Is insanity seriously taking over the United States?

For a while, I’ve had a theory that part of the reason that the right has taken over was due to de-institutionalisation of the mentally ill. I’d need to find out when the Supreme Court decision came about regarding this practise. While the more obvious symptom is the homeless mentally ill sleeping on the streets and parks, a less obvious one would be that rational thinking had begun to vanish.

David Schwartz, a practising psychotherapist from Ithaca, NY, published a piece called The Rise of the Second-String Psychopaths June 5, 2011 at CommonDreams.org. While Dr. Schwartz (he’s a Ph.D) doesn’t confirm my suspicion, he mentions something that Kurt Vonnegut wrote about in his final book A Man without a Country where Vonnegut proposes that the U.S. had been invaded, in the same manner as Martians, by people with a particularly frightening mental illness. People with this illness were termed psychopaths. (The term nowadays is anti-social personality disorder.) These are terms for people who are smart, personable, and engaging, but who have no consciences. They are not guided by a sense of right or wrong. They seem to be unaffected by the feelings of others, including feelings of distress caused by their actions. Straying from a decent way of treating people, or violating ethical codes causes no anxiety, the anxiety which is what causes the rest of us to moderate our more greedy impulses. They suffer no remorse, no guilt, no shame. They are free to do anything, no matter how harmful.

The United States corporate and government spheres have become, Vonnegut suggested, a perfect habitat for psychopaths. What has allowed so many psychopaths to rise so high in corporations, and then government, in Vonnegut’s opinion:

“is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin’ day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don’t give a fuck what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich!”

In a country in which much of human culture has been rendered into machines for the manufacture of money, psychopaths are the ideal leaders. They are very focused. They are outcome oriented. They are frequently charming, and usually very bright and able. They can lay off thousands of people, or deny people health care, or have them waterboarded, and it does not disturb their sleep. They can be impressively confident. Psychopaths can be dynamic leaders of enterprises, but are handicapped by their lack of feelings for relationships. They may be accomplished captains of industry, or senators, or surgeons, but their families are frequently abused and miserable. Most psychotherapists have seen the wives or husband or children of such accomplished people.

Since psychopaths are usually very smart, they can be quite competent at impersonating regular human beings in positions of power. Since they don’t care how their actions affect people, they can rise to great height in enterprises dealing with power and money. They can manufacture bombs or run hospitals. Whatever the undertaking, it is all the same to them. It’s just business.

The social environment over the past 30 years has produced an excellent environment for a psychopathic takeover. Unfortunately, this has created an actual labor shortage for psychopaths. Up until recently there has always been a more than sufficient supply of psychopaths of the first intellectual grade to supply corporate suites and their subsidiary, the Congress. Why is there now a downgrade to the dumb ones, like the lowering of standards for military recruits to deal with a shortage of cannon fodder? The only explanation that Dr. Schwartz can find for the rise of the new batch of psychopathic leaders who resemble the usual type in all ways but one: they’re simply not that smart. One has only to look at right-wing not-so-Christian fundamentalists to see the peculiar emergence of a second-string of psychopaths such as Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell.

It is no secret that the Koch brothers and others of the super-rich seem to have undertaken a final push to consolidate control through the conversion of a marginally democratic to an essentially fascist state; extreme right-wing, authoritarian, and demagogic. This kind of government is ideal for control of a populace by the moneyed elite. To carry this out requires the employment of many ‘kept’ politicians to excite and misdirect scared and angry, and ignorant, voters. Lest the citizenry realize who stole their money and storm their castles with torches, the rapacious elite need politicians who will carry out the work of re-directing anger at teachers, or labor unions, or the poor. I can only conclude that the people who now own the country couldn’t find any first-rate psychopaths to carry out their work. Or maybe the smart ones were all occupied. So they had to go to second-stringers, people who could actually believe what they were told to say.

The United States has become second-best, even in the quality of its psychopaths due to the policies of the last 30 years. Nevertheless, madness has been able to take over what was once the world’s most powerful nation and bring it to its knees.

Never expect sanity when dealing with the insane.

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