Andrew M. Lobaczewski and his colleagues sacrificed and struggled for decades to carry out the work that led to Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes - their explanation of how human systems at all levels, but especially at the political level, can be hijacked by a pathological minority with conditions, such as psychopathy and others, involving reduced empathy and conscience.
I spent years studying their work and the related work of many other authors and invested over a year in conveying my own thoughts on subjects associated with ponerology.
But with one pointed headline and nine paragraphs of humor, the Onion will probably get more people thinking about this topic than all of us.
I am speaking of their hilarious article, a prelude to last night’s second 2012 presidential debate, entitled:
It tells the story of how voters, quite conscious that both President Obama and Mitt Romney - “like all successful politicians” - are “clinically sociopathic individuals,” simply hope that the debate will help them decide which of the two men is better at employing his sociopathic skill set to manipulate them into thinking that he possesses an “actual human conscience.”
On a serious note, although there are those that feel otherwise, I would not claim on the basis of pure speculation that either Obama or Romney is actually a sociopath or psychopath. The diagnosis of conditions like these is a substantial matter and, in real life, should not be taken lightly.
However, the Onion article bitingly reinforces some of the points I attempted to make in my series on the potential biological basis of evil, namely:
- There is little doubt that some proportion of those in positions of power - whether politicians, corporate executives or parents - do actually have conscience- and empathy-reducing conditions.
- It is very important to educate the public about these conditions and the processes by which they can influence our systems.
- It is likely - especially as the advance of technology in our extremely hierarchical systems amplifies the ability of small groups or lone individuals to do disproportionate harm - that we will be increasingly faced with challenging decisions such as whether or not to screen certain people in certain situations for the presence of these conditions
It’s not really a lighthearted subject. The influence of these conditions may well have contributed to suffering and even death for countless millions in our history. But, as the Onion has often shown over the years, sometimes satire can get a message across more concisely and powerfully than hundreds of pages of painstakingly researched and meticulously composed prose in book or essay form.