We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Political Ponerology by Andrew M. Lobaczewski ( Review )

A superb book to jump start the science of Ponerology (utilization of psychiatry, psychology, sociology to study how clinical psychopaths economically and socially stagnate/lead to disaster societies that they rule)

Andrew Lobaczewski joins a seemingly endless list of brilliant Polish expats who only found their place in the sun abroad. This seems to happen when a particular ethnic group's elites do not have the playground of a fully sovereign state to rise in and exert their minds on. In an ironic twist Lobaczewski claimed that a famous fellow expat Zbiegniew Brzezinski ( whose amazing book warranted a review of its own) promised to help promote Political Ponerology but at best did nothing and at worst actively suppressed it. The book itself has been provided online for free in PDF format by some wonderful strangers trying to spread knowledge of it.

So what's special about Political Ponerology? For starters, it utilizes a holistic synthesis of psychology and sociology to create a new science to help explain why "evil" (more on the term later) periods occur in human history. The book is long and aimed at people with some psychological background so the "why" can be explained in a relative nutshell as follows:

[ A specific rare breed of homo sapiens (a.k.a. clinical psychopaths constituting .6% of population) are incapable of proper emotional empathy due to specific inherited neural arrangement of their frontal lobe. There are also some people with similar emotional retardation due to environmental damage in frontal lobe area (think Mike Tyson, Wilhelm II, Stalin, and the famous Phineas Gage).

 "The common factor in the varieties of this anomaly is a dull pallor of emotion and lack of feeling for the psychological realities, an essential factor in basic intelligence.... The average intelligence of the psychopath, especially if measured via commonly used tests, is somewhat lower than that of normal people, albeit similarly variegated. Despite the wide variety of intelligence and interests, this group does not contain examples of the highest intelligence, nor do we find technical or craftsmanship talents among them.... They 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 them."

"Although he deliberately cheats others and is quite conscious of his lies, he appears unable to distinguish adequately between his own pseudointentions, pseudoremorse, pseudolove, etc., and the genuine responses of a normal person. His monumental lack of insight indicates how little he appreciates the nature of his disorder. When others fail to accept immediately his “word of honor as a gentleman”, his amazement, I believe, is often genuine. His subjective experience is so bleached of deep emotion that he is invincibly ignorant of what life means to others."

When these types take over leaderships of ideological/political/religious/social movements by clawing to the top or being born into wealth/power, their personalities:

1) Distort the original meaning of the movements (the final distortions become look alikes regardless of the movement name they publicly mouth)

2) Drive empathic numerically normal people out of them and replace them with low empathy friends and loyal lackeys . These enabler individuals collectively make up to 6% of the human herd and include schizoids and subclinical hereditary "psychopath-lites". The lites are capable of some emotion, caring, and could be socially useful if society exerts energy to steer them in the right direction. However their crushing narcissism creates an addiction to attention (regardless the social cost) of such magnitude that they become natural allies and/or servants of their totally conscience deprived clinical brethren. Most natural politicians fall into this "lite" category.

3) Utilize their positions to economically feed on the human herd rather than improve the herd

4) Reshape the countries they took over in their own arrogant, short term gain focused, egotistical (refusal to see need to keep evolving and to learn from others) image. There are always soft people to be found who emulate successful people or politicians out of blind ambition or deference to power and tradition. Up to a fifth of the population thus ends up copying the manners and thoughts of nasty unpleasant people who are physiologically incapable of emotionally caring about the population they are in charge of. A good example is a manager learning to play golf and laugh at the poor just because his boss does it. These weak people serve as a buffer and ambassadors between psychopaths in charge and the rest of society.

5) Lead the countries they are in charge of into decay and disaster (since essential psychopath's lack of emotional depth, parasitic existence, and impulsivity makes them below average when it comes to technical administration, science, and overall intelligence). This disaster in turn may open the door towards vengeful revolt by a new social movement infected by these same types of individuals ]


The book was written in 1984 and the author noted that Soviet Union was in advanced stages of pathocracy (unhealthy and maladaptive on a macro scale social organization of foxes guarding the hen house) while United States was entering midlevel stage. The early and midlevel stages are those where normal people are completely socially atomized, alienated from each other, and made to fight each other over the ever diminishing crumbs falling from rich/powerful peoples' tables. The advanced stage is categorized by normal people building psychological immunity against people in charge and reclaiming their humanity through forming social bonds again.

"However, our existence is contingent upon necessary links with those who lived before, those who presently make up our society, and those who shall exist in the future. Our existence only assumes meaning as a function of societal bonds; hedonistic isolation causes us to lose ourselves. "

They learn the healthy art of sardonic laughter at their masters (as occurred in the Kremlin dominated space in Eurasia), begin to help each other out as they see they are all in the same boat, and finally begin sharing between each other practical survival tips, alternative news information, and hard hitting gossip about the masters that was previously taboo. Here is more on how declining USA of today is very similar to Soviet Union in 1980s. Normal people are those whose affective brain structures ( rather than linguistic structures) are activated when presented with emotionally loaded words, people who  respond to fear-evoking stimuli, and  who generally rank lower than perfect 100 on Thinking function in Myers-Briggs typology.

The review began with how the above mentioned take over by a small minority results in "evil" periods or times of troubles. Evil of course at first sounds like a ridiculously loaded word to be immediately dismissed by secular intellectuals (considering efforts such as those made by Nietzsche in Genealogy of Morality as well as by contemporary atheists). However the book conceptualizes a pathocratic society overcome by evil as one which dramatically increases (domestically and abroad):

1) neurosis of the population(s) since neurosis is inevitable result of normal people ruled by psychopaths (...anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc)

2) murder/rape/torture/looting etc.
3) economic and social stagnation/disasters

In other words we're talking about a drastic increase in instances of irrationality, decay, violence, and chaos. Such periods have been and are condemned relatively universally by a broad spectrum of humanity regardless of moral valuation, cultural/political affiliation, geography, etc. Even Nietzsche couldn't help but utilize the word "evil" in this broad earthy sense at times. That is because violent social and economic chaos endangers the rich/powerful as well as the poor/weak by creating conditions favorable to revolt, civil war, and/or foreign powers taking advantage.

First couple of chapters are spent to emphasize that one cannot approach the study of how evil grows, spreads, and fades from a moralistic/religious perspective. That is because such approach has always failed in the past by leading to cognitive error, non-empirical solutions, and emotionality that just perpetuates evil. Lobaczewski believes we ought to study such periods from a naturalistic perspective as one would study a colony of insects. Only naturalistic empirical approach to tackle evil can provide increases in human consciousness necessary for creation of international solutions agreeable to most of humanity (at least to those countries not enduring one of the evil periods/phases).

Alright, it still just feels wrong to use evil as an adjective and especially one in a naturalistic setting. Corporate puppets and ideologues like Reagan and of course religious forces have tainted the term perhaps beyond reclaiming. Thus the author's term pathocratic may become more fashionable as it conveys the more digestible image of a social disease. The book explains in satisfactory detail the interpersonal many year process of how pathocracy emerges from a small cold group of egoistic and goes international. The editors of the book are now working on a simplified guide to Lobaczewski's ideas to make them more accessible to the public. I am tempted to turn this review beyond a heartfelt recommendation (that people at least skim the free PDF of the book linked above) into such a guide but it would defeat the purpose of the review. Even integrating quotes was a problem since there were so many good ones (dozens upon dozens that I marked). Lobaczewski seems to have been (he died recently in Poland) amazingly well read and drew from a variety of sources to complement the psychiatric thrust of his material. Regardless of your political orientation and moral valuation, Political Ponerology offers something for everyone and most people will leave more enriched upon reading it.

Happy New Years and the second part of the article consists of some randomly selected lengthy quotes to give a taste of the book with reflections on them for those who aren't tired yet:

"Our experience teaches us that psychological differences among people are the cause of misunderstandings and problems. We can overcome these problems only if we accept psychological differences as a law of nature and appreciate their creative value."

"However, each society on earth contains a certain percentage of individuals, a relatively small but active minority, who cannot be considered normal.We emphasize that here we are dealing with qualitative, not statistical, abnormality. Outstandingly intelligent persons are statistically abnormal, but they can be quite normal members of society from the qualitative point of view. We are going to be looking at individuals that are statistically small in number, but whose quality of difference is such that it can affect hundreds, thousands, even millions of other human beings in negative ways."

This is a controversial point for me since I wrote previously that there is no such thing as normal due to the concept of normal being decided by a number of statistical bell curves (with those who happened to be born quantitatively different and in poor socioeconomic conditions being labeled as abnormal while same quantitatively different born in good wealthy conditions escaping stigma and maladaptive living). However, I admit that past abuses of psychiatric and psychological community in labeling are not enough to reject the concept of abnormality altogether. Lobaczewski seems to be well aware of Thomas Szasz's concerns regarding psychiatry and takes pains so say that global healing will involve one of the biggest acts of forgiveness ever undertaken concerning the psychopathic minority. His conception of abnormality regarding pathocratic individuals seems more akin to how mentally retarded are agreed to be abnormal qualitatively. The difference with the retarded of course is that psychopaths create a large scale damage multiplier effect on society.

"If various circumstances combine, including a given society’s deficient psychological world view, individual’s are forced to exercise functions which do not make full use of his or her talents. When this happens, said person’s productivity is no better, and often even worse, than that of a worker with satisfactory talents. Such an individual then feels cheated and inundated by duties which prevent him from achieving self-realization. His thoughts wander from his duties into a world of fantasy, or into matters which are of greater interest to him; in his daydream world, he is what he should and deserves to be. Such a person always knows if his social and professional adjustment has taken a downward direction; at the same time, however, if he fails to develop a healthy critical faculty concerning the upper limits of his own talents, his daydreams may “fix on” an unfair world where “all you need is power”. Revolutionary and radical ideas find fertile soil among such people in downward social adaptations. It is in society’s best interests to correct such conditions not only for better productivity, but to avoid tragedies."

Right now the brain drain to other nations helps to reduce some of these problems. However not all will flee abroad and some will stay behind to try to create revolutionary trouble.

"Some of these individuals attempt to protect positions for which their skills are not commensurate, while others fight to be allowed to use their talents. Governing a country becomes increasingly difficult when such battles begin to eclipse other important needs."

Note current total paralysis of the American federal government.

"It would appear, rather, that the best candidates for development are those countries whose populations number between ten and twenty million, and where personal bonds among citizens, and between citizens and their authorities, still safeguard correct psychological differentiation and natural relationships.... If someone asked me what should be done to heal the United States of America, a country which manifests symptoms of macropathy, inter alia, I would advise subdividing that vast nation into thirteen states--just like the original ones, except correspondingly larger and with more natural boundaries. Such states should then be given considerable autonomy. That would afford citizens a feeling of homeland, albeit a smaller one, and liberate the motivations of local patriotism and rivalry among such states. This would, in turn, facilitate solutions to other problems with a different origin."

We definitely saw an improvement in functioning in many former Soviet republics after their separation. This is akin to a large stagnant corporate giant like AOL/Time Warner splitting up into parts to improve efficiency. Individual parts are better able to more quickly address burning problems and specialize in what they are good at. USA can easily transform to be an EU style confederacy of at least 5-6 smaller federal unions.

"Dreams of a happy and peaceful life thus gave rise to force over others, a force which depraves the mind of its user. That is why man’s dreams of happiness have not come true throughout history. This hedonistic view of “happiness” contains the seeds of misery and feed the eternal cycle.... During good times, people progressively lose sight of the need for profound reflection, introspection, knowledge of others, and an understanding of life’s complicated laws."

Note whites who grew up in suburbia.

"At the same time, America, especially the U.S.A., has reached a nadir for the first time in its short history. Greyhaired Europeans living in the U.S. today are struck by the similarity between these phenomena and the ones dominating Europe at the times of their youth. The emotionalism dominating individual, collective and political life, as well as the subconscious selection and substitution of data in reasoning, are impoverishing the development of a psychological world view and leading to individual and national egotism. The mania for taking offense at the drop of a hat provokes constant retaliation, taking advantage of hyper-irritability and hypo-criticality on the part of others. This can be considered analogous to the European dueling mania of those times. People fortunate enough to achieve a position higher than someone else are contemptuous of their supposed inferiors in a way highly reminiscent of czarist Russian customs." 

Note the top 20% of population calling poor rural and urban people lazy for doing low wage labor without even a hint of effort regarding contextualized explanatory knowledge.

"This strongly suggests that the separation is biologically conditioned. In the psychopath, a dream emerges like some Utopia of a “happy” world and a social system which does not reject them or force them to submit to laws and customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality would dominate; where they would, of course, be assured safety and prosperity. In this Utopian dream, they imagine that those “others”, different, but also more technically skillful than they are, should be put to work to achieve this goal for the psychopaths and others of their kin. “We”, they say,“after all, will create a new government, one of justice”. They are prepared to fight and to suffer for the sake of such a brave new world, and also, of course, to inflict suffering upon others."

"Egotist nations start wasting money and effort in order to achieve goals derived from their erroneous reasoning and overly emotional reactions. Their inability to acknowledge other nations’ values and dissimilarities, derived from other cultural traditions, leads to conflict and war."

Take any Bush or Brezhnev speech.

"During “happy times” of peace dependent upon social injustice, children of the privileged classes learn to repress from their field of consciousness the uncomfortable ideas suggesting that they and their parents are benefitting from injustice against others. Such young people learn to disqualify disparage the moral and mental values of anyone whose work they are using to over-advantage. Young minds thus ingest habits of subconscious selection and substitution of data, which leads to a hysterical conversion economy of reasoning. They grow up to be somewhat hysterical adults who, by means of the ways adduced above, thereupon transmit their hysteria to the next generation, which then develops these characteristics to an even greater degree. The hysterical patterns for experience and behavior grow and spread downwards from the privileged classes until crossing the boundary of the first criterion of ponerology: the atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological individuals." 

 This means that a society is already well on the way to entering pathocratic period when people like Reagan are seen as normal and their message is not automatically rejected with disgust (as they would have been in 1950s and 60s). Although until recently, the libertarian economic message of totally gutting safety nets was rejected with disgust by most, the mere fact that it is finding a wider audience with every passing day shows we're entering hysterical final stages of the process. In the meantime, citizenry has been conditioned to automaticlly mock and ridicule actual empathic people who want to bring better quality medicine, schooling, etc. To be fair, many are turning to libertarianism as default since there aren't enough competent elites left in high levels of government and corporate hierarchy who can make a difference even if say, Nader was elected (see below).

"Since the managerial functions have been taken over by individuals with mediocre intelligence and pathological character traits, the pathocracy becomes incapable of properly administering anything at all. The area suffering most severely must always be whichever one requires a person to act independently, not wasting time searching for the proper way to behave. Agriculture is dependent upon changing climate conditions and the appearance of pests and plant diseases. A farmer’s personal qualities have thus been an essential factor of success in this area, as it was for many centuries. Pathocracy therefore invariably brings about food shortages."

The key point to take away from this quote is that even if US government elites wanted to provide good healthcare, shelter, and food to the peasants, they'd be unable to due to decades of hiring incompetent cronies all the way down to the village level.

"The most frequently used methods include paralogistic and conversion methods such as the projection of one’s own qualities and intention onto other persons, social groups, or nations, paramoral indignation, and reverse blocking. This last method is a pathocratic favorite used on the mass scale, driving the minds of average people into a dead end because, as a result, it causes them to search for the truth in the “golden mean” between the reality and its opposite."

A good example would be journalists projecting Washington's desire to dominate central Europe and Central Asia onto Russia. Another example is a parasitic hedge fund manager accusing people like Ralph Nader and Michael Moore of wanting to "steal" from productive people by raising taxes on the rich.

 "A third language thus appears alongside the ideological doubletalk described above; in part, it borrows names used by the official ideology in their transformed modified meanings. In part, this language operates with words borrowed from still more lively circulating jokes. In spite of its strangeness, this language becomes a useful means of communication and plays a part in regenerating societal links... However, in spite of efforts on the part of literati and journalists, this language remains only communicative inside; it becomes hermetic outside the scope of the phenomenon, uncomprehended by people lacking the appropriate personal experience."

We see the phenomenon described in Soviet style fatalistic dark humor on the internet and in politically savvy individuals on various alternative news websites who use official terminology of the parasitic class to mock and dissect it. Oligarchy owned media of course cannot comprehend it since the people on television are wealthy and isolated from physical realities of what they are discussing.

"People with various psychological deviations have always existed in every society on earth. Their way of life is always some form of predation upon society’s economic creativity, since their own creative capabilities are generally substandard."

Unlike today, many of the original Wall Street criminals in the 1980s didn't go to school on how to swindle the uneducated citizenry but were simply street smart. American financial sector is prime example of parasitic "creativity" that isn't meaningfully creative in any socially useful way. Considering the financial sector is now up to 20% of the economy, that's a lot of people who work in feeding on the human herd not just domestically but of course internationally. The result on normal people like the author says is mass scale social neurosis.

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  1. There is a reason that psychopaths dominate the media and politics today:

  2. I understand how you felt it was impossible to choose just a few quotes because after I read this book it led me to write an enormous amount in several pages on my site. I also have had mixed feelings about the use of the word evil. I find the word "malicious" can help clear things up sometimes.