“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. - Missionaria Protectiva, Text QIV (decto)”
– Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert
Over the years, I came into contact with a variety of sources that each helped shed light on the mysteries of apparently unnecessary harm and, thus, improved my understanding of why our world is as it is.
Daniel Quinn’s work ingeniously explained how a great deal of the excessive harm in our world stems from the rise of civilization and our associated rapacious culture, hell bent on unsustainable levels of acquisition, dominance and expansion, which he refers to as the culture of the Takers.
Derrick Jensen’s work devastatingly demonstrated the inextricable link between civilization and violence on all levels of human systems.
Many other works taught me about how corruption and abuse emerge and play out in relationships, family systems, workplaces, religious communities and nations, as well as globally.
They taught me about how our political system, with its legalized bribery and mathematically unfair voting system, reflects and further reinforces that corruption.
They taught me about the profound contrast between dogmatically problem-based thinking, which contributes so much to perpetuating harmful activity, and constructive thinking, as embodied in various solution-focused techniques and methods - such as Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Appreciative Inquiry and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - that profess the revolutionary ability to fundamentally shift detrimental situations in the direction of peace, harmony and health.
As I became more educated about the theories, as well as the promising change methodologies, discussed in this array of sources, I began to increasingly engage in supporting and promoting policies aimed at practically applying them.
Yet, even after many years of participating, along with many others, in such study and activity, I felt disappointed. While the theories I had come across to that point certainly explained a great deal, they still didn’t seem to sufficiently explain some of the core issues involved in the genesis of harm. I continuously witnessed cruel behavior more extreme than could be accounted for even by all that I had learned combined. Defense mechanisms of certain types appeared to render many people tragically and intractably committed to problem-based approaches and averse to constructive thinking to such an extent that, despite the investment of enormous energy in promoting the application of solution-focused methods in a wide range of areas, they nonetheless succeeded only in some concrete limited cases in certain contexts. And meanwhile, many of the world’s greatest ills were not only not being addressed, but were, in numerous cases, getting worse.
I believed that something important still had to be missing from my mental model.
A crucial door opened when I refocused more heavily on the role of certain psychological issues. I came to understand that some people have particular mental illnesses, especially Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), marked by deep, often biological differences from others, that drive them to behave in harmful ways that, in the absence of awareness of their disorder, make little sense and that then contribute to the movement of society as a whole in those same harmful directions.
As I researched further along this path, I was led to consider the role of perhaps the most extreme relevant psychological condition and trait – psychopathy and sadism. And, in the course of researching those topics, I was led to the field of ponerology – the scientific study of evil, whose name is derived from poneros, the Greek word for evil – and the book most associated with that field, Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrzej M. Lobaczewski (sometimes Americanized as Andrew M. Lobaczewski).
It describes the work and conclusions of Lobaczewski, a Polish psychologist, on the topic of why humanity seems to be caught in a perpetual cycle of oppression and harm.
Lobaczewski was a person who was almost destined to take an interest in this subject and uniquely qualified to write on it. He was intimately familiar with totalitarian governments, having lived through and contributed to the resistance to both the Nazi occupation of his country as well as the Soviet invasion, in which his family’s estate was confiscated. And he was a deeply thoughtful, scientifically-minded professional intensely driven to objectively understand such phenomena.
Lobaczewski was in the midst of training as a psychologist during the period when Poland’s social system was being perverted by these events and he observed indoctrination firsthand when a new professor suddenly and suspiciously appeared and began delivering extremely manipulative non-scientific lectures to his class. This led Lobaczewski to become especially interested in the consequences of psychopathic people being involved in government. He began to investigate the topic on his own before being notified that there was a covert network of people already doing so. He joined them and the studies continued in great secrecy and at great risk.
The undercover investigators’ goal was to explain objectively, rather than through other types of explanations, the evil that they felt was playing out around them in the forms of Fascism and Soviet style Communism throughout Europe at that difficult historical time. Lobaczewski and his colleagues found that they lacked not only a discipline to serve as a central platform for studying this subject matter, but that they lacked even the nomenclature and terminology necessary to accurately discuss it. So they had to develop these.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many of which stem from the very forces that they were striving to understand, their original research was never fully completed.
But Political Ponerology is the best available recounting of the findings that Lobaczewski and his colleagues did manage to make in the course of their secret investigations. Its foreword also imparts the incredible story of how Lobaczewski overcame tremendous challenges – including losing two earlier versions of the book as a direct result of oppression in his homeland, being driven to flee Europe only to later return, and allegedly facing opposition, after initial offers of assistance, from Zbigniew Brzezinski, famed political scientist and former National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter – as he struggled to publish Political Ponerology. As the foreword describes, Lobaczewski was only finally able to successfully publish the book many years after his initial attempts when he found related material by some likeminded thinkers online, made contact with them, and they, having been suitably impressed with his work, provided the necessary assistance to bring the book to fruition.
All of this is described in much greater detail in my review of Political Ponerology.
Although Political Ponerology was tedious to read, it was worth struggling through because it provided fascinating pieces that had, to that point, been missing from my mental model and helped to crystallize ideas that had previously remained nebulous to me about why our world is the way it is and how we might best respond to it.
- What is evil?
- How does evil arise? - Lobaczewski calls the process by which evil originates ponerogenesis and ponerology aims to precisely reveal its “general laws.”
- To what extent is evil man made or purposeful?
- Why does evil arise where it does?
- What forms does evil take?
- To what extent can we predict the times, places and shapes in which evil will emerge?
- Why do people vary in their responses to evil as they do?
- Is evil preventable and, if so, when and how?
I describe the field of ponerology and its implications in great detail in my ponerology page.
Despite the fact that evil presents in a variety of ways and to varying degrees, and that ponerology, therefore, encompasses a breadth of material, there is one concept that lies at the very heart of the field because it describes what is likely the most damaging form in which evil can manifest. It is the concept that finally helped Lobaczewski make sense of the oppressive system under which he and his neighbors lived. The concept is that of pathocracy.
What is Pathocracy?
Normals are, basically, those humans that experience significant levels of compassion, empathy and conscience and hold, to a significant degree, values such as cooperation and peace.
The pathological are those affected by particular psychopathologies – specifically, various forms of psychopathy and certain personality disorders (or, as Lobaczewski calls them, characteropathies) – that alter their perception and worldview in such a way as to:
- Greatly inhibit or even prevent the development of their ability to experience compassion, empathy or conscience, as well as certain emotions such as guilt or shame, as normals do - Just as color blind people cannot see colors like normally-sighted people, those with these psychopathologies, especially in their more extreme forms, simply cannot access these capacities or generate or appreciate these feelings in the same ways as normals.
- Induce them to value domination and excessive acquisition - In fact the pathological’s values are so counter to those of normals that those things of which normals dream represent, to them, a nightmare.
In exploring the nature of and relationship between these two fundamental groups of humans, Lobaczewski and his colleagues made several further discoveries that also help inform an understanding of pathocracy, including that:
- The pathological possess special talent for traumatizing normals in a variety of ways, some of which are quite insidious and devious, and they often learn very early in life how to assert and exploit this ability.
- The psychopathologies that afflict the pathological are either inherited or acquired by means including brain lesion formation, trauma, adverse pre-natal or natal incidents or the influence of a pathological person during a critical window in development.
Lobaczewski, like other authors on this subject, is adamant in emphasizing that the differences between normals and the pathological are not just superficial. The relevant psychopathologies are actual medical disorders that deeply affect everything from the genetics to the neurology, including the brain anatomy, of the pathological. In fact, the resulting characteristics that distinguish the pathological from normals are so deeply embedded and so fundamental that, as discussed at length in my psychopathy page, as well as to some extent in my ponerology page, the pathological are viewed by some as a different subspecies.
- Only a relatively small proportion of any given human population will be pathological. Lobaczewski estimates that proportion to be between 4% and 9% in most human societies. However, even though this would mean that the pathological comprise, by a large margin, a minority within human systems, their numbers are, nonetheless, greater than many people would expect. And, because of the traits associated with their disorders, they are capable of exerting vastly disproportionate influence.
Pathological people often feel outcast or that they are unable to succeed in a system of normal man. So they dream of dominating and ruling the system themselves and making their values the norm. When the pathological succeed in fulfilling this dream by taking over a system so that they, rather than normals, are in charge of it, Lobaczewski describes this state or the system in such a state with the term pathocracy.
In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski defines it by saying:
“I shall accept the denomination of pathocracy for a system of government thus created, wherein a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people.”Lobaczewski explains that he chose this term to concisely emphasize that, even though the leaders of such systems, whom he calls pathocrats, hide their true nature behind various cloaks and in various guises, so that they may seem remarkably different from each other in many respects, the common pathological quality of their leadership is their systems’ most salient aspect. When he found out that another scientist had independently selected the very same term to describe such systems, his decision was finalized.
Lobaczewski says that a pathocracy is like a psychopathological person writ large. And just as its underlying disorders can be framed as diseases – each with its particular etiology, pathodynamics, diagnostic criteria and so on – he considers pathocracy itself, in a sense, a disease. He repeatedly describes and explores it in those terms, metaphorically comparing it to infectious or cancerous processes and discussing how to identify its risk factors, diagnose it and immunize people and systems to confer resistance against it. He even refers to pathocracy as “the great disease.”
Within a pathocracy, despite comprising a relatively small numerical minority, the pathological rule, controlling power structures to an enormously disproportionate degree and aggressively, but deceptively, imposing their values.
As Lobaczewski says:
“An objective observer might wish to compare this state to one in which the inmates of an asylum take over the running of the institution.”Although Lobaczewski’s work examines many aspects of evil, it really revolves around the phenomenon of pathocracy, as reflected in several of Political Ponerology’s aspects:
- Part V of Political Ponerology is titled “Pathocracy”
- Nearly all of the book’s other parts focus on exploring either the process by which pathocracy arises or its relevance to various areas of society such as normal people’s lives, the fields of psychology and psychiatry or religion.
- Lobaczewski, in the book, identifies certain well-known systems that he views as examples of pathocracy and considers the psychopathologies of their leaders.
- Political Ponerology’s own postscript paints the book primarily as an explication of pathocracy, describing it as:
“The depiction of the ways and means by which pathological figures take over and undermine the social structures of normal people...”
Pathocracy Occurs on All Levels of Human Systems
There are works that focus more extensively than Lobaczewski’s on the dynamics of pathocracy at some of these various levels. For instance, many books delve into the problem of pathological leadership in families, while Snakes in Suits and The Corporation detail how the pathological rise to power in and shape corporate systems.
Other works elucidate how pathocracies at these various levels are intertwined and support each other in spreading pathology and pathocracy still further. For example, in Evil Genes, Barbara Oakley discusses pathology at the family level as a means of humanizing discussion of its dominance at higher political levels throughout history. Derrick Jensen demonstrates, in his work, how pathology in families mirrors psychopathological dominance within civilization as a whole, as well as on levels, such as the global and ecological, even higher than those most deeply examined by Lobaczewski. Works such as these confront us with the tragic plight of those unfortunate souls who endure existence in reciprocally reinforcing pathocracies at multiple levels – for instance, in their family and their nation or in their religious community as well as in their workplace – at the same time.
How Does a System Become a Pathocracy?
Here we will give a brief overview.
As mentioned, the pathological are often miserable living in a system of normal man. They feel themselves to be in a constant power struggle with normals and pine for the development of a new order in which their values and views dominate.
Systems of normal man, however, maintain a sort of social immune system that resists takeover by the pathological, much as the immune system in an individual’s body resists takeover by infectious agents or mutated cells.
But, just as various factors can weaken or compromise the body’s immune system, enabling certain diseases to more easily emerge, the social immune system within a system of normal man can also become compromised and, when it does, people within that system become less willing to resist and more willing to go along with pathological activities. These conditions make it possible for the pathological to begin the process of taking over that system.
There are a number of interrelated risk factors that can contribute to rendering a system more vulnerable to hijacking by these “social pathogens.” Lobaczewski discusses the range of them which includes:
- Certain economic circumstances
- Certain levels of equitability – or lack thereof - of resource distribution
- Certain characteristics of the population in regards to education
- Prevalence in the population of various psychopathologies
- Prevalence amongst individuals in the population of certain conditions that heighten susceptibility to manipulation by the pathological
- Public ignorance about or denial regarding pathology
- Diminished value for psychological knowledge and for those skilled in its application
- A distracting level of focus on divisions more superficial than that between normals and the pathological
- Widespread belief in philosophies that are overly forgiving or pathologically optimistic
- Prevalence of supernatural thinking, especially in regards to the issue of evil
- Prevalent tendencies for para-appropriate responses – These are, according to Lobaczewski, emotionalistic or moralistic responses - such as sadness, anger and feelings of superiority - to perceived evils that are understandable and sometimes cathartic, but that, in and of themselves, only distract us from and prove fruitless in actually resisting evil. In practical terms they are as ineffective as, and in many ways are forms of, submission.
When a system is affected by enough of these risk factors, it is vulnerable to hijacking by spellbinding pathological people and groups asserting themselves via one of two main approaches:
- Arising organically from within the system itself
- Infiltrating, like a contagious infectious agent or carcinogenic substance, from another, external pathological system – This method is especially likely when deviant, frustrated, outcast or otherwise susceptible people in the target system resonate with the messages emanating from the external pathological system and view it as a beacon of hope for a system in which they can belong.
It doesn’t take a great number of pathological people to exploit a vulnerable system. Just as a tiny infection or mutation, in the absence of sufficient resistance, can give rise to a deadly illness, just a few pathological people, if they are able to gain a foothold in a system, can set in motion a process by which a group reflecting their characteristics and values overtakes its crumbling barriers and achieves domination.
The breakdown of resistance to pathocracy can sometimes progress quite rapidly by means of a vicious cycle whereby, as risk factors for ponerization become more prevalent and the system becomes increasingly pathological, it becomes easier and easier to generate subsequent deterioration in the system’s immunity. In addition, just as some disease agents amplify their impact by attacking the body’s immune system itself, the pathological, understanding very well the dynamics of social immune breakdown, may exercise their remarkable talent for contagiously spreading their influence to actively encourage the further development of specific risk factors and, thus, the acceleration of that vicious cycle. And some of the risk factors can spread extensively as they are passed down through generations via parenting, as well.
Lobaczewski explains how, as the pathological gain influence, they begin to have an increasingly traumatic - even if, in some cases, subtle and difficult to detect or describe - effect on the rest of the system. He details the various types of manipulative tactics that they use to produce this effect in service of their pursuit of greater power and the particular defenses in normals that these targeted tactics exploit.
He especially focuses on their use of paralogisms and paramoralisms, means of communication by which the illogical is made to seem logical and the immoral is made to seem moral.
He illustrates how they begin to manipulatively employ ideology and/or religion, whether self-created or hijacked and perverted, to facilitate their rise in different ways at different times in the ponerogenic process, including as:
- Recruiting tools
- Trojan horses or masks to fool people within the system, as well as in other, more normal systems that might otherwise intervene to impede their activities, by concealing their actual self-serving motives and destructive aims behind typically beneficial names and symbols
Furthermore, Lobaczewski describes how vulnerable people become indoctrinated into complicity with the pathological and drawn into the fold, as well as how archetypal relationships form as pathological groups coalesce or coopt existing groups.
As ponerogenesis progresses, the more seriously disordered and aggressive psychopaths, especially those with psychopathy’s inherited forms - despite comprising only a small minority even within the already small minority of the overall population that is pathological - more strongly assert control and drive pathological groups’ activity more overtly away from their stated ideologies and often toward greater violence. With their sense of utter difference from normals combined with an extreme lack of empathy, these psychopaths are perfectly willing to direct forceful action against normals in order to achieve their desired ends. Anyone who stands in their way may be neutralized, if not through rhetorical devices then, if necessary – and sometimes even when unnecessary – through assault, torture or even murder.
On a broad scale, by means of what Lobaczewski refers to as “anti-psychotherapeutic techniques,” the pathological radiate through systems an anti-psychological attitude, which we will explore at more length later.
They are also often generally anti-science and may attempt to pervert science, as well – most commonly in the scientific area that, for various reasons, pathocrats care deeply about: biology, especially genetics.
The entire ponerogenic process moves gradually, but steadily toward a pivotal clash – a showdown between the two main groups within the emerging pathocracy: true adherents to its stated ideology who joined the movement believing that they would have influence and the increasingly assertive, seriously pathological members who are only tactically using that ideology. It can sometimes be difficult to identify the precise moment at which it occurs, but, when the latter group wins out, the system reaches a tipping point, a milestone at which it crosses over from ponerogenic to fully pathocratic.
At that point, the paralogisms have succeeded. The paramoralisms’ morality-deforming influence is so pervasive as to justify Lobaczewski’s reference to pathocracies as “paramoralism factories.” Eventually, everything is backward. Normal is perceived as abnormal. Pathological people are perceived as impressive, respectable authorities by enamored admirers who fail to distinguish the message from the messenger.
The pathological will go to great lengths to maintain such delusion in the public’s minds, even, if they perceive it as necessary, exercising widespread censorship or controlling or infiltrating educational systems to do so (as Lobaczewski experienced firsthand when the indoctrinating impostor mentioned earlier infiltrated his psychological training class, spurring the series of events that culminated in the publication of Political Ponerology.) Sadly, they often do not even have to go to such lengths as the unconsciously traumatized public, like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, internalizes their wishes, censors itself, enacts their anti-psychological attitude, outcasts those that attempt to awaken it to reality and defends the very pathological people who are oppressing and exploiting it.
What is the Psychological Makeup
of a Pathocracy’s Power Structure?
- Only about 6% of the population is actively part of the pathological ruling class
- Another 12% have traits that lead to them being drawn into complicity with the rulers. Since people in this group are more involved with the leadership than the rest of the population, yet more similar to normals than the actively pathological leaders, they often serve as managers and go-betweens.
- The rest of the population is not involved in the pathocratic leadership and is likely opposed to it. Many in this majority will never truly conform to the pathocrats’ wishes even at the cost of great poverty and suffering because it would shatter them psychologically to do so.
What Does a Pathocracy Look and Sound Like?
I describe especially in my psychopathy page how difficult it can be, in any case, to distinguish individuals who are pathological from those who are not. Only the unsuccessful pathological are easily identified because many pathological people wear a “mask of sanity” and may be respected figures, including leaders and even mental health professionals. Similarly, it can be difficult to identify larger pathocratic systems because they too may wear “masks of sanity” and be admired by observers both within and on the outside. And identifying the pathological individuals and groups within a full-blown macrosocial pathocracy can be even more challenging.
A key way that a pathocracy masks its true nature is through the use of various deceptive forms of communication. For example:
- A significant proportion of the communications that emanate from a pathocracy are actually propaganda aimed at infecting the system with toxic material and/or metastasizing it in such a way as to stealthily deform people, especially the youth.
- A pathocracy may often convincingly trumpet very pleasant or uplifting sounding ideologies or religious views completely contrary to its controlling authorities’ actual beliefs or intentions. In fact, those pathological authorities typically choose which ideologies or religious views to espouse precisely on the basis of whether they sound beneficial enough to falsely portray benevolence and believable enough to attract support and hoodwink potential opponents within and outside of the system, thus enhancing their ability to freely pursue their malicious goals. This is why pathocrats’ stated belief systems are often quite idealistic. In Lobaczewski’s case, for instance, pathocrats viciously oppressed him and his countrymen, all the while claiming to believe in a Communist ideology supposedly dedicated to helping everyday people.
- Pathocrats deliver many coded communications possessing double meanings such that they sound perfectly innocuous to normals, but covertly convey sinister messages decipherable only by pathological people within their system and around the world.
- As mentioned, pathocrats employ paralogisms and paramoralisms that completely twist logic and ethics to make themselves and their actions appear sensible, admirable and respectable and Lobaczewski specifically details how they do this.
Pathocracies can also be deceptive in that their apparent power structures may not reflect their actual power structures. Those that seem to be leaders may, in fact, be expendable figureheads or members of the vast normal majority that have snuck into leadership circles in order to surreptitiously undermine them. Meanwhile, many in the 6% of the population that actually exert significant control may do so clandestinely from behind the scenes or under a misleading guise. It can take experience to break the habit of assuming that socioeconomic or ideological stratifications so important in other systems either matter or correlate with positions of power in the same way in a pathocracy where the stratifications that are truly relevant and indicative of power are those based on relationships to the pathocrats.
An additional layer of complexity complicating attempts to recognize pathocracy arises from the fact that, even in their deceptions, pathocracies can differ greatly. Not only do pathocracies not look or sound as they really are, but they also don’t necessarily look or sound like each other. There is no one way that all pathocracies look or sound on the surface. Instead, pathological leaders tailor their ostensible ideology and/or religion, propaganda, paralogisms, paramoralisms and various tactics to the particular character and culture of the system in which they find themselves at the particular time in which they find themselves there so as to minimize the likelihood that their malevolent intentions will be detected and, thus, maximize the likelihood of achieving their goals.
People whose perception is deformed as a result of being in or affected by – or having been within or affected by – a pathocracy and consequently experiencing the aftereffects of exposure to the associated traumas may not recognize these misleading aspects of pathocracy since they have blind spots inflicted in precisely the alignments necessary to prevent them from doing so. Even for relatively healthy people, the combination of various layers and forms of deception involved can make it very difficult to peer through the veil of illusion and recognize pathocracy’s realities. But, Lobaczewski tells us that, if we train ourselves to consistently consider the possibility of deception and carefully contemplate what lies under the surface, we will start to become familiar with the common patterns and principles, which he describes, that can indicate when we are observing a pathocracy. And he implores us to change the way we talk and think about systems in such a way as to better focus ourselves on distinguishing pathological from non-pathological systems, rather than preoccupying ourselves with their more superficial characteristics, both so that we will recognize those systems that pose threats and so that we won’t unnecessarily forsake ideologies that may actually be beneficial just because we associate them with pathocrats who have, at some point, manipulatively exploited them.
How Does a Pathocracy Function?
Pathocrats want desperately to avoid returning to a system of normal man. Not only do they dread the misery that they typically experience when forced to respect healthy boundaries in such a system. But, now that they have risen to power and participated in so many harmful activities, they fear that if they lose that power they will be targeted for punishment and revenge by their normal successors. So a great deal of what pathocrats do is driven by a desire to control conditions so as to maintain the pathocracy and their position in it.
We have just discussed the deceptive qualities of pathocratic power structures. And one of the ways that some pathocrats seek to protect the status quo is by preferentially filling positions that interface with the outside world with those who can better conceal their pathology. In this way, they present the public with a relatively palatable face of leadership which serves as a façade, obscuring the ugly truth - that extremely pathological people actually run the system - from their own people, from those who might otherwise consider intervention and from those with whom they wish to deceitfully maintain relations.
If they perceive it as necessary, pathocrats will also, as we have seen, take vicious action to maintain power.
War plays numerous important roles in the functioning of a pathocracy. Lobaczewski explores the many real, as opposed to the ostensible, reasons that pathocrats wage war, including to:
- Gin up exploitable patriotism at home
- Distract their citizens from recognizing their own exploitation
- Eliminate normals in their own society through having them killed in war
- Weaken outside challengers who could threaten them
- Expand their reach to other places from which they can usurp resources
- Crush the morale of normals in their own system that hope for a return to normality by signaling to them that normal systems will, as a matter of course, be destroyed
However, while pathocrats are commonly skilled at temporarily maintaining their image and power, they are often quite inadequate at actually running a system’s key institutions. As a result, they frequently have no choice but to rely on at least some less pathological or even normal people that are competent technicians. And this conflict between pathocrats’ desire to limit power to their loyal fellow pathocrats and the need to involve others in day to day functions is a key factor in the life cycle of a pathocracy.
What is Life Like Within a Pathocracy?
We have seen how desperate pathocrats are to avoid returning to a system of normal man and the extreme lengths to which they are willing to go to maintain their power. And we have explored the fact that, since they view normals as foolish members of a likely inferior class of being – a view that they consider only further validated by their own rise to power – they have few qualms about inflicting great mental, emotional and physical harm upon them. So it should come as no surprise that pathocrats, when they believe it serves them, may engage in activities as brutal as condemning their own people to hardship and poverty in order to render them more submissive or, as previously discussed, employing violent measures, up to and including torture and murder, on a vast scale. And, since they are hypersensitive to anything that they perceive – or misperceive – as a threat to their control, pathocrats are prone to impulsively and aggressively cracking down through such measures at the slightest hint of potential subversion.
In addition, the pathological often harbor a strong desire to change these apparently misguided creatures that we call normals into people like themselves. They may try ardently to accomplish this through means ranging from disinformation to terrorism. But these efforts inevitably fail because normals are simply fundamentally different from them.
The pathological, however, cannot grasp the solidity of this fundamental difference and, thus, become quite upset when their transformational efforts fall short. Unwilling or unable to accept the basic futility of their quest, they may try to silence anyone who dares to point it out or allude to the biological nature of normals as the actual impediment and to scapegoat anyone or anything that they can falsely blame for the predictable failure.
Lobaczewski cleverly compares this absurd situation to a hypothetical one in which color blind people, having taken over a system, outlaw the act of accurately seeing colors and patrol the land, enforcing the prohibition by moving against anyone observed successfully selecting objects based on color – all while simultaneously outlawing acknowledgement of or discussion about the fact that any of this is taking place.
Given pathocrats’ harshness, as well as their incompetence, normals may wish to simply avoid any interaction with them. However, pathocrats control so many of the resources within a pathocracy that those within it are forced to “walk on eggshells,” engaging and communicating with – and even assisting - the pathological so as to get their needs met while taking delicate care not to upset them. Every day, therefore, is an exercise in, as Lobaczewski describes it, “instructing deviants while avoiding their wrath.”
Ultimately, the stresses of negotiating conditions like this wear on most of the population. Lobaczewski describes the psychophysiological shock, neurosis and immense suffering experienced by normals, and even by some of the pathological, struggling to survive within such a corrupt, delinquent, dangerous and absurd system whether in their family, business, community, nation or in several of these overlapping levels at once. Since most normals cannot become pathological or even easily adapt to the influence of those who are, contact with so much “pathological material” can damage them and they may require special forms of therapy to heal.
This damage can be even more severe in the face of extreme levels of unconsciousness and/or consciousness about what is really happening. For instance, on one hand, harm can be exacerbated when, as is so common during much of the pathocracy’s life cycle, many people within the system lack comprehension, or harbor misunderstandings, about what is being experienced. On the other hand, the consequences can be profoundly tragic for the gifted and talented, who, due to their exceptional sensitivity, are more likely to have some level of intuition about the reality of what is taking place, even as they are surrounded by others who deny or invalidate their perception or even blame the events on them. This leads many such people to back away from most others and attempt to spend time only with those who share their understanding.
Meanwhile, none of this is even to mention the devastation experienced by nonhumans and the rest of our ecosystem under the influence of pathocracy.
Suppression and Manipulation of
Psychology and Psychiatry in Pathocracies
Though many may not recognize the crucial links between politics and mental health systems, the suppression and manipulation of psychological and psychiatric knowledge are so core to the rise of pathocracy that Lobaczewski includes an entire chapter in Political Ponerology – Chapter VII, entitled “Psychology and Psychiatry Under Pathocratic Rule” – in which to explore them.
In a relatively healthy system, psychology and psychiatry are promoted as highly esteemed fields that discover and contribute valuable information and tools that can assist people and groups in becoming even healthier and maintaining that health.
In a pathocratic system, in contrast, these fields are viewed by authorities and others as existential threats. Leaders try to prevent authentic knowledge about them from being recognized or disseminated and authentic practitioners from applying it since such activities could ultimately expose the truth about the nature of these leaders and what they have done by fostering a more sophisticated public suspicious of, and willing and equipped to explore what lies behind, their Trojan horse ideologies.
Furthermore, pathocratic leaders may themselves try to harness available psychological and psychiatric knowledge and resources to use as weapons against the population.
In my ponerology page, I describe in great detail how pathocrats carry out this self-serving distortion and abuse of psychology and psychiatry by, for example:
- Intimidating, blackmailing, censoring or buying off researchers
- Even eliminating researchers, as demonstrated in a story Lobaczewski tells about a German professor who, after writing an analysis of Hitler’s psychopathology warning of the dangers of his rise to leadership, was killed in a concentration camp
- Dispatching fellow pathocrats wielding sham credentials to infiltrate the mental health profession
- Manipulating data
- Manipulating diagnoses or concocting bogus disorders and then labeling dissidents with them in order to discredit or justify locking up those dissidents – Pathocrats can do this with little cognitive dissonance since, as we have seen, they already believe themselves to be superior creatures and their normal opponents to be deviant fools.
- Actually driving people to madness
All of this degradation and misuse of mental health systems’ capacities is ultimately part of a more general attempt to stifle and discourage dissent within the pathological system as a whole. It reveals how very conscious pathocrats are of the enormous role that psychology and psychiatry, appropriately utilized, play in maintaining health and of how undermining and abusing them can enable pathology to flourish.
When much of the population is affected by pathocrats’ suppression and manipulation of psychology and psychiatry, the aforementioned anti-psychological attitude can spread, rendering the population apathetic or even hostile to psychological and psychiatric wisdom and those who possess it. This then serves as an enormous risk factor for yet further pathologization of the system, contributing to a vicious cycle.
Suppression and Manipulation of Other Science in Pathocracies
What is a Pathocracy’s Fate?
The pathocracy’s downfall really begins when pathocrats become greedy and, in choosing personnel to carry out various roles within the system, begin to prioritize loyalty to their pathological values above competence to too great a degree. This culminates in an attempt to place only pathological people in all leadership positions. And this, in turn, leads to a few consequences.
First, the system becomes stifled and paralyzed. The pathological, as noted, cannot transform normals into pathological people or even lure most of them into complicity. And there simply are not enough pathological people of superior technical skill. So, as more and more pathological people are placed into key positions, many of them prove incapable of adequately operating the institutions and coordinating the functions necessary to support the system. The system’s energy and potential are increasingly wasted, especially since it is its most talented, intelligent people who find it most difficult to genuinely contribute.
In addition, as the system is directly dominated by even more pathological people, its operations become more extreme and its activities begin to deviate ever further from the pathocrats’ Trojan horse ideology. The mask that hides their true intentions begins to crumble.
Meanwhile, it requires more and more effort to negotiate with the system’s increasing extremism while avoiding being damaged by paralogisms and paramoralisms. Spurred by the exertions of surviving in such a morass, people begin to sharpen their abilities to apply intellect to understanding the pathocrats and to regain their interest in and value for psychological matters, those with psychological skills and their own creativity. They start looking to history for precedents and guidance on how to respond to their situation. They develop a shared language of oppression spiced by an irreverent sense of humor.
Eventually, with the system deteriorating, the true face of the pathocracy increasingly exposed and the population progressively regaining its pathology detection skill and spirit of resistance, people wake up to the fact that the pathocrats are not impressive admirable people, but malicious incompetents and they refuse to accept such an order any longer. They begin to discover the weak spots in the pathocracy and exploit them. At this point, the pathocracy is on its last legs.
Tragically, however, even though the pathocracy will soon fall, it will do so only after inflicting tremendous levels of unnecessary damage, destruction and suffering.
These whistleblowers are often tragic heroes. They acquired the talents that they employ to help so many others at the cost of having to suffer multiply from living in pathocracies at more than one level in life. And despite their sacrifices and importance in assisting their fellow man and advocating for normals as a group, they are often ostracized and not valued until the late stages in the process of pathocracy, if at all.
But whether or not they are sufficiently appreciated by those around them for their contributions, they nonetheless play key roles in sparking or catalyzing the downfall of a pathocracy.
The Historical Cycle
It is during prosperous periods, he explains, that people become complacent, ease into denial about the dark underbelly of their system, devalue psychology and allow pathology detection skill to deteriorate – all of the sorts of occurrences that, as discussed, render a system vulnerable to the pathological. And it is only after the pathological rise to significant levels of dominance and standards of living widely decline that, as also discussed, many people wake up, rebel and bring down the existing power structure. This ushers in a new era of prosperity. However, Lobaczewski laments, people commonly react to this return of good fortune as irresponsibly as they did during the previous prosperous period, enabling the pathological to rise once more and the cycle to yet again repeat.
It may not be easy to recognize the archetypal nature of this cycle because pathocracies in different times and cultures wear different superficial guises. It takes a trained eye to notice the threads that they all share. But once we learn to see them, we become aware of the painful pattern playing out throughout history right up to the present day. And, Lobaczewski warns, until we make some necessary changes, we are doomed to repetitively experience it into what may be an unnecessarily abbreviated future.
My Responses to Learning about Pathocracy
Like a growing number of people, I had long been affected by and thought often about the many aspects of life that pathocracy and ponerogenesis relate with and help explain including the facts that:
- Certain psychopathologies have tremendous impact on systems at many levels – Even before reading Political Ponerology, I had recognized the importance of and written about Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, even referring to them as the core disorders of our culture. And after just my first perusal of Political Ponerology, I was moved by events to write “Publicizing The Threat of Personality Disorders Among Those in Positions of Power”.
- The influence of people with such conditions cannot be ignored, yet, despite all attempts at treatment or rehabilitation, many cases prove intractable
- Corrupt people, even when relatively incompetent, often seem to rise more successfully in hierarchical systems than do more ethical competent people – As an INTJ, the issue of unmerited authority was always of concern to me.
- Supposedly beneficial, well-intentioned systems, including religious and political ones, can apparently be hijacked and exploited for extremely destructive ends
- Some victims of pathological systems bear the scars for a long time, if not permanently, require special care and are often misdiagnosed and mistreated as pathological themselves
- While some people, such as myself, seem deeply moved to respond to and oppose injustice and to promote justice and empathy, a surprising number of others seem unaffected by and apathetic to – or even driven to support – injustice, possibly reflecting some fundamental difference between those in the former versus the latter group
- Many workable potential solutions, presented in good faith by wise, caring people, are simply ignored or sabotaged for irrational reasons – As an activist, I learned from experience that even when a proposed measure can be demonstrated as mathematically superior to a system’s current policy – as in the case, for example, of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) as compared with most of our present voting methods – many will bend over backwards to find reasons to oppose it, likely indicating the involvement of deeper psychological motives perhaps shaped through manipulation.
This suspicion was validated when I encountered books by highly credible authors, such as Evil Genes, Snakes in Suits and The Sociopath Next Door, asserting very similar ideas. But it was not until I learned about the concept of pathocracy and Lobaczewski’s scientific approach to investigating it that the suspicion was crystallized and defined with a name.
Learning about pathocracy also made me realize why Mike Judge, of all people, had induced in me long lingering contemplation with his film Idiocracy. I had found his previous film, Office Space, to be a brilliant and devastatingly subversive satire of the modern world of work, a realm rife with painful absurdity and injustice in which we are often effectively left at the mercy of clueless and uncaring people and forces. And I found it fascinating that he chose, in his next film, named for and revolving around a concept obviously closely related to pathocracy, to explore the broader question “What if stupid people increasingly ran the entire world?” The premise of Idiocracy is that, since stupid people are breeding faster than smart people, in several centuries humanity will be dumbed down to the point that Earth will be ruled by idiots. I felt there was something profound about the idea, but that it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head.
As I learned more about pathological systems - including when, in reading Evil Genes, I encountered data illustrating that those with certain psychopathologies have historically mated more frequently than others and, thus, have more prolifically spread their genes – I realized why I had experienced such mixed emotions about Idiocracy. Judge was keen enough to consider the possibility and potential consequences of a dangerous incompetent category of people rising to power in our systems. And he was even keen enough to consider that an increasing prevalence of their genes within populations as a result of relatively more frequent mating might be at least part of the mechanism by which they achieve this rise. But that dangerous category of people is not those who are simply stupid. Rather, it consists of people with psychopathological conditions that affect their values and ethics such that they aggressively pursue malicious ends. And while some of those people, like the leaders in Judge’s Idiocracy, may also be stupid, many, on the contrary, actually exhibit striking savvy in pursuing their destructive goals.
Pathocracy, Civilization and Unsustainability
Reading Daniel Quinn’s work in my early 20’s had made the untenable nature of modern social structures a primary issue for me. But Quinn’s proposals for addressing the issue struck me as somewhat overly optimistic because I felt that they failed to account for significantly influential factors, even though I was not, as yet, able to identify what those unaddressed factors were.
Reading Derrick Jensen’s work helped clarify much of what I felt Quinn had overlooked by exposing more of the irremediable psychological roots of civilization’s inherent violence that Quinn didn’t seem to emphasize.
After a great deal of reading, writing and interaction with others concerned about these issues, I began to ask the question:
What kind of humans would institute or even tolerate and enable a model like civilization based on constant growth and a refusal to accept limits?Having studied personality disorders and having seen their effects on lower level human systems, I began to wonder whether it was possible that our culture as a whole is actually the creation of psychopathological people. Ponerology and the concept of pathocracy put meat on the bones of that speculation.
I read Lobaczewski stating that Western civilization is “insufficiently resistant to evil” in the context of his belief that evil stems from the psychopathological.
And I found a clear connection between the thinking of Quinn and Jensen, who so often wrote about civilization’s mindset of conquest and expansion, and that of Lobaczewski, who said about pathocracies:
“The ideology must, of course, furnish a corresponding justification for this alleged right to conquer the world and must therefore be properly elaborated. Expansionism is derived from the very nature of pathocracy, not from ideology, but this fact must be masked by ideology.”I was later able to frame a more specific question:
Is civilization itself the history of stealthily flourishing pathocracy?My inkling about this was only strengthened when I read Evil Genes’ thesis that civilization enabled powerful pathological people to access so many more mates than they could ever possibly access in another social structure that, throughout history, they have spread their genes within the population to a degree likely sufficient to markedly reduce the levels of empathy and conscience in civilized societies.
When I read Snakes in Suits, which elucidates how the pathological are particularly well suited to exploit extreme hierarchies, I instantly recognized its relevance to the question of their role in civilization, since extreme hierarchy is civilization’s hallmark.
I later remembered that, years earlier, Jensen himself had compared living within civilization to being “Locked in a Room with Psychopaths.” He had even included a track on his album, Stand Up Tragedy, with that title. I had simply forgotten about it until reading Lobaczewski’s work reminded me that Jensen had, long ago, without introducing the actual term pathocracy, made the connection between civilization and psychopathy and that this connection was, in fact, one of the reasons he believed civilization to be unsustainable. To put it in a way I couldn’t have until reading Lobaczewski’s work, Jensen believes that civilization is irredeemable at least partly because it inevitably develops into and perpetuates pathocracy on various levels.
Today, with the benefit of having studied Lobaczewski’s writings, I can phrase my core questions about how psychopathology and ponerology relate to civilization and its unsustainability like this:
Could such a destructive civilization ever have arisen if a ponerologic mindset were present in a substantial proportion of people?
Is promoting a ponerologic mindset the best action we can take to slow or reverse civilization’s destructive and unsustainable path?
Is Pathocracy Real?
This is a very valid question to ask because, depending on how it is framed, the idea that a small minority of psychopathological people deceptively takes over human systems and destructively controls them can sound like the ultimate wacky conspiracy theory. And Lobaczewski’s word in Political Ponerology is not sufficient, by itself, to override justified skepticism about the idea, especially since the studies in which he and his colleagues investigated it were never completed, much of the data from those studies was lost and, thus, even Lobaczewski himself admits that Political Ponerology is really an incomplete work.
In light of this, here are my current views regarding the question of pathocracy’s reality:
First and foremost, let it be said that ponerology is a science and, therefore, we should continue to pursue investigation to more objectively determine, based on the best available evidence, whether and where pathocracy has existed or exists.
But, with that said, I think that, if we consider the topic from various angles, most of us can agree that it is actually not that controversial, after all, to claim that pathocracy does exist – that there are, in fact, human systems ruled by psychopathological people.
I don’t think that many would seriously doubt that, at the lower human system levels, there are people with psychopathy and the personality disorders that Lobaczewski discusses who have children and, thus, as parents, run and dominate the family system, often leading to serious abuses.
I also don’t think that many would seriously doubt that, at a slightly higher level, there are organizations ranging all the way from obscure fringe cults to well known successful mainstream businesses run by extreme narcissists. In fact, the idea that such pathologically-led organizations exist, far from being hotly debated, has almost become cliché and is corroborated by respected researchers in books like Snakes in Suits.
And how many would deny that, at the highest levels, at least some of history’s ruthless leaders and dictators, who directed countries and empires, like Hitler, Stalin or Gaddafi, may have been psychopathological?
I have seen Hitler described by George Victor, a long-practicing psychotherapist educated at Columbia, Harvard and NYU, in his book Hitler: The Pathology of Evil, as having Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as being diagnosed with other ponerogenic conditions by various authors.
In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski talks specifically about his diagnosis of Stalin.
Gaddafi was widely described as a madman.
While there may be disputes about exactly which psychopathology afflicted each of these and similar murderous leaders, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to accept that at least some of them provide examples of ponerogenic psychopathology.
There are those who will persistently insist that pathocracy does not exist. Some will do so because they have not very directly perceived themselves as having experienced it and cannot imagine such people as pathocrats existing, much less exerting such extensive influence. Others will do so as a result of various other causes, ranging from our evolved instinct to naturally view systems from a different angle to defenses, such as denial, induced by trauma suffered due to contact with pathocratic systems themselves. But I think that even many of these skeptics, when pathocracy is explained to them in a certain way from a particular perspective, can come to agree that it is not simply a far-fetched conspiracy theory, but a very realistic and likely possibility, if not a downright certainty.
If we can accept the likely existence of pathocracy as our best educated guess, with the caveat that further investigation should always be carried out and is clearly merited, then a couple more relevant questions come to the forefront.
How Common and How Consequential is Pathocracy?
- As I discuss in my psychopathy page, that disorder and related ones involved in ponerogenesis are:
- More prevalent than we realize
- Represented in a diverse range of areas in society, many of which we might not even suspect
- So deceptive that well known respected leaders can have them without people realizing it
- More prevalent than we realize
- Those with these disorders, especially if they ascend to positions of power, are often significantly more proficient at spreading their genes than others.
- The ponerogenic disorders, by their nature, render those with them:
- Drawn to seeking power – as implied by the Frank Herbert quote at the opening of this piece
- Driven to use and adept at employing devious tactics in order to attain that power
- Especially adept at exploiting extreme hierarchies
- Specifically talented at traumatizing and deceiving people in such a way that many remain unconscious of or aggressively deny their impact
- Drawn to seeking power – as implied by the Frank Herbert quote at the opening of this piece
- It only takes a small number of pathological people in a vulnerable environment to set in motion a process culminating in their takeover of a system.
- As the Milgram experiments showed, many normals are surprisingly compliant with anyone perceived as an authority figure, even when that authority explicitly orders them to do things that they find abhorrent. This leads one to conjecture that those normals would be even more compliant when they are unaware of the destructive consequences of the actions in which deceptive pathological people in positions of perceived authority may, at certain times, urge them to engage.
- While not all harmful events relate to pathological people exercising control, we can see that many of the most extreme tragedies in human history were born out of circumstances in which people with many signs of pathology rose to positions of authority. Even if we were to accept these cases as rare exceptions, situations in which cruel, ruthless leaders have gained significant power have often generated enormous suffering, affecting millions. Just in the 20th century alone, the damage from systems led by people suspect for psychopathologies to human beings, nonhuman creatures and the environment as a whole was astounding, and the reverberations will continue to be felt by numerous generations to come. It certainly appears that pathocracy may have been responsible for more of the man-made destruction than anything else.
- From the most general perspective, considering the state of today’s world, it is very reasonable to suspect that there may be something amiss that is too severe to explain away as the result only of the actions of misguided people or accidents
- The enormous damage of the recent past brought about by systems with possibly pathological leaders was facilitated greatly by their increased access to technology and networks which they could leverage. As technological development progresses and everything from communications to economic structures becomes increasingly globalized, it takes an ever smaller number of pathological people with access – or even simply a lone pathological individual – to do tremendous damage.
We must avoid becoming conspiracy theorists or jumping to conclusions. And I cannot emphasize enough that ponerology is, by definition, a scientific field and we must, therefore, look to further research to solidify our conclusions. But there is enough reason to believe that pathocracy is a very common and tremendously consequential phenomenon to justify investing heavily in that research.
Emphasizing Scientific Investigation of Pathocracy
by Prioritizing Ponerology
- Do psychopathological people take over systems?
- If so, how often do psychopathological people take over systems?
- What are the consequences of pathocracy on people within those pathocratic systems, in other systems that relate to it and on nonhumans and the rest of our ecosystem?
- How common is pathocracy at various levels of systems?
- What types and severity of pathology exist among certain categories of leaders and how does this data compare to a corresponding analysis of the general population?
- Which psychopathologies or conditions – medical or otherwise - are relevant?
- What can we learn about the etiology, physiology, pathodynamics, detection and diagnosis of, as well as about the optimal prevention of and treatment strategies for, these conditions?
- What are the potential side effects of treating these conditions, when do the benefits of treatment outweigh the costs of those side effects and, when necessary, how can those side effects be best handled?
- What are the risk factors that leave a human system vulnerable to pathocracy and how can we proactively detect them?
- Are there ways that we can efficiently screen asymptomatic systems, based on recognized criteria, to proactively search for signs of risk factors for or lowered immunity to pathocracy, thus allowing earlier intervention?
- What are the stages and mechanisms involved in the process of ponerogenesis? Is Lobaczewski correct about the manner in which pathocracy arises?
- How can we assess what stage a system is at in ponerogenesis and in the historical cycle or predict what stages are soon to come?
- How do we recognize systems that are already ponerized and unable to healthily self-govern?
- What interventions can or cannot succeed at particular stages in ponerogenesis to prevent, reduce or cure the “disease” of pathocracy?
- How can we heal victims of pathological influence?
- Is there a predilection amongst certain people to consciously or unconsciously deny the existence of pathocracy for various self-serving reasons? What are the effects of such denial on those people, victims they encounter and the systems of which they are part?
- Which stubbornly persistent problems actually persist so stubbornly because they are symptoms of destructive, cruel, wasteful or neglectful pathocracy that is going unrecognized, perhaps due to its deceptiveness, and unaddressed?
- How should problems existing because of current pathocracy in a system be addressed strategically?
- Are there certain types or scales of governments or social structures that inevitably develop into pathocracies and are therefore wholly untenable?
So, if we can agree that it is reasonably likely that pathocracy exists and reasonably likely that it is common and consequential, and that therefore these hypotheses deserve testing and related questions demand examination, our response should be to work to raise the profile and elevate the status of ponerology as a discipline. This will increase the likelihood that the most important questions about pathocracy will receive serious scientific focus and will provide a supportive foundation upon which researchers and others from many backgrounds and disciplines who share interests and talent in this area can come together and find the resources they need to provide that focus today and into the future.
Even if one believes that pathocracy is a rare phenomenon or, though doubtful of its likelihood, simply accepts its potential to occur, given that it is a reasonably possible phenomenon capable of generating such awesome damage, there is still little excuse not to support investment in and promotion of a burgeoning field of ponerology to investigate. In light of the enormity of the evils that may be linked to pathocracy, we would be remiss not to deeply study that connection even if only to rule it out.
Implications of Pathocracy
How we understand the world - Indeed it would be impossible to have a thorough understanding of the world without understanding pathocracy and how it works
What our priorities should be in terms of research and activism
How we must strategize to try to solve problems
It would confirm that a great deal of what we may term evil in our world is indeed man-made and unnecessary and that it is thus no longer acceptable to simply say “that’s life.”
And, if this is so, many of us would find it unethical to simply go about our days and do nothing about it.
Pathocracy’s existence would also confirm that there is a biological and medical component underlying much of this man-made cruelty, destruction, waste and neglect which none of us who care about or are working for a healthy world can afford to ignore.
Some who wish to do nothing and frame it as forgiveness will rightly point out that, if this is the case, it calls into question in what way those who carry out the behaviors that drive these phenomena are responsible. If their actions are physiologically-based, then perhaps they cannot control them and should be authentically forgiven. There is something to be said for this argument and, in fact, it can be internally helpful to forgive in that sense when ready. However, at the very same time, that forgiveness comes with an even greater, not lesser, responsibility, to take action to prevent further abuses. Forgiving a person with such a deeply rooted condition that impairs their conscience, if done in a manner that enables them to participate in further harm, is something many would deem immoral.
Others will want to go to the other extreme, favoring strong responsive action, but doing so based primarily on emotionalistic and moralistic para-appropriate responses. This could be considered comparably unethical since responses so motivated not only do not significantly improve pathological situations, but can do more harm than good.
Neither forgiveness nor harsh revenge effectively reduces the consequences of pathocracy and debates about their relative merits with each other or ourselves only set us back. The pathological promote and encourage these very types of thinking because they can prey on the distraction and susceptibility that they generate.
Pathocracy’s existence would mean that, although the topic of psychopathology may be an uncomfortable one, it is impractical and possibly immoral to avoid pragmatically confronting its harsh reality – especially its biological aspects – as too many, including even professionals in relevant fields specifically tasked with addressing it or its consequences, do. We must detach emotionally at least enough to objectively examine and explore the anatomical, genetic, physiological and other perspectives on psychopathological conditions and how, when their influence penetrates power structures, they affect us. In fact, pathocracy’s significant influence would mean that the study of ponerogenic psychopathologies deserves to be highly prioritized, much as the study of conditions like AIDS or depression is. Such endeavors, motivated by a commitment to educating ourselves, are more important than punitive efforts, a point Lobaczewski emphasizes when he explains his view that humanity would have been better served, healing better promoted and future tragedies better prevented had we carried out objective scientific research after World War II to expose the psychopathology animating the Nazis, rather than using the Nuremberg trials mainly to punish them through imprisonment or death – measures that they themselves preferred to being exposed.
Pathocracy’s reality would mean that our typical layman’s terminology is insufficient for accurately communicating about myriad aspects of and events in our world and that, due to the phenomenon’s medical and other complicated components, we need to employ more specialized technical language to even make sense of it and related issues ourselves, much less to cogently converse about these issues with each other.
It would mean that we must prioritize distinguishing normals from the pathological. Even though, perhaps fortunately, normals cannot think exactly like the pathological, we can, nonetheless, intellectually grasp their characteristic styles of thought. This means that, when we are able to recognize the pathological by their differences, we can then do something else that it is crucial that we do - account for their particular ways of thinking in developing optimal responses to them.
Some will be uncomfortable with the notion of making such distinctions between people because it seems to them intolerant. But, as many authors discussed explain, the division between normals and the pathological is more fundamental and momentous – is the inherent and inescapable source of more conflicts and challenges - than others. We simply can’t afford not to distinguish those with from those without significant levels of empathy because, when we fail to recognize and comprehend this difference, we end up attempting to understand the pathological in terms of normals or as if they are normals behaving badly, which generates dangerous delusion, or treating the pathological as if they are the same as normals, which can lead to disaster.
Some may also fall for the tricky idea, sometimes manipulatively perpetuated by the pathological, that it is hypocritical to criticize the way that they distinguish different types of people while at the same time distinguishing them from normals. But there is no equivalency here since the pathological divide people based on less consequential criteria for malicious motives, whereas normals would, in this case, be making a crucial distinction whose validity is well-established for the justifiable purpose of protection.
The distinction between normals and the pathological is so important that not only must we make it, but we must ensure that it remains primary and that we are not foolishly distracted by other categorizations that divide us based on far less salient demographic labels or pet issues.
If pathocracy exists and if Lobaczewski’s view of it is correct, then, in making distinctions between and assessments about people and groups, we cannot meaningfully judge them primarily on the basis of their stated ideologies, since many are simply using these doctrines as misleading masks or tools to hide their true intentions. It would also mean that it is just as misguided to judge an ideology based on the actions of any person or group that claims or has claimed to believe in it without first determining if that person or group is or was pathological or not. If the person or people espousing support for that creed are or were pathological, then their actions may say very little about the actual merit of the ideology.
Pathocracy’s existence and significant impact would mean that many who claim to be working to improve the world may actually be enabling pathocracy and evil by continuing to employ objectively ineffective methods.
Deception lies at the heart of pathocracy. Therefore:
- Many may understandably remain ignorant about pathocracy’s existence
- There can be confusion about which systems are pathocratic
- Even many who suspect pathocracy exists may nonetheless fail to account for some of its deceptive aspects and pathological qualities.
- Appealing to ostensible pathocratic leaders who may be figureheads and not actual leaders at all
- Pursuing change by advocating the election of different leaders to replace those apparent leaders who aren’t really even leaders
- Appealing to pathological leaders using logic or incentives designed to appeal to normals, oblivious that they are Machiavellian creatures, fundamentally different from normals, who do not respond to philosophizing or persuasion as normals might. Taking rational approaches to irrational people is imprudent enough. Using approaches tailored to normals to engage with pathological people is even more so.
- Assuming that those who seem to be admirable and respectable are “good guys” and those who seem to be troublemakers are “bad guys.” Those admirable, respectable figures might actually be pathocrats posing as men of the people and those troublemakers, even if embedded within the pathocratic leadership, valuable whistleblowers.
- Focusing on stratifications, such as class, which are very meaningful in systems of normal man, but which are far less meaningful in pathocracies where pathology vs. normality is the true fault line of discrimination
Pathocracy’s existence would mean that many fields, in order to remain current and beneficial, would need to change and adapt their philosophies and approaches.
It would mean that:
- “Psychological matters are as important to the future as grand politics or powerful weapons” and thus all areas of society need to recognize psychological and psychiatric knowledge as crucial and relevant to them.
- Mental health and public health professionals have a responsibility to focus on pathocracy as it would constitute perhaps the greatest threat within the purview of either field. They would be called to prioritize accurately understanding, recognizing and responding appropriately to pathological people and their victims, which too many are not currently doing.
- Typical systems of law are inadequate as they are easily manipulated by pathological people and groups striving to rise to power and even more easily manipulated by them once they are in power. The types of laws prevalent today can protect us in certain situations, but not sufficiently against pathocracy.
- Those who study social issues need to reinterpret the complaints of various groups in society in light of the fact that many may actually be unconscious communications of anti-pathocratic messages.
- History takes on a new spin.
- We need to interrupt our pattern of focusing our application of science primarily on creating new gadgets and focus rather more of it on the issue of evil which, if left unchecked, can express itself through hijacking of those very gadgets, as well as of science’s methodology itself, for harmful purposes, leading to science, in effect, backfiring on us.
The reality of pathocracy would also sound a virtual death knell for the ability of the following classes of philosophies to truly, on their own, change the world in a fundamental way because they fail to sufficiently account for the impact of the normal/pathological divide:
- Solution-oriented philosophies even less substantial than Appreciative Inquiry, such as simple “positive thinking” or “new age” approaches
- Philosophies that rely on the notion that people are all “good at heart”
- Philosophies that rely on appealing to the “better angels of people’s nature”
- Dogmatically “non-pathologizing” philosophies
Pathocracy could also help explain why techniques like Nonviolent Communication, which leverage the normal human capacity for empathy, eventually reach a point of diminishing returns when applied in the service of healthy social change.
It could help explain, as well, why models like Harville Hendrix’s Imago Relationship Therapy, which focus on healing reversible repression and suppression, cannot heal some systems in which the primary problems stem not from remediable forms of these defenses, but, rather, from the fact that the system is under the control of deeply psychopathological people whose conditions are rooted in anatomical or genetic biological abnormalities or the entrenched sequelae of various forms of trauma.
People who use these methods need to more precisely assess situations to decide when each method is feasible and when it will likely be ineffective or even enabling to the pathological.
The existence of pathocracy as a significant force would mean that, while religion or faith may intensify some people’s desire to improve the world or avoid or reduce evil, and can at times play a role in fulfilling that desire, religious or supernatural perspectives cannot sustain campaigns sufficient to successfully oppose harm and destruction in an enduring manner. Just as they alone cannot avert or ameliorate infections or cancers, movements ignorant of science and of the true nature of pathocrats cannot prevent or alleviate psychopathologically-based evil and the disease of pathocracy.
In fact, Lobaczewski describes a complex relationship that can exist between religion and pathocracies.
While religious communities and others with supernatural beliefs may oppose pathocracies that are anti-religious, some of which target them as enemies, too often they actually support pathocracies that are pro-religious. They fail to understand that pro-religious pathocrats are just using them and are not actually on their side.
Religious communities can enable pathocracy when they promote too much moralizing and emotionalizing, the very approaches that produce para-appropriate responses.
Religions can contribute to enabling pathocracy by focusing people primarily on their differences in terms of supernatural beliefs and encouraging them to treat those differences as primary. This can fragment potential coalitions between people of conscience from different religions and of no religion that might otherwise, through cooperation, more successfully carry out the task of opposing damage by those with no or limited conscience – a characteristic arguably more fundamental and consequential than one’s perspective on faith.
What’s more, religious communities are some of the prime places where ponerogenesis can take hold and are often pathocracies themselves. Sometimes religious pathocracies are born when people with psychopathologies hijack religious communities and philosophies and, other times, they are born when people with psychopathologies found new religions themselves. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise us that religion can contribute to social harm since we have all seen it used to justify cruel or sadistic behavior.
Primary responsibility for addressing pathocracy and evil should fall to scientists and institutions that implement policies based on science, not to religious communities. And, if they wish to consistently contribute to systematically improving the health of our world, religious communities must incorporate and spread awareness of practical tactics based on that science.
Ultimately, if pathocracy is real, we must question everything:
- Are governments really working in the interests of their people?
- Are schools teaching material based on facts or a desire to carry out indoctrination?
- In prosperous times, are we actually at our most vulnerable?
In fact, as has been alluded to, given the extraordinary potential consequences, it may be wise to take heed of these implications even if we believe pathocracy only exists to a moderate extent or are unsure whether it exists but at least acknowledge that it has not yet been ruled out.
Wisely Responding to the Threat of Pathocracy
As in the analogous strangely-dysfunctional beehive, in the absence of a certain level of consciousness, informed by objective understanding of a system’s underlying pathology, habitual functioning continues long after it has ceased to be beneficial and has instead become suicidal. To achieve health and sustainability, we must make a significant change.
This change must ultimately restore or reinforce normals’ authority in human systems and ensure that it endures because normals are able to act with compassion not only to protect their own ability to live a healthy, satisfying life, but to optimally protect the ability of the pathological to do so as well, while the opposite, due to the pathological’s narrow emotional sensitivity and lack of empathy, is not the case.
However, there is no simple direct path to this change in social structure.
Simply attacking a pathocracy can backfire since pathocrats do not value most of their own people, whom they often don’t even consider members of the same species as themselves, and will gladly sacrifice them.
Instead we need to gain, spread and incorporate much more of the objective, systematic understanding that modern science offers to help transcend our miscalibrated emotionalistic and moralistic reactions. Our traditional responses don’t necessarily all have to be completely thrown out. But, just as it is crucial to complement prayers for healing from cancer or an infectious disease with proper medical treatment, traditional responses to the detrimental symptoms of pathocracy must also be complemented with more targeted approaches based on modern insight. For it is this modern insight – especially regarding the psychological variation among humanity and its impact – that can stimulate the proliferation within a system of antibodies conferring resistance to the emergence of pathocracy and thus ensure that normals remain in charge so that their autonomy, as well as the well-being of the system as a whole and related systems, can be assured.
We have already seen that one integral step in the process of catalyzing such changes is the establishment of ponerology as a more recognized, respected and nurtured academic discipline. But this alone is not enough. Pathocracy, as detailed, has implications for many areas. And, in order to break the cycle of rising and falling pathocracy and all of the damage it does – which is one of the most important things that humanity can possibly do for ourselves and our ecosystem - we also need new policies regarding and contributions from each of these areas to help support and translate into action the realizations emerging from the work of ponerologists.
Very specifically, what are some of the measures that should be considered in these different areas? The answer to that question is covered in depth in sections in the ponerology and Political Ponerology review pages. But here are just some of them.
Apply Systems Thinking to the Dynamics of PathocracySystems thinking is the perfect discipline to help us analyze the ponerogenic process and its ultimate expression, pathocracy.
Ponerogenesis and pathocracy often generate challenges that come to be viewed as completely separate from and unrelated to each other or those original phenomena. This is an example of the systems thinking principle which states that cause and effect can be distant in space and time and, thus, difficult to recognize as connected. And it is systems thinking’s tools that can help us better make those connections, successfully tracing more ponerogenic symptoms back to their source.
As important as it is to trace these ponerogenic symptoms back to their source, it is just as important that, rather than becoming distracted by and spending our energy concentrating on symptoms – as often tends to occur when considering ponerogenesis – we then prioritize focusing on root causes and leverage points within the ponerogenic process. This is crucial if we are to discover the most efficient methods for inhibiting, halting or reversing ponerogenesis and apply them at the locations and times in the process at which they can make the most beneficial impact. Systems thinking is also designed specifically to help us identify and focus in on those root causes and leverage points.
Promote the Study of Patho-SemanticsPatho-semantics is a term mentioned by Lobaczewski in Political Ponerology that refers to the use of particular forms of communication via speech and writing – such as the propaganda, paralogisms and paramoralisms that pathological people employ as some of their most potent weapons – in the service of manipulating others. Whether through the establishment of a new field or the expansion of an existing one, we should promote study of this phenomenon because it would improve our ability, even as we carefully watch for signs of pathology in people’s actions, to also recognize attempted deception and indications of low conscience in their use of language.
Develop and Promote Precise Technical Terminology Describing Aspects of PathocracyWhenever we wish to facilitate rigorously accurate understanding of and communication about entities or phenomena that we didn’t consciously comprehend or directly face for an extended period in our evolution and for which we, therefore, have not developed a shared language or to which we have not adapted, we must purposefully create and popularize new technical terminology. We have had to do this in many areas of science.
For example, for much of human history, we could not assume, when discussing processes like cancer or infections, that others would interpret what we said exactly as it was intended because such conversations involved vague non-standard language. In the recent past, however, medical scientists have developed new words and symbols to carefully distinguish and name different types of cancers and infections, the risk factors for each of those conditions and the archetypal stages in those disease processes at which a given patient may find him or herself. The establishment of these words and symbols as standard has not only eliminated confusion and enabled more precise communication. It has also helped raise awareness about the conditions, helped us make distinctions crucial for effective strategizing and facilitated mutual support between those affected by them.
Similar challenges to those presented by medical conditions spurred the development and adoption of precise technical terminology in a variety of technological realms that were not yet discovered, understood or explored until very recently in our evolutionary history, such as in the area of electronics, and the newfound capacity for more exact communication in these domains brought about similar benefits.
In the same vein, the combination of pathological people and our modern political, economic and technological apparatus has made pathocracy a potential threat the kind and scale of which we have never before faced in our evolution. Thus, it too calls for the development of special relevant terminology.
In fact, because of the particular mechanisms involved in the development of pathocracy, it may be even more important in this case than in the aforementioned medical and technological cases that we replace our use of imprecise, emotionally charged or overly subjective layman’s terms with rigorous technical terminology. It is actually dangerous not to do so. This is because, unlike in those previous examples, the pathogens involved in this process, namely the pathological themselves, consciously and actively exploit, through the use of patho-semantics, the confusion about language and terminology that arises from and is reinforced by our reliance on layman’s terms in order to spread their values, manipulate people, gain and assert power, and, ultimately, do harm. Thus, a failure to use precise accurate language plays right into the pathological’s hands, further nourishing the fertile ground on which their malevolent seeds depend for growth.
We need to develop specific, widely understood terms and labels to accurately describe and communicate about all aspects of pathocracy, including:
- The risk factors for it
- The stages involved in its emergence through ponerogenesis, in its downfall and in its historical re-emergence, so that we can clearly express where exactly a particular system is in the cycle
- The people, ponerogenic groups, processes and tactics involved in it
- The significance of an ideology or religion’s contents varies depending on its function in a particular system - It is wise to recognize a distinction between a case in which a belief, even if false, is sincerely held by a misguided, but otherwise healthy person and one in which that same belief is held by a person with a delusional psychosis. The distinction is important because in the first case, the contents of the belief are extremely relevant and deserve a substantial degree of focus, whereas, in the latter case, a focus on the contents of the belief would most likely only distract us from the far more important issue of the underlying psychological disorder. Similarly it is wise to distinguish between an ideological or religious belief sincerely held by normals and a similar ideological or religious belief being used as a mask and/or abused by pathological people pursuing or protecting their own power because, in the first case, the contents of the belief are quite relevant and deserve a substantial degree of focus, whereas, in the latter case, a focus on the contents of the belief only distracts us from the underlying pathology.
- Stated positions within a pathological power structure have very different meanings than they do within a healthy system
Changing the terms of the conversation in these ways will help us take back some of the control of the language that the pathological covet and maliciously wield. As we attempt to establish new, more effective means of communicating about pathology and pathocracy, we will, not surprisingly, see the pathological aim to disrupt our efforts in their fervent desire to keep people confused and, thus, vulnerable. Their reaction should only further reinforce the importance of and our commitment to making these changes.
Ensure the Promotion of Accurate Education and Proper Treatment to Foster Healing and ImmunityOver the years, there have been a number of public health hazards that humanity has helped to reduce. Usually, this has required the widespread promotion and implementation of bold measures, rigorously based on science, in order to increase understanding, bolster health and spread immunity. We need to take the same approach to the disease of pathocracy. Rather than seeking revenge against the pathological, we instead must view pathocracy as the detrimental result of a process of ponerogenesis driven by underlying medical conditions, and aim at pragmatically reducing its impact so that normals can regain and maintain control of human systems.
We can begin to fulfill a commitment to reducing the likelihood of systems being transformed into pathocracies simply by spreading basic relevant knowledge so that more people in the world are conscious:
- That, in spite of their current divisions, based on differences in superficial characteristics, ideologies and religions, all normals share deeply meaningful common ground in their contrast with the pathological
- That the pathologies that drive ponerogenesis are, in fact, medical conditions
- Of the optimal ways to respond to pathology in order to protect oneself and each other
And, in addition, working to reduce the prevalence and impact of the ponerogenic psychopathologies themselves can make a fundamental contribution.
The mental health and public health systems will have to play primary roles in much of this. People within these systems have a responsibility to substantially participate in expanding our understanding of ponerology and enhancing our potential to optimally respond to the threat of pathocracy. For too long, too many in these professions have neglected these responsibilities. Lobaczewski and his colleagues, having taken on more than their fair share of this burden, even amidst incredibly challenging and dangerous circumstances, can serve as role models.
Mental health professionals should work to:
- Improve our insight into and ability to diagnose and assess ponerogenic psychopathologies
- Provide victims of the pathological with the special care that they require – As a clinician himself, Lobaczewski has much to say in Political Ponerology about how, specifically, to educate and treat people traumatized in various ways by their contact with pathological people or systems in order to help them:
- Regain courage
- Resolve unsupportive defense mechanisms
- Become conscious of what happened to them – Lobaczewski describes how healing it can be simply to recognize, in objective terms, that one’s condition is the result of contact with a deviant person whose deviance has a biological basis.
- Recognize the particular psychopathologies exhibited by those who influenced them – Lobaczewski says that such specific identification further facilitates healing from abuse at the hands of pathological authority figures, whether parents, caregivers or political leaders, both on its own and by enabling the selection of more precisely targeted therapies. He emphasizes that victims of the pathological need such highly targeted treatment, tailored to the classic wounds sustained as a result of the brand of psychopathology that afflicted their abusers, and often suffer when clinicians instead attempt to treat them via more typical, generalized approaches.
- Separate their own identities and perspectives from those of their pathological abusers
- Develop a sense of humor
- Regain courage
- Imbue mental health professional trainees with a recognition of and ability to fulfill their responsibility to play such anti-pathocracy roles
- Prioritize the study of ponerology and pathocracy as highly as they do that of nearly any other public health hazard
- Analyze catastrophic ponerologic phenomena as public health crises, as Lobaczewski felt should have been done at Nuremberg, and disseminate the insights gained
- Study the demographic and epidemiological dynamics of the ponerogenic psychopathologies
- Raise public awareness through educational campaigns about these disorders, their seriousness, the ponerogenic process that they fuel and how it gives rise to pathocracies in many guises
- Provide specific information and counseling about how ponerogenic psychopathologies are passed down through the generations genetically and as a result of certain forms of caregiving so that people can make wise mating and family planning decisions and adopt prenatal and natal care and childrearing practices that reduce their prevalence and impact
- Promote the value and skills of pathology detection by encouraging critical thinking and questioning, educating the public about logic and fallacies and teaching how to recognize particular pathological manipulations and deceptions
- Help facilitate the provision of support and treatment to victims of the pathological and encourage those victims to take advantage of such care
Scientists in general also have some responsibility to focus on ponerology as a priority and should be trained, at least to some extent, in that area. They can support opposition to ponerogenesis simply by strategically promoting the values of science and critical thinking.
Those involved in the education system can play a role, too, in staving off pathocracy perhaps by teaching ponerologic material to the young in age appropriate ways.
In order to be carried out optimally, many of the tasks above require communication involving proper technical terminology, which is just one more reason why, as discussed earlier, it is so important that such language be developed.
All of these educational and treatment measures, as well as other supplementary measures, complement each other to contribute, together, to increased awareness about ponerology, which, in turn, generates greater support for all of the other necessary responses to the threat of pathocracy that we will discuss. Thus, Lobaczewski urges us to apply such methods not only with individuals and smaller systems, but, as exemplified in the chapter of Political Ponerology entitled “Therapy for the World,” on a global level, as well.
In addition, these measures enhance our understanding and application of the principles of immunity as they relate to pathocracy. This is a topic Lobaczewski affords a great deal of focus in Political Ponerology. In my ponerology page, I review in great detail his views of the immunization process - which reduces the shock and paralysis normals experience when contacting the pathological and, thus, allows us to more wisely respond to their influence and resist ponerogenesis - and of the different types of immunity.
In short, Lobaczewski identifies two types of immunity to ponerogenesis: natural immunity and scientific immunity. He asserts that scientific immunity, which is achieved through the intentional promotion of objective and conscious understanding of ponerogenesis, is superior to natural immunity, which is achieved when those exposed to pathological influence arbitrarily happen, in any of various ways, to gain a certain level of familiarity with its workings, because scientific immunity:
- Is longer lasting
- Entails resistance to pathocracies in general, even if they differ in ideology or other features, rather than simply to the type of pathocracy one has personally experienced
- Is more widely transferrable, since it can be spread not only to those who have experienced pathocracy of the same type, as is the case with natural immunity, but to those who have experienced different types of pathocracy or have never experienced pathocracy at all
If the pathological can be considered pathogens in human systems, then perhaps the most apt example of their opposite, the agents of nourishment to those systems, are activists who effectively work on issues that relate to optimizing human systems for health and sustainability. However, as we have seen, too often activists working on such issues, however well-intentioned, waste energy and even counterintuitively aid pathocrats when they undermine their own work by failing to account for the dynamics of ponerogenesis and pathocracy, basing their decisions on false assumptions and implementing strategies that are doomed to fail. They may make these common mistakes out of ignorance or as a result of defenses that they have developed in response to traumas experienced.
We can all reap especially powerful benefits from investing in educating, treating and fostering immunity amongst this group because, when knowledgeable, healthy and effective in their work regarding pathological people and systems and their victims, they can catalyze a ripple effect of awareness, insight and resistance. This is especially true in the case of activists who are either whistleblowers or who have unique and specific talents for strategizing about, interacting with or responding to the pathological.
However, for any of these benefits to be achieved and sustained, the various systems that contribute to bringing them about must, themselves, be protected from pathological influence and manipulation.
Mental health and public health systems must maintain high standards of integrity to remain independent of political manipulation - even when it requires fighting back against pathological attempts to control them – and to recognize and address conflicts of interest.
Educational systems must remain free to mobilize personnel and select material for curricula without pressure based on pathological agendas.
And the autonomy to exercise unbiased critical thinking, which is eternally under attack by the pathological, must be protected within all fields of science.
Revisit History and Consider Current Events from a Ponerologic PerspectiveHistorians and others should reevaluate history through this lens to learn more about the patterns of various human systems. Scholars from a variety of fields that study today’s events should consider them through this lens, as well, to discover what explanations and solutions it suggests.
Update Laws to Reflect a Modern Scientific Understanding of the PathologicalAs we have seen, many types of laws are easily exploited by the pathological. Thus, while the law can serve us well in some cases, it too often fails to adequately or appropriately protect us in situations involving them or compensate us for their sometimes devious transgressions. We need to educate those who work in or influence legal systems about ponerology so that they can reform our laws in such a way that they incorporate and are based on the latest objective scientific knowledge about the pathological, including:
- Their fundamental difference from normals
- The manipulative tactics they employ
- How they inspire complicity from others
Educate Religious Communities about Ponerology and the Struggle to Resist PathocracyIt is extremely important to educate those in religious communities that:
- Evil has a biological and medical aspect to it that must be understood scientifically and cannot be addressed through theology
- If they are not vigilant, their communities themselves can be at risk of hijacking by the pathological
- In pathocracies, ideology and religion are used as fronts to conceal the more important underlying pathology and, therefore, they should not be fooled into complicity by pathocracies espousing a pro-religious ideology any more than they would be by ones proclaiming anti-religious ideology
- If they incorporate modern scientific knowledge to complement their traditional appeals for morality, they can be part of the solution to pathocracy
- They, just like other activists, can best contribute to healthy systems by transcending their religious views to bond with those of other religions and no religion around the struggle between those of significant conscience and those without it
Incentivize Those in Influential Positions to Apply Ponerologic KnowledgeWe have repeatedly discussed the importance of educating people in a range of social areas about ponerology. But education is not enough. We must also work to develop structures that incentivize these influential people - whether they are parents or professionals, political or business leaders - to move beyond their early wiring and the strictures of tradition to apply their knowledge of ponerology in the course of carrying out their duties.
Create or Expand Fields that Complement Ponerology as NecessaryLobaczewski and his colleagues, in studying the dynamics of their region’s oppressive governments, recognized that the requirements for resisting the threat of pathocracy demanded the creation of a new academic field, ponerology, which Lobaczewski went on to pioneer. As we continue our quest to minimize the risks of pathocracy, we may discover additional challenges that call for the creation of still more new disciplines or the expansion of existing ones to work in conjunction with ponerology to sustain the health of our systems and we should take action to create or expand those fields as needed.
Support the Formation of Networks of NormalsWhen normal people and systems realize that the division between them and pathological people and systems is the most important one, some will be moved to band together to mutually resist the emergence of pathocracy and defend the autonomy and authority of normals. Some will be activists who, upon learning about the pathological threat, will recognize the need to put aside their divisions based on other pet issues or identity politics and come together around this crucial common cause. Others, hopefully, will be people moved by this new perspective to get involved for the first time.
These networks of normals and their work both are supported by and themselves support the adoption of more accurate ponerologic language to communicate, the fostering of healing and immunity and greater understanding of how to wisely respond to the pathological. While helping to usher in the changes necessary to thwart ponerogenesis, their formation simultaneously builds momentum and prepares the system for those changes, thus reducing the intensity of backlash. Their role is so important, in fact, that Lobaczewski says attempts to beneficially intervene in a pathological system will be futile until it reaches the stage at which these networks of normals form.
Handling Potential Obstacles to Suggested Change
Any tool or method devised to help counteract pathocrats could ultimately be used against us.
And, as detailed in my ponerology page, we may encounter resistance to these measures from various types of people.
Much of the resistance will originate with the pathological themselves. As Lobaczewski experienced, they will go to great lengths to oppose anyone working to reveal, provoke dissent on the basis of or act upon scientific information – especially about pathology and pathocracy – that is unsupportive of their cause. This opposition may involve a range of tactics that includes campaigns to intimidate or discredit researchers, scholars, educators and activists - sometimes by painting them as the pathological ones - or to undermine the institutions and processes of science itself. This is why, again, it is so important that those fields involved in studying ponerologic issues be protected from pathological influence.
But there are many normals who will also resist. As discussed, since we are simply not wired for these types of changes, they can feel unnatural. And it can be very shattering to realize that the systems of which one is part are corrupt and pathological. In addition, many of the catch-22’s that we discover when opposing pathocracy stem from the fact that, in the course of such opposition, we must appeal to a population replete with people traumatized by, and often traumatically bonded with, that very pathocracy. So we may be most viciously countered by the very victims in whose name we are working. Indeed, this dynamic is part of the reason that pathocracy is so successful at doing what it does.
Resistant normals may include:
- Those who do not perceive themselves as having been directly affected by evil and, thus, doubt its existence.
- Those uncomfortable with or who have defense mechanisms against an awareness of evil
- Those victimized by the pathological and unwilling to become more fully conscious
- Those who are or have been, for various reasons, complicit with the pathological, including:
- People with conflicts of interest whereby meaningful jobs or relationships, for example, may be threatened if they become conscious or accepting of pathocracy’s reality and implications
- Activists that consistently ignore the implications of pathocracy and/or focus on non-leverage points and rebel against becoming aware that their efforts are wasted or even enabling pathocrats
- Parents who play a role in enabling pathocracy by encouraging overly submissive loyalty and obedience to authority figures in their children
- People with conflicts of interest whereby meaningful jobs or relationships, for example, may be threatened if they become conscious or accepting of pathocracy’s reality and implications
- Those who believe it is too risky to engage in the level of contact with evil necessary to usefully study it
- Those that wish for harsher approaches toward the pathological than just rational study and pragmatic responses
- Traditional moral leaders that do not want to cede authority to scientists on questions of right and wrong or good and evil
- Even those who, despite its damage, simply find evil a poetic, romantic force that they wish to remain alive in the world
It is true that the pathological can hijack technologies and methodologies that were originally intended for use in opposing them and put them to use in the service of advancing their agendas. But, with improved awareness of their existence and tactics, we can more carefully direct advances in these areas, employing designs that support us in resisting injustice by facilitating our abilities to organize, communicate and spread information in previously unfathomable ways – as we have increasingly seen in recent years – and allowing us to set up and operate the institutions and entities required for working systems, all while specifically accounting for pathological deception and preventing cooption.
As for those that resist pathocracy-opposing changes, Lobaczewski explains that we should not let them stop us. It is too important that people wake up to and adapt to the truth, whatever it may be. And some people will experience uncomfortable reactions even to the healthiest of immunizations.
Instead, we should educate ourselves about the risks of and likely responses to these measures so that we can preempt, proactively address and minimize undesired side effects as much as possible and, where we cannot do so and it is merited, work through defenses, face whatever surfaces and metabolize the unpleasant, yet ultimately catalytic, energy of the backlash through a positive disintegration process that is sometimes required in order to achieve greater health and sustainability.
In addition, it helps to remember that there will also be many who favor and support these suggested changes. Normals remain by far the majority of the population and many will experience a revitalization of the common inborn drive to resist evil when they see others taking the issue seriously and acting. Victims of the pathological who have remained conscious or who value consciousness and justice more than denial will also be supportive.
Obviously a pathocracy is not such an arrangement. And typical systems of normal man are too often vulnerable to being hijacked and transformed into pathocracies, and, thus, cannot reliably ensure healthy coexistence either.
Ultimately, what is required is the evolution of a new type of system that combines many of the features of typical systems of normal man with one fundamental adaptation that changes everything: a commitment to move beyond reacting based on our outdated evolved wiring and defense mechanisms to reacting based on a more updated and validated rational analysis of how people and groups really work. Such an analysis brings with it an understanding of human psychological diversity, psychopathology, ponerology and pathocracy.
This is the type of system that could enduringly support healthy normal-pathological coexistence. It would be much harder to corrupt than previous human arrangements and, thus, more pathocracy-proof. It would not be a utopia. It would have problems. But it would be founded upon a pragmatic, wise and constructive perspective and, therefore, be more likely to facilitate resolution of those problems in the best interest of humanity, other creatures and the ecosystem, than, like other human social structures, to enable exploitation of those problems by those practicing sabotage and promoting turmoil.
Lobaczewski refers to such a system as a “logocracy.”
Of logocracy he says:
“A system thus envisaged would be superior to all its predecessors, being based upon an understanding of the laws of nature operating within individuals and societies, with objective knowledge progressively superceding opinions based upon natural responses to phenomena.”
“Due to their properties and conformity to the laws of nature and evolution, logocratic systems could guarantee social and international order on a long-term basis. In keeping with their nature, they would then become transformed into more perfect forms, a vague and faraway vision of which may beckon to us in the present.”Lobaczewski makes clear that logocracies must emerge organically from existing systems in the places they develop. So, while all logocracies would share a commitment to respecting natural and evolutionary laws, they would not all look the same. Successful logocracies could have different structures and be supported by different processes. In fact, as advocated by Daniel Quinn – who, on the title page of Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure, references John Briggs and F. David Peat wondering “What would happen if we intentionally forged our social solutions in the fires of creative chaos?” – we should experiment with various forms of logocracy to discover which work best in various locations.
But there are some features that would or may be common to all logocracies that would allow them, even within a world that includes evil, and even when evil exists within the logocracies themselves, to resist ponerization and avoid being overtaken by it, thus remaining healthy and sustainable. It is likely that any logocracy would:
- Prioritize the good of the whole system
- Be led by normals, ideally normals that understand and can apply ponerology – Within a logocracy, most people would understand that just as a certain quality of vision is required to be a safe and competent pilot, certain capacities for psychological insight, empathy and conscience, as well as a willingness to support positive disintegration when necessary, are required to be a trustworthy, healthy leader. Leaders with such capacities, unlike pathological leaders, are able to prioritize the good of the whole system, as well as promote the other common features of logocracy that we will be exploring, and thus, best maintain the tenuous balance necessary for peace between normals and the pathological. It is because such leaders only exist amongst normals, and not amongst the pathological, that it is justifiable to favor normals and discriminate against the pathological in choosing and supporting leaders.
- Promote a cycle whereby increasing appreciation for the value of science and its function of unbiased questioning fuels constant learning, thus enabling us to more effectively protect science from manipulation by authorities with ulterior agendas and, in turn, fostering still further increased appreciation, unbiased questioning and learning.
- Prioritize the application of science’s naturalistic rational approach not only to improving material life, but to:
- Preventing those very improvements from being turned against us to do harm
- Discovering answers to questions about reducing suffering and conflict
- Preventing those very improvements from being turned against us to do harm
- Especially prioritize and protect the specific science of ponerology, recognizing its core role in maintaining health and sustainability. In other words, within a logocracy, ponerology would be elevated and protected for the very reason that it is suppressed in a pathocracy.
- Infused with an understanding of the nature of the pathological and their tactics, have developed the adaptations and checks and balances necessary to impede the progression of ponerogenesis and prevent being taken over by them and transformed into a pathocracy, such as:
- Monitoring itself and related systems for risks factors for and signs of ponerogenesis, perhaps through institutions dedicated to that task
- Being well prepared, in its monitoring, to detect deception, as well as to continue evolving its deception detection capacities to keep up with the evolution of new tactics by the deceivers
- Educating its population in such a way as to close the perceptual loopholes left in us by evolution, and sometimes reinforced by traumas, that are exploited by the pathological in their attempts to gain power
- Putting in place and enforcing the limits and boundaries on pathological people and systems necessary to protect the health of the logocracy’s normal members, as well as of the logocracy as a whole - There are times, within an otherwise relatively healthy environment with a vulnerable population, that an internally-based person or system with a highly contagious infection, for which we have no immediately effective treatment, is discovered. In such situations, it is often not only reasonable to, but possibly unethical not to, quarantine the ill person or system. Strict limits may be placed on that person or system’s movement and activities for some length of time, not to vilify or punish them, but simply to minimize the risk of other people catching the illness or of it escalating into an epidemic that threatens the population at large.
There are also times when an externally-based person or system is recognized as suffering from a highly contagious infectious disease for which we have no immediately effective treatment. In these cases, a relatively healthy system with a vulnerable population may, for some time, either institute especially strict restrictions regulating the entry of that ill person or of those originating in that ill system or, if necessary, ban entry by that ill person or by those originating in that ill system entirely. Again, as long as these responses are based on credible and reliable medical data, they are not only reasonable to carry out, but may be unethical not to carry out and their purpose is not to vilify or punish the ill person or system, but simply to protect the relatively healthy system and its population.
While these scenarios, in which a person or system with a highly communicable infectious disease poses a threat to public health, are faced by most systems periodically and often temporarily, logocracies - in which a normal majority constantly coexists with a certain number of people and amidst a certain number of other systems with potentially dangerously influential ponerologic psychopathologies – find themselves in a similar scenario at all times.
In fact, the logocracy’s challenge may be even more daunting because, unlike in most situations involving contagious infectious diseases, those people and systems suffering from ponerologic psychopathologies not only could, but desperately wish to and take aggressive steps to, spread their pathological influence as extensively as possible.
Therefore, maintaining health and sustainability in such a system requires that certain limits and boundaries on the pathological, representing a virtual quarantine and/or travel restriction or ban, be put in place and enforced.
There may be no more important goal than preventing pathological people from accessing excessive power. So this approach may primarily involve measures restricting them from certain social or leadership positions that would avail them of too much or of dangerous types of influence and assist them in imposing their highly destructive views and values on the population. In that case, an alliance of normals, united around the objective presence and importance of conscience itself, would consciously work to keep the pathological, whether they originate inside or outside of the logocracy, out of such positions.
Or, depending upon what we learn about pathology and its spreading mechanisms through our study of ponerology, we may determine that our anti-pathocracy strategy must involve certain physical restrictions on the pathological, as well. (This would especially be the case if we discover, as is possible, that ponerogenesis itself involves a significant, actually infectious component.)
Just as is true in the typical case of protecting a population from an infectious threat, the limits and boundaries imposed on the pathological to protect a system against a ponerologic threat should never be used as a form of vilification or punishment of the pathological. We understand, due to our growing insight into the nature of psychopathology, that there is rarely a benefit, and, in fact, there is usually harm, in seeking vengeance against or demonizing them. The necessary limits and boundaries should be set up and enforced in a mindset of defensiveness, not aggressiveness.
Furthermore, we have seen how ineffectively we resist ponerogenesis when we swing back and forth between leniency and harsh punishment. Thus, in creating and maintaining limits and boundaries on the pathological, we should aim for a sweet spot in which we are consistently strong and assertive, but healthily flexible.
There may be times when force and/or mandatory treatment of the pathological are authentically required and, in those cases, they may be used. But, when this is necessary, it is even more crucial than usual that such actions always be taken in a mindset focused on protecting the good of the whole system and never in a mindset of revenge or punishment.
- Monitoring itself and related systems for risks factors for and signs of ponerogenesis, perhaps through institutions dedicated to that task
- Promise and prioritize delivering to its pathological members the best life possible within the limits necessary to prevent their rise to power – One way that a logocracy can manifest prioritizing the good of the whole is by aiming to offer everyone living in it the best life possible. This includes the pathological.
It is not enough to simply avoid vengeance and vilification when placing limits and boundaries on the pathological. As long as those limits and boundaries are in place, protecting the rest of the population and the system from any threats they may pose, a logocracy should actually make clear to its pathological members that its goal is to allow and even help them to live the best life they possibly can and then go out of its way to demonstrate and deliver on that commitment. Lobaczewski suggests that logocracies should even consider going so far in fulfilling that commitment as to guarantee their pathological members tolerable living conditions, a policy that people with some traditional values may view as absurd, outrageous or even offensive, but which may, counterintuitively, pay off in the long run by reducing some of the incentive for the pathological to foster conflict and attempt to take over systems and ultimately saving us more than it costs.
But, whatever shape it takes, a system like this – a logocracy with the types of features described - is probably as close to a truce in the long, often unrecognized and unnamed battle between normals and the pathological as we can forge.
A system like this is, in many ways, a very high-level example of Peter Senge’s concept of a learning organization – a system that applies and promotes systems thinking’s perspective and techniques to constantly find and hit leverage points to foster development. Only in this system, unlike in most, the crucial leverage points in the ponerologic process, at which we have the ability to impede its progress, are also consistently hit.
In a system like this, modernized ways of thinking about the roots of ethical behavior begin to complement and achieve greater parity with traditional ways that too often dominate today.
A system like this, in which so many measures, validated as effective through rigorous study, are being proactively and consistently taken to maintain optimal relations, is less reliant on brute force. Force will be used when necessary, but may be necessary less often.
In a system like this, people of empathy, conscience and talent, rather than just those skilled in Machiavellian machinations, will have a better chance to thrive.
Logocracy could be viewed not only as the next stage – but as a milestone – in human evolution: a system of normal man whose additional adaptation generates:
- Consciousness of the wide range of both normal and pathological psychological variation within humanity
- The capability to recognize its own normalcy and its distinction from pathocracy
- Built in resistances to pathocracy
It may also represent the emergence of an evolutionary form - a defensive-minded, sustainable model of normal-pathological coexistence, based on the steady application of an evolutionarily stable strategy – that we simply must embrace if we wish to:
- Survive the threat of pathocracy
- Maintain our species’ ability to continue evolving indefinitely
- Maintain our ecosystem’s ability to support us and enough other members of the community of life to allow evolution to flow through us into the future
We have already seen that, as we take the steps necessary to bring about logocracy, there may be some blowback from the pathological, as well as, and perhaps even more so, from others.
And it may sound utopian to even believe that logocracy is possible.
But the stakes are high and, if the evidence shows that Lobaczewski is right and systems of normal man are perpetually vulnerable to pathocracy, we have no excuse not to experiment. It would be better to test new approaches than to just continue to accept or drive a likely suicidal cycle.
In addition, the seeds of logocracy are already present within some normals in every system, the majority of whom will never fully conform to pathocrats’ wishes, and some of whom will always forcefully resist.
If we succeed in handling the obstacles and implementing wise responses to the threat of pathocracy, the cumulative effect, the evolution of logocracy, will, according to Lobaczewski, bring an “end of the era” feeling and provide a solid foundation for our future endeavors.
For a range of different reasons, many may fail to give the idea proper consideration. Some may simply not consider it at all because it involves phenomena that we are not wired to instinctively pay attention to or investigate. Others may actively reject the hypothesis without really objectively studying it to discover the truth. Still others will at least consider it, but only from any of a variety of non-scientific perspectives. Perhaps, on some level, they feel that, by taking these approaches, they can avoid risking the shattering experience of becoming conscious of such a horror.
But the influence of psychopathological people on power structures is one of the most significant systemic problems humans can face. It may even be the single most serious threat we do face. The consequences can be dire and, as systems become more powerful and those leading them more influential, they can become even more so. And, for all that we still do not know about what underlies harm in our world, thanks to the sacrifices of countless victims and scientists like Lobaczewski and his colleagues, we do know enough to render it inexcusable for us to take no responsive action or to continue responding, as we usually do, in ways that have perpetually failed to substantially reduce the threat.
At the very least, pathocracy deserves serious focused consideration and study, not just from a literary or journalistic perspective, but from rigorous scientific and systems thinking perspectives, to determine if this phenomenon has happened, if it is happening now, what the risk factors are for it, how to prevent it or respond to it and so on. As Lobaczewski says, ignorance is our greatest weakness. Good intentions and noble sounding goals alone potentially leave us at the mercy of the pathological and will not resolve our humanitarian or ecological challenges. Instead, we must cultivate and rely on evidence-based wisdom.
So, we should follow in the footsteps of Lobaczewski and his colleagues, as well as others who investigated this crucial topic, and build on the groundwork they have laid. We should study biological evil and develop more modernized responses to it that complement whatever traditional approaches to it we wish to keep.
Ultimately, what may be called for most of all is a great movement in support of an elevation in status and exposure of the field of ponerology. As mentioned, ponerology is a field that broadly studies all aspects of evil to shed light on the dynamics of harmful, neglectful, wasteful, destructive behavior. Its scope encompasses much more than pathocracy alone. But understanding and preventing pathocracy is really ponerology’s core mission and main priority.
Not only can that field serve as a hub through which experts from a variety of directly and indirectly related fields are empowered to find and work with each other to discover and spread objective knowledge about ponerogenesis and pathocracy. And not only can it serve as a practical home base, supplying necessary resources to those investigators. But its very existence makes a strong statement about our commitment to peering through surface appearances and digging deep to make necessary distinctions and sends a signal that we stand with those doing that work. Moreover, a flourishing discipline of ponerology would make it much harder for pathocrats to sidestep challenges to their power or stealthily suppress information unfriendly to their agendas.
Now is the time to promote ponerology. The world is ready for this field. It is a young field that is still fragile and just beginning to get off the ground. So it needs our active support. But we can hope that, in time, future generations will be exposed to it earlier in life and more strongly embrace it.
Lobaczewski says that when we do commit to the study of ponerology, we will discover useful information that inspires critical thinking and discussion, helps lay bare how the pathological operate and how they generate the central forces that drive the mechanisms of evil, and leads us toward practical solutions and healing. A growing number of works, related – whether their creators realize it or not – to Political Ponerology, are bearing this out, including:
|Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend|
by Barbara Oakley
|The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D.|
|The Corporation by Jennifer Abbott & Mark Achbar|
|Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work|
by Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.
|The work of Derrick Jensen|
And we can hope that the growth of ponerology and the spread of its findings will help promote pro-psychology, pro-science, pro-critical thinking attitudes and skills, along with the terminology they require, which could, in turn, help foster the more accurate, pragmatic perspective that we need in order to address problems that have stubbornly persisted and cyclically repeated for millennia.
The more we understand about the manageable factors underlying detrimental events, the more compelled we should be to take action. Doing so will not be easy. It will take courage to challenge millennia of evolved responses, surface painful traumas and resolve stubborn, miscalibrated defenses as we take our early steps on a new course. But these sometimes unpleasant activities are part of a disintegration that is both positive and likely necessary as we develop more effective, modern defenses against the threats from within humanity - while still maintaining our humanity - and pursue the most sustainable and healthy life possible.
Again, I discuss all of these and other related issues in great detail on my ponerology page, which I recommend highly to anyone wishing to learn even more about the phenomena and dynamics relevant to pathocracy.
Other Resources Related to Pathocracy
- My page about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- My page about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- My blog piece “Publicizing the Threat of Personality Disorders Among Those in Positions of Power”
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Personality Disorders
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Psychopathy
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Psychopaths
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Sociopathy
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Sociopaths