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The Origins of Cruelty- another post about narcissism

The world is full of narcissists.  For a period of time during the last century, malignant narcissism appeared to be kept in check.  Our collective consciousness was raised by the after effects of the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the Space Age.  Brutality and cruelty happened in other countries, like Vietnam, Bangladesh and Malawi.  South and central America went down the wrong path for several decades and some countries there are still struggling with dictators, corruption and violence.  But for the most part, the world grew away from barbarism.  We held each other accountable.

It started to turn around in the late 70s again, just about the time of the oil embargoes and Ronald Reagan and the “moral” majority.  And now, 80 years after the Great Depression, we’ve reversed much of what was accomplished during the New Deal.  Except for Social Security, the rest of the progressive governmental structures that were created then are hollow shells.  Even the post office is struggling to maintain it’s position as a public service and it is much older than any Depression era program.

We know what happened, we feel its effects, as anyone trying to get a job, working a job and supporting a family knows.  But we don’t know the origins of how it happened.  That is, we don’t know what it is about our human nature that caused our current powerlessness and inequality.

I was watching a video this morning about the dark triad of narcissism, antisocial behavior and borderline personality disorder because I’m getting more and more interested in what the bad guys have been up to.  In that video was another clip from the movie The Spanish Prisoner featuring Steve Martin.  In the clip, a friend of his is telling him how he invented something for a company and has an informal arrangement for compensation and credit.  Martin tells him that the informal arrangement is worthless and that he should have gotten the details down on paper and verified with a lawyer.  The friend is too trusting and then Martin tells him this:


We’ve probably had this happen to us at some point in our lives.  For example, it explains why employment has been so stressful lately for many of us, especially temp workers.  A temp worker has no legal rights and the employer has no legal obligations.  In such a situation, it’s easy to take advantage of the temp and treat them cruelly.  In fact, the employer is prompted to be more cruel because the fact that he has no legal obligation makes taking advantage of the worker the smart thing to do.  You’d be a fool to not use your resources to get ahead of your competitors.  But to do so will generate a certain amount of guilt in the employer.  Morally, it’s wrong to exploit a person.  The resolution of this problem is to dehumanize the worker.  As long as the worker is stupid, uneducated, ugly, poor, unpopular or possessing in some other human defect, it is ok to be inconsiderate of them and to take advantage of them.  It should come as no surprise that the number of temp positions has increased steadily in recent years or that many of those in temp positions or insecure part-time positions have to face uncertain hours, sleeplessness, poor pay and undignified behavior from the companies they work for.  This trend will continue until there is law to curtail it.

Let’s look beyond the workforce.  Let’s look at what happened in Ferguson.  The police force has access to a lot of military style weapons and transportation devices.  That equipment costs money, as do the officers themselves.  It all has to be paid for somehow.  The state of Missouri might not be footing the bill.  Let’s get the money from people who are easier to shake down.  No one cares about African Americans.  It would be stupid of us to not take advantage of this situation.  And they deserve to be treated badly.  They wouldn’t be living in Ferguson if they weren’t so stupid, shiftless, lazy and violent thugs.

How about firemens’ pension funds?  Stock analysts, money managers and bankers are under no obligation to protect their clients’ funds more than lining their own pockets.  It would be stupid for Wall Street firms to not work both sides of a deal.  Those firemen are just a bunch of meat puppets represented by fools.  They deserve to be treated badly for not being smart enough to go to Harvard and Princeton and then go to work on Wall Street.

And let’s think about this in political terms.  The reason why no bankers go to jail or are held accountable is because each grievous infraction goes to a negotiated settlement.  One by one, the legal obligations that the banks and large corporations have towards the rest of us are stripped away.  It is perfectly understandable that these businesses are going to push the envelope and demand all they can get.  But we have seen from past presidencies that it is not the norm for the executive branch to crumble in the face of stiff resistance.  Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt took on forces as just as powerful and determined and did not succumb.  So, we can only imagine what level of contempt there must be in the administration towards average Americans that would allow them to assuage their guilt.

This is what I have been referring to when I said back in 2008 that if the Democrats did not resist the voting irregularities, sexism and demonization of half its party during the campaign, that it would not have standing with the people who forced themselves on us.  It’s also why those of us at The Confluence rejected the demonization and dehumanization of Sarah Palin.  We don’t have to like her politics to see that when the party activists went down that road, they were engaging in a thoughtless barbarism that had the potential to seep into other aspects of their politics and turn them into tools of malignant narcissists.

Anyway, I go on too long again.  I just thought it was an interesting clip that describes clearly why we have laws and regulations and why this country flourished when we had consent of the governed to constrain our baser natures and why we should oppose people who try to get around those laws and legal obligations.

Too many of us have been fooled into thinking we don’t need them.

16 Responses

  1. I should add that the trend to use the word “deserve” (or “deserving”) to describe why some people get public services and some get none is really disturbing. I don’t trust the media personalities who use it. It allows for disinhibition of behavior against women, gays, african americans, the poor, etc. It’s one of the reasons I don’t watch Fox or listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin.
    They are engaged in the dehumanization of people so that others can take advantage.

    • This. Without the well-funded propaganda based on the mythology of merit, of “deserving” and “undeserving”, the New Deal and the Great Society could never have been dismantled.

  2. This post is an example of why (imo) you should be making your living writing. Turn the last 6 years of blogging into a book, and I think it would do very well.

    • I HATE editing. Do you know how much editing I would have to do? And I have thousands of posts. They all have to be tagged properly and categorized.
      It makes my hair stand on end.
      Besides, there’s not enough time to get it done before the midterm and I’m afraid the next two years are going to be very scary.

      • I am also fearful of the remainder of 0bama’s term, especially if the Rs gain the Senate Majority in the upcoming 2014 election. Specifically, I am fearful that 0 & his fellow Congressional Republicans will enact the Grand Ripoff “Bargain” of slashing SS/MC, enact pro-monopolists, pro-“intellectual property” monopolies, anti-Medicare For All (per Lambert on nakedcapitalism’s reporting) Rigged Trade deals like TPP.

        I am fearful of these 2 policies with the new President taking office in Jan 2017, unless there is a economic Progressive President gets elected. Unfortunately, currently it seems unlikely an economic Progressive like E Warren or B Sanders will be elected in 2016.

        What are you fearful of in the 2014-16 period? Perhaps I am missing something.

        • Yes I think you will find if the GOP gains a Senate Majority for the last two years remaining of Mr. O ‘s term, they both will roll up their sleeves and get busy . There will be none of that foot dragging for 2 years for one bill during the Dem super majority on the front end …no Sir

  3. The New Deal was set up so long ago that perhaps we should call it the Old Deal now. Or perhaps we should call ourselves New Deal Reactionaries. “I want my New Deal back.”

  4. From what I understand, sociopaths like those with narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder never saw other people as human. So I think with the easy-ish rise those types sometimes have to the top of their fields (thanks to ruthlessness and manipulation), they already see others as sub-human and exploit from that point, not from guilt (which they don’t feel anyway).

    • This. Alas, we have not yet been smart enough to figure out some way to have civilization without hierarchies. The existence of hierarchy creates competition for higher rank. Sociopaths have a natural advantage in any competition, as they are not handicapped by ethics or empathy.

      • I forgot to add that hence, the sociopaths will tend to rise to the top. Which is why human societies tend to resemble ponds–you find the scum at the top. 😦

  5. I have read that some people say that if the major corporations were compelled to treat their workers, customers, and investors fairly, then those corporations would collapse, taking the economy with them–they can’t profit without stealing from other people.

    If that be true, it’s too late for this country. Babylon’s own lords and barons will chant down Babylon.

    • What do we make in this country any longer, other than instruments of mayhem and financial “products” composed of unicorn flatulence?

      • Troy-bilt rototillers. Becton-Dickinson needles, syringes, etc. And many other things yet. That’s why the Free Traders want yet more Free Trade. To exterminate the remaining centers of thing-making in this country.

        • If the Malefactors of Great Wealth do that,

          they will destroy the economy of this country,

          and so destroy the tax base which supports this country’s military, covert-action, and intelligence capabilities,

          without which the MOGW cannot sustain the massive theft of resources from what used to be called “3rd World” countries,

          and exploitation of labor in what used to be called “3rd World” countries,

          without which their hegemony of Finance Capital will fall, and fall hard.

          It’s not the depravity of the MOGW which stuns me; it’s their stupidity. 😮

  6. “Big Business, and its lackey Uncle Sam, forced South and Central America down the wrong path for decades…”


    (Never forget, Capital is Sauron. Uncle Sam is merely the Lord of the Nazgul.)

  7. Could you pls share the longer video that has this clip from The Spanish Prisoner?

    Have been a reader for a while …

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