Posts Tagged ‘Psychopath’

That got your attention. The answer is no. I know this because I’m able to feel emotions like sadness, and to empathise. But just to check, I did an online test entitled ‘Are you a psychopath or a narcissist?’ I was pleased to confirm that I am not a psychopath. Slightly less pleased when it turned out that the test thinks I might be a narcissist. The leads me to think that it is probably wildly inaccurate (she says, blogging extensively about herself).

But Jon Ronson’s book, ‘The Psychopath Test‘, has definitely got me thinking. I’m half way through it, and am enjoying it so much I’m going to bed way after my bed-time. It’s laugh-out-loud funny. Bob Hare, who came up with the original psychopath test, really didn’t appreciate the trivialisation of such a serious personality disorder – him and the rest of the psychology/psychiatry profession. I did, though. As, I suspect, did many other readers.

How can psychopathy be so entertaining? I should caveat this with the fact that there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good murder – written or on film. Silent Witness’ – which quite frankly probably leaves its actors scarred for life – is a personal favourite. 

Jon Ronson explores the world of psychopathy, and looks in particular at the possibility that around 4% of the top echelons of organisations are psychopaths. This is compared to around 1% of the general population. As they can’t really put the question in a census, I think it’s safe to say that the 1% figure is an estimate. He gives examples of businessmen who allegedly enjoy firing people to the point of pathology, and have statues of predators all over their mansions. Ronson visits prisons and finds most psychopaths to be charming, erudite, expert manipulators. 

This got me thinking. I work in the aid industry. I bet you’re thinking we’re all pretty empathetic, out there saving poor people and all. And to a certain extent that’s true. But I couldn’t help but think, as Ronson went through some of the characteristics of a psychopath, that something struck a chord. On his website, Hare says that:

“As things stand, we do not know the prevalence of psychopathy among those who work on Wall Street. It may be even higher than 10%, on the assumption that psychopathic entrepreneurs and risk-takers tend to gravitate toward financial watering-holes, particularly those that are enormously lucrative and poorly regulated. But, until the research has been conducted, we are left with anecdotal evidence and widespread speculation.” (See full article here).

Hmmmm. Lucrative and poorly regulated? Watering-hole? That sounds familiar. You only have to read ‘Lords of Poverty‘ and ‘Dead Aid‘ to see that these characteristics could well be applied to my industry. And once you’ve worked at country level, you know they can be. Let’s take a few and work it through. Of course, I realise that in doing this, I am being true to form and destroying idealism. Bear with me: I’ve only been back a year. I’ll get idealistic in 2014. 

  • Grandiose sense of self worth. Am thinking about the heads of advocacy at most affiliates of hand relief international. Say no more.
  • Pathological lying. Aid definitely works. That’s what the adverts say. And what we tell ourselves. What do you mean, corruption? What organisational free fall?
  • Parasitic lifestyle. Just thinking of my generous accommodation allowance, flights home and salary whilst I eradicated poverty in Africa. And I wasn’t even working for the UN.
  • Lack of realistic, long-term goals. Millennium Development Goals. Say no more. 
  • Need for stimulation: prone-ness to boredom. We stay in country for 3 years, tops, by which time we understand the country almost enough to begin eradicating poverty in it. We then move on to somewhere else and blithely apply what we’ve learnt, because all poor places are pretty much the same anyway.
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour. Have you read Emergency Sex?

Of course, I imagine that you could run through these characteristics, and the others, for any industry and come up trumps. Take political leaders. Mugabe? Reckon he must be up there. Idi Amin? Even if the head in the fridge story isn’t true, we’ve all seen ‘The Last King of Scotland’. 

In the UK? Chris Huhne certainly showed some criminal versatility in getting his wife to take his penalty points (although I wouldn’t say this puts him up there with Charles Manson). 

And lastly, failure to accept responsibility for own actions: ref the Afghanistan chapter of Tony Blair’s memoirs.



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