Both articles are recommended. Both articles reference the book Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes, by Andrzej Lobaczewski.
Cattori’s article is longer and includes an interview with the book’s editors, Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Henry See.
I make the effort to share this information because it gives me, at last, a plausible answer to a long-unanswered question: Why, no matter how much intelligent goodwill exists in the world, is there so much war, suffering and injustice? It doesn’t seem to matter what creative plan, ideology, religion, or philosophy great minds come up with, nothing seems to improve our lot. Since the dawn of civilization, this pattern repeats itself over and over again.
The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination. The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers — was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.
Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as their power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld — the overlapping criminal syndicates that lurk above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it.
During the past fifty years, psychopaths have gained almost absolute control of all the branches of government. You can notice this if you observe carefully that no matter what illegal thing a modern politician does, no one will really take him to task. All of the so called scandals that have come up, any one of which would have taken down an authentic administration, are just farces played out for the public, to distract them, to make them think that the democracy is still working.
One of the main factors to consider in terms of how a society can be taken over by a group of pathological deviants is that the psychopaths’ only limitation is the participation of susceptible individuals within that given society. Lobaczewski gives an average figure for the most active deviants of approximately 6% of a given population. (1% essential psychopaths and up to 5% other psychopathies and characteropathies.) The essential psychopath is at the center of the web. The others form the first tier of the psychopath’s control system.
The next tier of such a system is composed of individuals who were born normal, but are either already warped by long-term exposure to psychopathic material via familial or social influences, or who, through psychic weakness have chosen to meet the demands of psychopathy for their own selfish ends. Numerically, according to Lobaczewski, this group is about 12% of a given population under normal conditions.
So approximately 18% of any given population is active in the creation and imposition of a Pathocracy. The 6% group constitutes the Pathocratic nobility and the 12% group forms the new bourgeoisie, whose economic situation is the most advantageous.
When you understand the true nature of psychopathic influence, that it is conscienceless, emotionless, selfish, cold and calculating, and devoid of any moral or ethical standards, you are horrified, but at the same time everything suddenly begins to makes sense. Our society is ever more soulless because the people who lead it and who set the example are soulless — they literally have no conscience.
In his book Political Ponerology, Andrej Lobaczewski explains that clinical psychopaths enjoy advantages even in non-violent competitions to climb the ranks of social hierarchies. Because they can lie without remorse (and without the telltale physiological stress that is measured by lie detector tests), psychopaths can always say whatever is necessary to get what they want. In court, for example, psychopaths can tell extreme bald-faced lies in a plausible manner, while their sane opponents are handicapped by an emotional predisposition to remain within hailing distance of the truth.
Too often, the judge or jury imagines that the truth must be somewhere in the middle, and then issues decisions that benefit the psychopath. As with judges and juries, so too with those charged with decisions concerning who to promote and who not to promote in corporate, military and governmental hierarchies. The result is that all hierarchies inevitably become top-heavy with psychopaths. Since psychopaths have no limitations on what they can or will do to get to the top, the ones in charge are generally pathological. It is not power that corrupts, it is that corrupt individuals seek power.
How can we distinguish between psychopaths and healthy people? What is the portrait of a true psychopath?
Such a dangerous question has almost never been successfully asked. The reason is because we mistakenly confuse healthy for normal. Human psychological diversity is the health of our race. There is no normal because healthy humans continuously evolve beyond all normalizing standards. The terrorism of searching through hierarchies for anyone deviating from normalis no different from witch hunts or Inquisitions. You must remember that hierarchies thrive on such low dramas, torturing victims until they confess to evil beliefs. Not so long ago the church and state ongoingly acquired significant income and property through witch hunts and Inquisitions. This continued for over two hundred and fifty years. Ten generations of Europeans understood pogrom as normal life. Let us not return to that nightmare. Testing for normal is guaranteed to backfire in our face. There is no normal. But there is conscience.
We have very little empirical evidence to support the idea that true psychopathy is the result of an abused childhood, and much empirical evidence to support that it is genetic. The neurobiological model offers us the greatest hope of being able to identify even the most devious psychopath. Other recent studies lead to similar results and conclusions: that psychopaths have great difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal affective (emotional) material, that they tend to confuse the emotional significance of events, and most importantly, that these deficits show up in brain scans! A missing internal connection between the feeling heart and the thinking brain is detectable.
Psychopaths are incapable of authentic deep emotions. In fact, when Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who spent his career studying psychopathy, did brain scans on psychopaths while showing them two sets of words, one set of neutral words with no emotional associations and a second set with emotionally charged words, while different areas of the brain lit up in the non-psychopathic control group, in the psychopaths, both sets were processed in the same area of the brain, the area that deals with language. They did not have an emotional reaction until they intellectually concluded that it would be better if they had one, and then they whipped up an emotional response just for show.
The simplest, clearest and truest portrait of the psychopath is given in the titles of three seminal works on the subject: Without Conscience by Robert Hare, The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, and Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. A psychopath is exactly that: conscienceless. The most important thing to remember is that this lack of conscience is hidden from view behind a mask of normality that is often so convincing that even experts are deceived. As a result, psychopaths become the Snakes in Suits that control our world.
Psychopaths lack a sense of remorse or empathy with others. They can be extremely charming and are experts at using talk to charm and hypnotize their prey. They are also irresponsible. Nothing is ever their fault; someone else or the world at large is always to blame for all of their problems or their mistakes. Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, identifies what she calls the pity ploy. Psychopaths use pity to manipulate. They convince you to give them one more chance, and to not tell anyone about what they have done. So another trait — and a very important one — is their ability to control the flow of information.
They also seem to have little real conception of past or future, living entirely for their immediate needs and desires. Because of the barren quality of their inner life, they are often seeking new thrills, anything from feeling the power of manipulating others to engaging in illegal activities simply for the rush of adrenaline.
Another trait of the psychopath is what Lobaczewski calls their special psychological knowledge of normal people. They have studied us. They know us better than we know ourselves. They are experts in knowing how to push our buttons, to use our emotions against us. But beyond that, they even seem to have some sort of hypnotic power over us. When we begin to get caught up in the web of the psychopath, our ability to think deteriorates, gets muddied. They seem to cast some sort of spell over us. It is only later when we are no longer in their presence, out of their spell, that the clarity of thought returns and we find ourselves wondering how it was that we were unable to respond or counter what they were doing.
Psychopaths learn to recognize each other in a crowd as early as childhood, and they develop an awareness of the existence of other individuals similar to themselves. They also become conscious of being of a different world from the majority of other people surrounding them. They view us from a certain distance.
Think about the ramifications of this statement: Psychopaths are, to some extent, self-aware as a group even in childhood! Recognizing their fundamental difference from the rest of humanity, their allegiance would be to others of their kind, that is, to other psychopaths.
Their own twisted sense of honor compels them to cheat and revile non-psychopaths and their values. In contradiction to the ideals of normal people, psychopaths feel breaking promises and agreements is normal behavior.
Not only do they covet possessions and power and feel they have the right to them just because they exist and can take them, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others; what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor.
They also learn very early how their personalities can have traumatizing effects on the personalities of non-psychopaths, and how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of achieving their goals.
So now, imagine how easily human beings who are totally in the dark about the presence of psychopaths can be deceived and manipulated by these individuals, gaining power in different countries, pretending to be loyal to the local populations while at the same time playing up obvious and easily discernible physical differences between groups (such as race, skin color, religion, etc).
Psychologically normal humans would be set against one another on the basis of unimportant differences (think of Rwanda 1994, think of Israelis and Palestinians) while the deviants in power, with a fundamental difference from the rest of us, a lack of conscience, an inability to feel for another human being, reaped the benefits and pulled the strings.
We are seeing the final desperate power-grab or endgame (see Derrick Jensen books Endgame Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) of brutal, cunning gangs of CIA drug-runners and President-killers; money-laundering international bankers and their hit-men — economic and otherwise; corrupt military contractors and gung-ho generals; corporate predators and their political enablers; brainwashers and mind-rapists euphemistically known as psy-ops and PR specialists — in short, the whole crew of certifiable psychopaths running our so-called civilization. And they are running scared.
Why does the Pathocracy fear it is losing control? Because it is threatened by the spread of knowledge. The greatest fear of any psychopath is of being found out.
Psychopaths go through life knowing that they are completely different from other people. Deep down they know something is missing in them. They quickly learn to hide their lack of empathy, while carefully studying others’ emotions so as to mimic normalcy while cold-bloodedly manipulating the normals.
Today, thanks to new information technologies, we are on the brink of unmasking the psychopaths and building a civilization of, by and for the healthy human being — a civilization without war, a civilization based on truth, a civilization in which the saintly few rather than the diabolical few would gravitate to positions of power. We already have the knowledge necessary to diagnose psychopathic personalities and keep them out of power. We have the knowledge necessary to dismantle the institutions in which psychopaths especially flourish — militaries, intelligence agencies, large corporations, and secret societies. We simply need to disseminate this knowledge, and the will to use it, as widely and as quickly as possible.
Until the knowledge and awareness of pathological human beings is given the attention it deserves and becomes part of the general knowledge of all human beings, there is no way that things can be changed in any way that is effective and long-lasting. If half the people agitating for truth or stopping the war or saving the earth would focus their efforts, time and money on exposing psychopathy, we might get somewhere.
One might ask if the weak point of our society has been our tolerance of psychopathic behavior? Our disbelief that someone could seem like an intelligent leader and still be acting deceptively on their own behalf without conscience? Or is it merely ignorance?
If the general voting public is not aware that there exists a category of people we sometimes perceive as almost human, who look like us, who work with us, who are found in every race, every culture, speaking every language, but who are lacking conscience, how can the general public take care to block them from taking over the hierarchies? General ignorance of psychopathology may prove to be the downfall of civilization. We stand by like grazing sheep as political/corporate elites throw armies of our innocent sons and daughters against fabricated enemies as a way of generating trillions in profits, vying against each other for pathological hegemony.
Nearly everyone who has been part of an organization working for social change has probably seen the same dynamic play out: The good and sincere work of many can be destroyed by the actions of one person. That doesn’t bode well for bringing some sort of justice to the planet! In fact, if psychopaths dominate political hierarchies, is it any wonder that peaceful demonstrations have zero impact on the outcome of political decisions?
Using any kind of hierarchical power structure is a serious design error. Hierarchies promote those who are most capable of doing whatever it takes to climb the ladder. Those most capable of doing whatever it takes to obtain positions of power are psychopaths. Perhaps it is time to choose something other than massive, distant hierarchies as a way of governing ourselves?
So many efforts to provide essays, research reports, exposés and books to leaders so they might take the new information to heart and change their behavior have come to naught. For example, in the final paragraph of his revised edition of the book, The Party’s Over, Richard Heinberg writes:
"I still believe that if the people of the world can be helped to understand the situation we are in, the options available, and the consequences of the path we are currently on, then it is at least possible that they can be persuaded to undertake the considerable effort and sacrifice that will be entailed in a peaceful transition to a sustainable, locally based, decentralized, low-energy, resource-conserving social regime. But inspired leadership will be required."
And that is the just-murdered fantasy. There are no inspired leaders anymore. And in hierarchical structures there cannot be. Assuming that you can elect men or women to office who will see reason and the light of day, and who will change and learn and grow, make compassionate decisions and take conscientious actions… is a foolish, childish dream. Continuing to dream it simply plays into psychopathic agendas.
Only when the 75% of humanity with a healthy conscience come to understand that we have a natural predator, a group of people who live amongst us, viewing us as powerless victims to be freely fed upon for achieving their inhuman ends, only then will we take the fierce and immediate actions needed to defend what is preciously human. Psychological deviants have to be removed from any position of power over people of conscience, period. People must be made aware that such individuals exist and must learn how to spot them and their manipulations.
The hard part is that one must also struggle against those tendencies to mercy and kindness in oneself in order not to become prey.
The real problem is that the knowledge of psychopathy and how psychopaths rule the world has been effectively hidden. People do not have the adequate, nuanced knowledge they need to really make a change from the bottom up. Again and again, throughout history it has been meet the new boss, same as the old boss. If there is any work that is deserving of full time efforts and devotion for the sake of helping humanity in this present dark time, it is the study of psychopathy and the propagation of this information as far and wide and fast as possible.
There are only two things that can bring a psychopath under submission:
A bigger psychopath.
The non-violent, absolute refusal to submit to psychopathic controls no matter the consequences (non-violent non-compliance).
If individuals simply sit down and refuse to lift a hand to further one single aim of the psychopathic agenda, if people refuse to pay taxes, if soldiers refuse to fight, if women refuse to have sex with government workers and corporate officers, if prison guards refuse to go to work, if doctors refuse to treat psychopathic elites and their families, the whole system grinds to an immediate screeching halt.
True change happens in the moment that a person becomes aware of psychopathy in all its chilling details. From this new awareness, the world looks different, and entirely new actions can be taken.
If they are not our leaders, how then should you relate to the world besides pretending that the so-called ‘leaders’ are handling things well? Should you rebel against the present gameworlds? Should you ignore them all and pretend as if things will work out on their own? Should you build and move into new gameworlds of your own design?
No one can make this decision for you. More interestingly, no one can stop you from making this decision yourself.
This is a new year, a new beginning, a fresh opportunity to start over… To what degree will you allow your life to be muddled-up with concerns over fabricated political tensions, media-amplified emotional fears, and suspicious regulations?
Here in Possibility Management we think this is possible. We actually see it happening with small Teams moving into Bridge-Houses around the world.
What about you? How long will you hang on to a train that is headed straight off the cliff? What would give you the courage to leap away, roll in the dust, brush yourself off, and go introduce yourself to the other leapers?
We really want to know. Thank you for being on this epic journey with us. What we are learning is that epic journeys proceed by doing epic shit. Harbigarrr!
Love from your PM News Team
From Terry Sneller
29 January 2022
I don’t know if I ever told you this, or not, Clinton — but your 2008 article “Beware The Psychopath, My Son” completely revised my personal search for answers to the assassination of President Kennedy, as well as what has been corrupting not only the United States, but democracies all around the world!
You see, because I had a momentary but direct connection with JFK late in the summer of 1963 and secondary series of events surrounding his death that fall, I have been semi-obsessed with trying to understand who and why someone would take such an extreme risk to kill him in broad daylight and in public. Prior to finding and reading your article I had, for decades, been delving into the maddening worlds of national and various international political structures, obvious and secretive organizations, individuals with ulterior motives, numerous conspiracies, etc.
After reading your article, along with the other authors you refer to at the top of Beware The Psychopath, My Son, my research went into overdrive. I came to realize that the bulk of the major damage that had been inflicted on all of humanity had primarily been the result of the actions of those few who I now call, socio-psychopaths. I found it incredible that historically only 1% of all recorded societies were psychopaths and 17% were sociopaths. We find history filled with references to “evil” people who created great pain on their fellow members of humanity. Until quite recently, humanity had no better name or way of identifying these individuals.
However, it wasn’t until the 1940s that the medical community was able to identify and create a better label for these men (primarily men) who wreak havoc on the other 82% of us. Now, after the dedicated work of Dr. Robert Hare, Ret. and his forty years of research — which produced the internationally recognized authoritative test for psychopathy, as well as some of the other technologically based advanced methods of brain imaging — that we, all the people of the world, now have the tools to identify and remove from ALL positions of life and death power over others, those who currently have life and death positions of power over others!
Clinton, I have occasionally 'dropped into' various sites within the numerous websites you have associated with Possibility Management organization. From what I have been able to glean from your various activities, they seem, to me, to be primarily focused on individual self-improvement. I think that is a really worthwhile endeavor, as we certainly have a planet filled with people who are unfulfilled, on many levels. About a quarter of a century ago, I took lessons in Vipassana and have been using the techniques that practice taught me, ever since. Personal mindfulness is one thing … community mindfulness is another.
While you recently informed me that you were no longer a US Citizen and lived in other countries, I have no sense of how aware you are of some of the more critical events that are currently occurring in the world, possibly outside of your private world. I’d like to bring to your attention a listing of just some of the more obvious and worrisome events, as I perceive them:
1. It is universally acknowledged by the scientific community that the socio-psychopaths in charge are not doing nearly enough to reverse the Climate Crisis rapidly enough to avert a runaway universal climate collapse in less than a decade.
2. Empathy and conscience deficient socio-psychopaths have taken control of a majority of the populations of the world.
3. The currently most powerful democracy in the world — the US — just lost its ability to control their vital voting processes to the socio-psychopathic Republican Party.
4. Through greed-based socio-psychopathic political/economic/corporate driven decisions, the US no longer manufactures a majority of the technology necessary to combat a fatal nation-wide cyber attack by other countries that are also currently controlled by socio-psychopathic men.
I could create a longer and more detailed list, but I would like to think that what I’ve itemized above would be enough to refocus everyone’s thinking on what can be done to save our entire global “community” — which is actually composed of ALL life on this planet!
You ask, "How long will you hang on to a train that is headed straight off the cliff? What would give you the courage to leap away, roll in the dust, brush yourself off, and go introduce yourself to the other leapers?”
My answer to that question, rather than gather my courage and leap off the train, would be to gather as many other passengers as possible and storm the engineer’s cab, remove the suicidal socio-psychopath from his position of power directing the train off the cliff and apply the brakes to the entire train; since nobody is likely to survive either the leap from a fast moving train or the train going over the cliff.
While you and your team of game players are seeking personal peace, my small group of concerned individuals (No More Insanity) and me are seeking ways of explaining to the people of the world what is happening to their lives and what can be done to help all of us survive by simply being informed and moved to action. What kind of action? Well, primarily by enlisting and assisting more empathy-laden women to help us pass laws that require people in positions of power to be tested in order to determine their level of socio-psychopathy -- before they are ever allowed to rule over the rest of us. Would you, as well as any of your various groups, like to bring your 'tools' and help us stop the train?
I do not think I ever responded to you letter of 29 January 2022. I thank you for your patience.
I truly appreciate your intention to make laws that prevent socio-psychopaths from obtaining positions of power. My observation tells me that socio-psychopaths who are already in positions of power currently control all law-making processes. I hope you can get enough new empathetic women elected into positions of enough political power to design, ratify, and enforce laws that require foolproof testing against socio-psychopaths gaining any position of authority, and also remove all socio-psychopaths from office who are already there, and in addition, create and enforce laws that change corporate and government power structures from hierarchies that are automatically hijacked by socio-psychopaths to circles (toroids) that cannot be hijacked (http://torustechnology.org).
I am sharing your letter on the Psychopath website so that others who are inclined to stay on the train can join the raiding party for the engine room. I jumped off the train long ago and meet more and more 'jumpers' who are creating whole new domains of possibility out here. That is my place. There is unlimited space out here for more jumpers.
Wishing you all the best,
The Psychopath's Prayer
Clarifications Of Evil
The Last Jedi, Moana, and the Etymology of Evil by Ian Mackenzie
Back in middle school, I vividly recall a conversation during class between myself and our history teacher. The entire term was devoted to the complex political machinations that led to the rise and end of World War II. In the final minutes of class, I felt like I had arrived at a revelation that seemed so obvious, I had the impulse to speak. I raised my hand and the teacher called on me.
“Despite all the wars, the good guys always win.” I proclaimed, then suddenly grew less confident as the words left my lips. The class fell silent and looked to our teacher.
“Well...” he responded with scholarly kindness, “every side always thinks they’re the good side.”
My middle school brain, with its adolescent need to frame the world into the foundational binary of good and bad could no longer compute. The cognitive dissonance detonated my simplistic model of morality and I was instantly dropped into the murky depths of complexity. I could never look at the world the same way again.
It was this conversation that came to mind as I watched The Last Jedi, filled with the familiar struggles between good and evil, the dark side versus the light. It is this archetypal battle that defines the universe of Star Wars, and arguably, the entire landscape of the dominant global culture.
Recalling her own youth, writer Laurel Carney recounts the impact the original Star Wars had upon her worldview: “The struggle between light and darkness within each of us became the lens through which I viewed and coped with my surroundings, and Luke Skywalker, who appeared, to my young eyes, to beat back the darkness for good with a single act of mercy, became my hero.”
With the recent episode’s impact of seeing Luke’s fall from grace, and the subsequent backlash from the fans, she defends the film with an appreciation for a more nuanced hero archetype: “Darkness comes for all of us, in many forms, and no single act of goodness can beat it back forever. Victory is temporary, and useful only insofar as it makes it easier to face the next challenge, and the next, and to inspire goodness in others. Learning to embrace this cycle, to accept setbacks with peace and purpose rather than grief, is one of the most painful (and ultimately necessary) lessons to be found in The Last Jedi.”
Her conclusion — to embrace the fallibility of our heroes while upholding the ‘universal and inevitable’ war against darkness — I find ultimately unsatisfying. I believe there is a missed opportunity to pull on a more provocative thread to unravel the deeper pattern stitched beneath.
THE MACHINE OF WAR Take for example, the Master Codebreaker (played effortlessly by Benicio Del Toro) who reveals to Finn and Rose (the spunky maintenance worker, and the first Asian-American character to appear in a Star Wars film) that the weapons dealers they are quick to condemn, sell weapons both to the First Order and the Rebellion just the same. “It’s a machine,” the Master Codebreaker says of war, matter of factly.
Joshua Rothman in the New Yorker made the connection that the Codebreaker could just as well have been talking about the entire Star Wars franchise, “which depends for its continued existence on a story of perpetual war.”
This leads me to what I believe the most interesting scene in the film: the moment when Kylo Ren and Rey have defeated the Supreme Leader Snoke and his legion of red guards. As the room continues to blaze and the rest of the First Order have yet to descend upon them, Kylo reaches for Rey's hand and offers a simple solution to transcend the past: “Kill it,” he says.
On the surface, the moment is portrayed as one more seduction for Rey to choose the dark side and betray the Rebellion. Rey (and the audience) know there are only two choices: the light or the dark. Rothman connects this moment to the vision Rey had previously experienced in the cave beneath the Jedi island, and the inherent paradox of this perspective: “…she sees the world as a system of opposites: light and dark, life and death, love and rage, the dark side and the light. There’s a pleasing symmetry to this view of the universe, but if the cosmos is truly constructed this way, then the good side can never win, because good and evil will always be evenly matched.”
What if Kylo was actually, albeit through violence, inviting her to transcend the narrative of the dark and light, and thereby end the infinity war?
Instead, it was Rey who was unwilling to step outside of her attachment to the Light, the paradigm of good/evil, and the need for victory, thereby collapsing the tension into an epic space battle once again. This game plays out for the rest of the film, ultimately ending in Luke Skywalker’s 'heroic' death and the escape of the Rebellion.
Good and evil, the supposed universal narrative, remains to fight another day.
ON FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES Let’s talk about the dark side. Let’s talk about evil.
How do you define it? Without too much thought, and depending on where you grew up, you are likely to define 'evil' as: someone or something that is inherently bad. The opposite of good. That which exists beyond redemption.
This provides the foundation for most super hero movies that choke Hollywood and the imaginations of young children. “Why do they have to kill the bad guy?” The children always ask, wide eyed and curious.
“Because they’re evil.” Often comes the response.
While I was not raised in church, I did grow up in a culture with a foundation of Christianity. From that religious perspective, the world is not our true home but a stage for the God and the Devil to battle over the eternal souls of mankind. We participate in that drama by choosing whether to serve the darkness or the light, our fate in Heaven or Hell ultimately decided by our deeds.
This orientation continues to play itself in different costumes and communities, from the unnervingly perky Lightworkers to our punitive system of justice. It’s the same answer whether speaking of a comic book villain, disease, or a terrorist. If we could only get rid of the bad, the good will win.
Charles Eisenstein calls this war thinking: “…the pattern of fixing a problem where you look for the enemy, the thing to fight. You believe that if you can defeat or dominate that enemy then the problem will be solved.”
And herein lies the trouble: just like in Star Wars, any victory ensures a loser and the conditions for future war are already planted.
This way of thinking is not universal to all cultures.
I've been fortunate enough to be schooled in a fashion that re-animates the living quality of words. Whenever I attempt to understand what they 'mean', I no longer settle for the withered understanding that words have always meant the same thing as they do now. It’s far more appropriate to ask “When and where?” alongside your inquiry. Such as, “In what time and what place are you wanting to know what that word meant?”
Let’s consider evil, again.
A brief etymological study reveals that from about 1400, evil was understood to mean: actions that are morally sinful, and therefore actions deemed to go against the will of God.
So far so good. That continues to line up with the definition upheld the good guys. You just need to substitute 'good guys' for 'God'. Evil therefore, is any action that goes against the will of 'the good', as understood by the 'good guys'.
Unless of course, as I found out in my middle school history class, the bad guys generally think they are also the good guys. Not much help there.
Luckily, I happened recently to be reading the classic book Finite and Infinite Games where the author, James P. Carse, describes two types of games: those that are finite and those that are infinite. A brief overview:
Finite players play to win.
Think of a soccer match, where the players all work together to defeat the other team by scoring more goals, with a clear winner and loser. There are rules and penalties for stepping outside of the boundaries, not because they are inherently punishable, but because not playing within the rules jeopardizes the ability to declare with clarity who is the winner. Infinite players, on the other hand, play to keep playing.
Think of making love. A skilled player aims to conduct actions and choices that reveal ever more delightful realms of pleasure, for themselves and for the other. Those achieved in the language of eros know that it is a way of being, with no clear beginning and ending — every move a possibility to play more finely with every caress, word, and contact.
One could say that Life itself, flowing freely, is the ultimate infinite game, endlessly expressing and evolving through a myriad tapestry of diverse peoples, flora, fauna, and minerals — from the tiniest microbe to the vastness of the cosmic theatre. With this in mind, I was floored when I came across the author’s precise definition of evil:
“Evil is the termination of infinite play.”
He continues: “Evil is never intended as evil. Indeed, the contradiction inherent in all evil is that it originates in the desire to eliminate evil. […] Infinite players understand the inescapable likelihood of evil. They therefore do not attempt to eliminate evil in others, for to do so is the very impulse of evil itself, and therefore a contradiction. They only attempt paradoxically to recognize in themselves the evil that takes the form of attempting to eliminate evil elsewhere.”
Translation: the existence of evil is not something gone haywire in the fabric of the universe. It doesn’t mean God somehow got it wrong, or that he’s asleep at the wheel. It might mean there is no such thing as good guys that are devoid of their own capacity for evil. And in fact, attempting to eliminate evil in service to the good is how evil is enacted in the world. This is demonstrated powerfully in another moment from The Last Jedi, when Luke is shown approaching the bed of Ben Solo, contemplating killing his own nephew to avoid the evil that might ensue. At that moment Ben awakes to this moment of betrayal, and flees to join the dark side. The attempt to eliminate evil in another, blinds oneself to their own capacity, thereby generating evil in the world.
In Finite and Infinite Games, James P. Carse finishes the chapter by stating: “Evil is not the inclusion of finite games in an infinite game, but the restriction of all play to one or another finite game.”
I’ll say that again differently for emphasis: Evil is the attempt to collapse all games, both infinite and finite, into ONE finite game. If there is one ultimate winner, the rest of life loses.
THE CONSEQUENCE OF 'MORE' At the risk of making any statement that generalizes into a pan-indigenous understanding, I have a hypothesis that many indigenous cultures do not have an equivalent word for 'evil' — meaning the presence or possibility of evil as the inherent opposite of good. (See my Facebook post to follow that interesting discussion).
With my aforementioned love of words (and their precision), I feel it’s important to take a moment and define my use of indigenous. The term itself is problematic and tends to draw heated debate depending on where it’s used. True, all humans are indigenous to the planet. But more helpfully, I’m using it here to refer to a people who are still connected and living on their land of ancestral origin.
In contrast, settlers are those people who have relocated, whether through choice or otherwise, to colonize other lands, usually at the deep expense of those peoples who are already living there. ‘Colonization’ is also best understood as not just the theft of land and oppression of people, but also a significant psychological trauma that hides by making itself so normalized as to be invisible by those who continue to 'benefit' from its rewards (more on that later).
It appears to me that intact Indigenous cultures, and/or those who have managed to revive their ancestral understandings and ways, tend to view acts of malice coming not from an inherent 'evil', but from a lack of right relationship.
For many reasons, a sickness may arise in the soul that gives way to hostility, violence and mayhem, whether to oneself or others. And contrary to isolated individual and 'their' problem, this dis-ease is generally not placed solely on the shoulders of the individual, rather, the whole village is tasked in service toward healing. _____
I spoke with a friend Pulxaneeks Love, a woman of the Haisla nation, who has spent years doing important reconciliation work between indigenous and settler cultures. I asked her if her people had the equivalent of a word for 'evil'.
At first, her response was grief. As a woman who grew up two generations after the residential school system, and lived half her life in the realm of the colonialists, she felt the sorrow of what has already been lost in her own story and that of her people.
When she did respond, she said: “We don’t have a word for 'evil' to my awareness, and I know us to have been a very abundant people who didn’t have the need to fight over anything. Words that aren’t often used in daily life can be very hard to find the Haisla word for.”
“But the Haida though…” she continued. “The Haida were a neighboring tribe who would come and raid our villages. They would take our resources, along with the strongest women and men. They were not satisfied with what they already had.”
In this story, Pulxaneeks drew a progression that mimicked numerous other cultures. When a people feel they don’t have enough, they rise to take it from others. This is the origin of war, and from war comes trauma, displacement, and further colonization. _____
Etymology again. Now armed with this nuanced understanding, I pursued the trail of 'evil' back even further, before it became known as: morally sinful actions against the will of God, that is, before the Christian colonization of the Northern European indigenous peoples.
In the Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto, he writes: "The root meaning of the word [evil] is of obscure origin though shown to be akin to modern German Das Übel (although 'evil' is normally translated as Das Böse) with the basic idea of transgressing."
It probably comes ultimately from 'upelo-', a derivative of the Indo-European base 'upo-', meaning: under (source of Greek 'hupo', meaning 'under', Sanskrit 'upa', meaning: 'at', or, 'to', and English 'up', and 'over'), and so its underlying connotation is 'exceeding due limits', or, 'extremism'.
So here we have 'evil' stitched together with the faded fabric of ‘transgressing’ and ‘exceeding due limits.’ Said with a little more flourish, perhaps we could say: Evil was originally understood as describing anything (or any people) that grew beyond the natural limitations of the place that could carry them.
Evil was the trauma that would be unleashed by those who were not able to satiate the seduction for ‘more’, who sought war and displacement on behalf of empire, in other words, growth for its own sake.
A tragic irony then, as it often is, is that once the colonizers rolled in, 'evil' no longer described the expansionist actions of those very people, but instead became anything that went against the will of their one and only God.
As it often goes, in the name of purging the new definition of evil from the world, they covered the tracks of the old understanding, like building a temple to the new god on the rubble of the old.
James Carse says it clearly: “There is much evil that remains beyond redemption. When Europeans first landed on the North American continent, the native population spoke as many as ten thousand distinct languages, each with its own poetry and treasury of histories and myths, its own ways of living in harmony with the spontaneities of the natural environment. All but a very few of those tongues have been silenced, their cultures forever lost to those of us who stand ignorantly in their place.”
By the tip of the sword, then the barrel of the gun, the Europeans demanded that all infinite players collapse into one finite game.
Lest you think the past is history, the same agenda continues to this day. The biosphere is buckling under the weight of an expansionist culture that refuses to acknowledge its mania for 'more'. Ravenous eyes are now set to reach Mars as the next frontier, as if our collective 'deus ex machina' lies with ditching the planet we’ve already messed up and starting over on a lofty, inhospitable, red rock.
But thankfully, there is a new hope.
TOWARD DE-COLONIZED STORYTELLING Perhaps you’ve noticed a recent trend in Hollywood. Though the vast majority of the slurry that comes from the big studios continues to fall in the binary-oppositional range, there continues to be a rising crop of big-budget films that shatter the mold.
Here are just a few I’ve noticed: Lego Batman — Healing toxic masculinity through transmuting grief and rebuilding trust in the village
Arrival — Understanding the role of language and its relationship to conjuring our perception of time. Hint: not all cultures (and aliens) conceive of time as linear.
Tomorrowland — We cannot build a life-affirming future unless we are first able to imagine it.
I submit that narratives like these can be classified as de-colonized storytelling, breaking the trance of modernity that has kept modern humans lockstep in the spells of monocultured universalism.
I believe as storytellers we have a moral imperative to transcend the binary of good and evil, crafting visionary narratives for our personal and collective vitality to flow towards.
Which brings me to the film Moana, one of the best examples of this type of storytelling in recent times. Spoiler alert!
The opening myth of Moana tells the story of how the demi-god Maui steals the heart of the Goddess Tafiti in order to control her capacity to regenerate life. Upon his departure from the theft, he is met by the power demon Te Kā who attempts to thwart his escape. Ultimately, Maui loses the heart in the bottom of the ocean and is banished to a remote island.
Yet the damage had already been done. A sickness spreads throughout the islands, strangling the flora and poisoning the sea life. Eventually it reaches the shores of Moana’s kingdom, and it’s up to her to set out beyond the reef to restore the heart of Tafiti.
Until this far, the film doesn’t deviate much from the typical heroic narrative that most Disney films have followed, the only difference is a girl in the title role. Various adventures and hijinks ensue, until Moana has retrieved the heart and is ready to give it back to the goddess.
In this moment of revelation, for her and the audience, it’s revealed that the Goddess and Te Kā are the same. The demon’s rage is that of the Great Mother scorned, her capacity to generate life stolen by the egoic pride of a Hero.
“I have crossed the horizon to find you…I know your name…they have stolen the heart from inside you…but this does not define you. This is not who you are…you will know who you are…who you truly are.”
The seas part and Moana approaches Te Kā, willing to make contact, where others were only able to make war. The demon softens, and the young princess returns her heart (placing it in the holy spiral), thereby restoring wholeness to the Goddess. The demon’s skin cracks and the vitality of life springs forth again.
To recap: many would agree that humanity, and the entire web are life, are in a collective moment of great peril. Whether this moment is one of extinction or initiation remains to be seen.
“Finite players aim for eternal life. Infinite players aim for eternal birth.” — James P. Carse
On winter solstice last December, I stood gazing at the ocean while the last rays of the golden sun drained from the horizon. I watched the languid waves roll in toward the shore, and was reminded of the phenomenon I read somewhere in a physics essay.
To the uncritical eye, it appears that the water is rolling toward the shore. Yet this is an optical illusion. The water is simply moving in a circular motion, while the actual wave is the energy moving through the water, generated far out at sea.
I sat with this crystal recognition: that I was witness and awash in the energy of events generated long before I was born. And it was clear that my actions will generate ripples that will continue long after this body is gone.
From this vantage point, the individual peculiarities that I believe are 'my life' seem less significant, or perhaps equally significant, than my presence and affect upon the whole.
I am both the wave and the particle.
We are all storytellers. The stories we tell, particularly in this time of mass connectivity, have the capacity to affirm or transform the underlying mythologies of our civilization.
Will you continue to perpetuate the finite games of separation, violence, and war? Or will you choose the infinite game of contact, love, and diversity?
Choose wisely. The future (and the past) depend on what you are now.
Revised and Expanded edition, available Fall 2022.
GUIDELINES FOR PSYCHOPATHS
This section probably does not apply to you.
This section only applies if you are in the 1 percent of the human population lacking a connection between your mind and your heart, resulting in a disconnect between feelings and thoughts. The name for someone in this condition is 'psychopath'. People suffering from psychopathology lack remorse, empathy, compassion, the application of moral considerations to actions, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
Without the basic conscience that allows a human being to live in social harmony, psychopaths cannot be authentically touched. Mental health professionals rarely treat psychopathic personality disorders, as they are considered untreatable. No interventions have proven to be effective, not even punishment, because psychopaths do not associate punishments with the behavior that is being punished.
The reason this section probably does not apply to you is that psychopaths derive satisfaction from their antisocial behavior and would not typically read a book about learning how to feel.
Psychopaths tend to assume there is nothing wrong with them, and think (often rightly) that they are too smart to ever get caught. Learning how to feel would never make sense because why should you bother to fix something as successful as a CEO, a senator, a supreme-court judge, or a bishop?
On the other hand, it could be that you are an atypical psychopath: you have noticed that something is missing and you want to try to find it.
In addition to applying to the 1 percent of true psychopaths, this section may apply to you if you are in the 8 to 10 percent of 'chameleon psychopaths', modernized humans who see hierarchical power positions going to people with psychopathic behavior patterns, so they adopt those patterns themselves. Chameleon psychopaths learn to survive in the service of psychopathic leaders by imitating their behavior and attitudes, pretending to be one of them. This way they gain power and status in the patriarchal empire without actually being a true psychopath, a common but risky strategy. The risk was identified by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in Mother Night, when he said: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Regardless of whether you are a true psychopath, a chameleon psychopath, or are merely interested in transforming the little psychopathic elements of your Box’s defense strategy, here is the deal: if you are willing to admit that you are missing the link between thought and feelings (or if you have been behaving as if the link is missing), you have a chance to live more humanly. The way to do it is to use your remarkable cunning to catch yourself at your own tricks. Only you are clever enough to do this.
Reveal your handicap pitilessly until your world crumbles around you and you hit bottom. Then do whatever it takes to stay there.
Do not let your false psychopathic certainty put itself back together again. Stay broken. Stay vulnerable. Stay in uncertainty, completely undefended, because that which is authentic about you cannot be hurt.
This is a long and pitifully lonely process, continuing over a year or two. The process can neither be shortened nor made more comfortable. I am truly sorry about that. In my forty-two years of working with people, I have found no other effective way. Believe me, I have looked.
The process of becoming more human needs to take its own time. It can help if you decide now, in this moment, to endure the process through to its completion no matter what.
By already establishing a commitment you proactively disempower the clever reasons, excuses and justifications that the psychopathic Gremlin throws up as obstacles to your success. The previously established commitment gives the Gremlin’s arguments no place to get a grip. Radically rely on the process itself. Trust the process. And then work at it.
During this time your job is to take care of yourself in these simple ways:
Stop trying to be in relationship with the opposite sex (or same sex if you are homosexual or using a mixed-gender identity.).
Eat simple healthy food in modest amounts, mostly vegetarian.
Strictly avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sweets, coffee, and sodas.
Exercise daily, moving around until you have to breathe hard.
Sleep more than has been usual for you.
Learn some form of silent sitting practice and sit at least thirty-five minutes a day: same time, same place. No breathwork or mantra. Be still, keep your back straight, and don’t sleep. That’s it.
Participate in a regular weekly martial arts training program if you can. Classic aikido in the Ueshiba Morihei tradition works well for this.
Take up a simple handcraft to give your body something useful to do when your mind is driving you crazy: hand sewing, wood carving, pottery, stained glass, macramé, beading, or any form of Technopenuriaphobia healing.
Make only small positive promises to people, and be hypervigilant about keeping each and every one of your promises.
Work a simple manual labor job that does not require your clever defense mechanisms to activate as part of your profession (such as headhunter, sales manager, lawyer, advertising, etc.).
During this time you will not know who you are. You will not recognize yourself. Even your close friends might question your lifestyle. Life itself may not even make much sense. That is simply how it is in this time. I’m sorry.
Only after nine to twelve months of relentlessly staying in an apparently broken condition – with your carefully orchestrated deception mechanisms hopelessly cracked and withered due to starvation and exposure to radical self-honesty – could you perhaps become reliable enough to ask for help. Asking for or accepting help before then will not do you much good, because your Gremlin will easily devour whoever offers to help you. This would be a bad idea.
Help could at first be meeting with other men in an ongoing weekly Men’s Circle (if you are a man, or Women’s Circle if you are a woman). Try to avoid any groups that are new age or touchy-feely or religiously fundamentalist. The group should be simple and respectful of the value of human life. In such a meeting you would be asked to both listen a lot and share a lot. A fine example of this is the New Warrior Circle, a small local group of men that you can join after participating in ManKind Project’sNew Warrior Training.
If someone commits to help you, your commitment to them should include a ritual vow in which you promise never to deceive them. For their help you must 'pay full price'. The money you pay them is merely logistics. The true price you pay is: sustained defenselessness toward them – you will be completely exposed. Regardless of the intensity of your screaming demons, you sacrifice your conscienceless survival power for the chance to taste what you have never before had: human intimacy.
Your guide becomes a compass providing ongoing feedback about what you would naturally feel in each circumstance if your mind was connected to your heart, thereby giving you a conscience. The feedback would initially address your subtle fast interactions, those which most people would not notice.
Say, for example, that you enter a restaurant together. Your guide’s feedback might be a running monolog going something like this. You would listen attentively, give no justifications or excuses, and immediately do exactly as they instruct:
“Wait. Don’t just march on into this space. It is not your space. You are a guest here. Be interested. Notice the subtle mood created in this space before you enter the space. Make no assumptions. Breathe it in. Notice what is happening here. Each space has a unique mood about it. Appreciating these moods is one of the most satisfying experiences of being human. If you skip over appreciating these mood sensations, you will be endlessly bored and wanting to get into trouble just for your Gremlin's unrestricted hunger for entertainment. Stop walking here. Just stop. You are trying to enter the restaurant space without being welcomed by the Spaceholder. Wait. Notice. Make brief eye contact with that Waiter. That’s too long. You just put your energy into his space as a subtle threat to try to control him. Stop doing that. Trust the Waiter for no reason. Take your energy out of his space NOW and keep it in your own private Bubble. That’s where your energy belongs. Good. Ground your Bubble. Use your Clicker. Yes, like that. Now you are welcomed into the space. Let the Waiter lead you. Keep yourself Grounded as we walk. Do not even look at that woman. Her Gremlin is trying to hook your Gremlin for a little White Widow flirting. Don’t do it. Good. Keep breathing. That feeling coming up in you now, what is it? Yes, that is anger, about 15 percent intense. Do you know why? Because your intentions and actions are so visible and your Gremlin thought you were sneaking around all this time and you are not. Great, now you are lowering your barrier to me again and you are hitting bottom again. Good. Stay at the bottom. You know what it feels like. Just relax there in the hopelessness. Ask yourself: Even here on the bottom, am I okay? Yes, you are totally okay, even if you are not in control. So here we are at the table. That seat is the one your Gremlin chose in order to put your back to the wall so you can flirt with anyone who might pass by. What if you choose a different seat to sit in? Fine. Yes, face the wall and face yourself. Yes, we are just sitting here waiting. Yes, the time is going by and you could get the waitress’s attention, but let’s just relax here and wait. You have the power to choose what the most important thing going on in this moment is. Is it getting our meal ordered? Or is it being here together in this space? Even if you are hungry, are you really going to die of hunger? No, of course not. So what happens if you choose being here together with me? Can you feel something relax when you do that? Yes, the emergency suddenly passes. The survival demon goes back into its cave. You can rest in alertness even if it seems like nothing is happening. Here we are, just sitting together. And look, here comes the waitress! You scanned her entire psychoemotional state just now, did you notice that? How is she doing? Right, she is 30 percent tensed, carries a burden in her heart and her left shoulder. She tries to be nice, but she has been abused and she is a man-hater. Your Gremlin is ready to feed on that, can you feel it? Tell your Gremlin to SIT! Get your Center back from your Gremlin. Take a breath. Be unreasonably kind to the waitress without a motive. Act as if you are always this way. Speak in respectful politeness. That is too fast. Slow your words down. There is not enough caring in your attitude. This is a woman. She is not the mother who abandoned you. She is not the nun who whipped you at school. She doesn’t even know about these things that happened to you. She is just trying to take your order for lunch. Stop being at war with her. Modulate your voice differently so her dignity is respected. Good! That feels totally different, see? Skip the meat, it just makes you aggressive. Take another deep breath and get Centered. Good. Smile just a little, but don’t look at her. Looking in her eyes is the way your greedy little Gremlin sucks out her energy for hors d’oeuvres. Skip all that. Keep it civil and conscious. Take your Center back from your Gremlin. Yes, now we are waiting again. Notice what your fingers are doing. See your right foot tapping? Those are two different feelings, and you’re mixing them together. What are they? Yes, anger in your foot, and fear in your fingers. When you mix them together, what do you get? Yes, hysteria. This is why you work frenetically and drive your colleagues crazy; why you cannot, in fact, maintain collegial relationships. So what is the anger about? Yes, impatience, wanting to hurry things up. Because what happens if you just sit? Yes, see your fingers picking at each other now? The fear increases. So what is the fear about? Yes, afraid of not doing something. And what happens if you are not doing something? Yes, you get in trouble. See how this vicious circle from long ago won’t let you simply be present in your body? But see how your body actually has the feelings and provides you with feelings information and energy, but your mind does not grasp it and cannot use it? That’s the psychopathic disconnect. You’re doing great with all this, just being with me. And hey, look, here comes our soup! Don’t be looking at her crotch like that. Gremlin got hold of your eyes and attention again. See how fast it is? Say, SIT! If you don’t have your attention, your Gremlin does. Take a breath. Get your Center back from your Gremlin. Enjoy your meal.”
Day in and day out, keep opening further to the person serving you as your Feelings Detector. Fiercely direct your own treachery to catch and expose your own treachery.
You don’t have to do this shamefully, just relentlessly.
Allow no deception to go unadmitted. Live in the constant uncertainty of not knowing what is respectful, what has integrity, what includes empathy or what generates true warmth. Be an ongoing request for guidance. Enquire about each gesture, each thought, each word. Be willing to ongoingly not know. Radically trust your guide.
Rely on your guide’s feedback even if you disagree with it, even if you do not understand it, even if you feel scared. You will feel scared. Consciously feeling scared is fantastic! Fear is one of the four feelings. You are getting somewhere.
With each move, each expression, ask, “What should this feel like? What is the appropriate feeling here? Anger? Sadness? How should that feel? Frightening? Why should it feel like this? What if I simply try again?”
Such ineptitude is maddening. Frustration is a form of anger. Aha! Anger is one of the four feelings. You have detected another feeling. Excellent! Keep going.
You are blind. A blind person craves the company of one who can describe a panorama in poetry. Give your guide plenty of safe space and time to bring the world alive for you. Let them expose you to a world of conscience, a world that combines thoughts with feelings. If you are truly psychopathic, empathy and remorse will never be yours. But through respectfully listening to your guide with heart and soul, you can come to authentically appreciate the world of intimacy. Your patient attention will bring you nuance and pregnant moments, the possibility of wonder.
After some time you may find yourself in a moment of joy, and then a moment of sadness, and then a moment of joy again. This is called gratitude: grateful to be alive, grateful that someone would care enough to help you connect, grateful to have a chance to experience life. Sadness and joy are also among the four feelings.
Through a measured cadence your handicap can be transformed. You can use your own painful lack of remorse to serve another person. Your weakness becomes a chance for your guide to use their feelings in ways they never imagined. Through sacrificing your defendedness and trusting another human being, that person can occasionally function as an external living circuit for you, using their own conscience to bypass your inner void and help you join your heart with your mind. A richer world of experience can come together in you.
The other person is serving as your conscience. You can learn to avoid acting until your conscience speaks. If you succeed, then between yourself and your friend you have nurtured a precious collaboration. Congratulations.
End:Civ documentary from Derrick Jensen (full video)
This is Derrick Jensen's most ambitious, important and monumental book to date. The companion piece to Derrick Jensen's immensely popular and highly acclaimed works: A Language Older than Words (Souvenir Press, 2002) and The Culture of Make Believe (Context Books, 2000), "Endgame" builds on a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises: for example, "The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of any economic system," and "The mass of civilized people will never be on our side." Jensen invites readers to imagine a return to agrarian communal life via the disintegration of civilization itself.
The second volume in the Endgame Series examines mankind's means of resistance. Whereas Endgame: Volume 1 presents the problem of civilization, the second volume of this pivotal work illustrates our means of resistance. Incensed and hopeful, impassioned and lucid, Endgame leapfrogs the environmental movement's deadlock over our willingness to change our conduct, focusing instead on our ability to adapt to the impending ecological evolution.