part of nature and society’s natural order.
Dale, Samuel. Rev. of The Psychopath Test: Journey Into the Madness Industry . Business and Company Resource Center . Centaur Communications Limited, 4 July 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
Hilzenrath, David S. "Book: Ruth Madoff hurt more by husband’s alleged infidelity than his Ponzi scheme." The Washington Post 28 Oct. 2008: n. pag. washingtonpost.com. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
"John Wayne Gacy biography." biography.com. A&E Televising Networks , 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
Kluger, Jeffrey. "Putting Bernie Madoff On The Couch." Time 31 Dec. 2008: n. pag. Time.com. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
Maxwell, Bruce, and Leonie Le Sage. "Are psychopaths morally sensitive?" EBSCOhost . N.p., Mar. 2009. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
Ronson, John. The Psychopath Test: Journey Into the Madness Industry. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.
"Snakes in Suits’ unmasks corporate psychos." Rev. of Snakes in Suits. msnbc.msn.com. msnbcinteractive , 6 June 2006. Web. 22 Dec. 2011.
Tareen, Sophia. "Sheriff: DNA identifies John Wayne Gacy victim." SIgn on San DIego . N.p., 29 Nov. 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2011. WordPress, 10 Nov. 2006. Web. 21 Dec. 2011.
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