The world is now subject to more peacetime social, national, economic, and financial tensions than at any time since the run-up to WWII. Current belligerent gamesmanship has a close parallel to the situations in Asia and in Europe eighty years ago. In the 1930s it was Hitler moving illegally into the Sudetenland and into Austria on the pretext of protecting German speaking nationals while at the same time Japan was invading Manchuria and China. Now it is Russians moving into the Crimea and possibly into the Eastern Ukraine to protect Russian speaking nationals and China is making a naked grab for control of the territory of other states around the South China Sea.
Of the many varying factors in the current gamesmanship, there is a remarkable continuity of characters and actions with distinct similarities to the events of the past. There is always a leader who employs pathological dishonesty to score propaganda points and justify his actions. This leader assumes a superior attitude, and his followers agree with the leader’s self-assessment. The leader presents a fake but appealing public persona and a very nasty private and lawless persona which he tries to hide from those whom he needs to favorably impress. The leader has a claque of enablers, including his propaganda elements, overt and covert operatives, and other supporters. The leader’s nasty private persona is displayed to those who must be intimidated or to enablers who look with favorability on such nasty displays. There is always one or more artificial manufactured crises in need of solving. There are always real crises that are ignored and are compounded by being ignored. There are always national, ethnic, social, religious, or class divisions to be manipulated and exacerbated. These divisions create gullible and fanatical supporters who are exploited for the leader’s benefit, and also create designated opponents who are exploited for the leader’s benefit. The leader’s operational mode includes audacity, and audacity is often successful because it comes as such a surprise to more conventional thinkers who follow the rule of law.
Russia agreed to international rules in the Crimea and violated those rules. China agreed to international rules in the South China Sea and is now moving to occupy territories of other nations in violation of those rules. Both China and Russia are members of the United Nations Security Council, and both act in violation of the UN Charter, CHAPTER VII: ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION.
It is not just in international relations that the rules of the game are being flouted. Obama promised many things in regard to Obamacare and now you can’t keep your doctor, or your plan, or your money. Militant Islam encourages dishonesty to achieve Islamic goals of world domination. Each of these actions is an example of pathological dishonesty. Intimidation and audacity are rampant among these pathological liars.
The real crises in the USA are the increasing loss of freedoms, the national debt, and growing corruption; the artificial manufactured crises are Obamacare and global warming or climate change or whatever they call it next. The real crises in Russia are lack of freedom, demographic failure, corruption, lack of infrastructure, and over-reliance on extractive industries; the artificial manufactured crisis is Crimea and before that, Georgia.
The recent Russian attack on the Ukraine is just such an audacious action, catching the whole world off guard. Such leaders often are capable of moving enablers and supporters to massive effort and fanaticism in support of a cause, and the support continues well past any possible positive outcome. Invading Russia was a dubious undertaking by Germany and after Stalingrad it was national suicide, but the fanaticism persisted. These leaders’ little dramas always end in failure, and all supporters and all opponents suffer great social and economic costs as a result of the leaders’ failures.
Similar scenarios played out in Stalin’s Soviet Union, in Hitler’s Germany, in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in Putin’s Russia, and in the current situation in Obama’s United States of America. The various supporting players can be identified by function and often by name within each scenario. It is like watching many re-makes of the same movie with different actors and different stage settings each time. It might have been interesting at one time if it had not resulted in so much death and destruction.
Some years ago, Games People Play was a very popular book by Dr. Eric Berne, and the book described a number of recurring psychological games, ranging from relatively benign to savagely criminal. Dr. Berne’s system was known as Transactional Analysis (TA) and was a superb tool for descriptive purposes, but was weak for analytical purposes. Transactional Analysis remains a prominent tool in Great Britain and Australia, but is now less known in the USA where it was dismissed as “pop psychology.” This is unfortunate, because of the insights that Transactional Analysis offers in our current situation. By the standards of TA and by tabulation of costs, the games we have been playing during WWII and continuing to the present are the most destructive games in history, killing tens of millions of people and destroying and wasting trillions of dollars of value. Transactional Analysis games follow repetitive and predictable patterns and repetitive and predictable failures. Even family and local TA games contain similar characters and similar scenarios, with reduced numbers of participants.
The popularity of Transactional Analysis peaked in the 1970s, and psychological understanding has made major strides since then. The “leaders” described above are now known as psychopaths. Psychopaths come in many flavors: serial murder psychopaths (John Wayne Gacy), corporate psychopaths (Jeff Skilling at Enron), financial psychopaths (Bernie Madoff), and political psychopaths (the leaders described above). Natural disasters produce relatively few casualties compared to the psychopaths of WWII. Even the victims of insane school shooters and theater shooters, horrific as they are, are negligible compared to the millions killed by the psychopathic Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.
School shooters are usually found to have a thinking disorder and are therefore identified as psychotic or insane. Psychopaths have a personality disorder and are rational, but with an extremely deficient value system. Psychotics and psychopaths are often confused with one another, but psychopaths are orders of magnitude more destructive and deadly than are psychotics. Psychopaths are further subject to co-morbidities: kleptomania, substance abuse, sexual insufficiency and predation, etc., and these co-morbidities often play a role in their psychopathic behaviors.
Psychopaths overall constitute about one percent of the population and are strongly represented within prison populations, though not all convicted criminals are psychopathic. Organizational psychopaths tend to be of higher intelligence and abilities, and gravitate to positions of power and wealth. Organizational psychopaths tend to avoid overt criminal actions and prosecution for the most part, but are no less bullying and destructive.
Remarkably, the solution to the psychopath problem is quite simple. There are relatively few psychopaths and they are quite randomly distributed, but professional psychologists led by Dr. Robert Hare are becoming quite adept at identifying psychopaths. The psychopathic condition is thought to be substantially incurable at this time.
All children show psychopathic behaviors when very young, but most are successfully socialized to avoid long-term psychopathic tendencies. Foreign and domestic leaders should be screened early for psychopathic tendencies before they are allowed any degree of responsibility. Budding psychopaths approaching adulthood can be identified with current psychological tools. The alternative to stopping psychopaths early is more waste, more corruption, and more deaths over the millennia.
Persons displaying psychopathic tendencies may now be identified, surveilled, and monitored with existing tools similar to the ways that sexual predators are identified and tracked. The major problem in ending the bad effects of psychopathy is recognition and acknowledgement of the nature of the problem. Dr. Hervey Cleckley made the initial clinical description of psychopathy in 1941 to almost no immediate effect, and we have slowly gained knowledge and experience with psychopathic phenomena over the years. Psychopathy is complex and counterintuitive and has therefore been slow to register, but we now have the tools to solve the problem if we have the will to do so.