The case against MRI scans
Long time, no post. Did you miss me?
(answer: no, we forgot you ever existed)
To get to the single most important reason why MRI scans mustn’t be used against psychopaths in politics, scroll down a little less than half way, and it’s all there in bold.
For some time, this blog and its related projects have been advocating the compulsory MRI-scanning of all politicians in America (and presumably the world) to make sure they are not psychopaths. Any psychopaths that are found are to be forcibly removed from office because, you know, they’re bound to make evil screw-ups of leaders.
Well I say it’s only fair that the other side gets a hearing.
Let’s set some things straight. I hate authoritarianism. I hate corruption. I hate power politics and the class of people who think it’s their right to lord it over the rest of us, to erode citizens’ powers and turn once-great democracies into corporate states. I am an advocate for people-power and for resistance against all forms of tyranny. I am also a psychopath. And, even more crucially, I am against MRI scans for politicians.
Viva la revolución
I have an argument for this, sure, but let me first share with you the views of a friend of mine:
No matter how bad a choice voters make, the elected official is still the one to enact good or bad governance. A good example is Obama. He seemed like an excellent choice based on his campaign. But a very different Obama stepped into office and did things that were, in many ways, opposite of what he promised. Is this because he is a “psychopath?” And, more importantly, does it even matter? Politicians often act corruptly. They don’t keep their campaign promises. I don’t really care if the man is a psychopath or an NT (neurologically typical). He betrayed his base. Why do politicians so often do this? I suggest that even if we brain scanned all candidates and only elected NTs to office, things would go on the same way they have all along.
There is a class of people the Occupy Movement nailed. The 1%. The richest one percent of our society has more wealth the the whole rest of us 99% put together. Money is power. The one percent will not tolerate a politician who is too intent on rocking the boat. They will either buy him or get rid of him. Getting rid of someone does not have to mean killing him. Just bestow enormous amounts of cash on the person’s opponent. Mischief managed.
Many people have studied the problem. Marxists, for example, tell us that revolution is the only solution. The problem is capitalism. Sounds good. It doesn’t look like any of us will live to see a revolution. But who knows, surprise lurks around every corner. Hope is all we have after all.
So Fran (my friend who is the author of the above text) points out that the problem with today’s politics is it is directed by the so-called one percent. The bankers, the CEOs, capitalists at their very worst. It doesn’t matter who’s in political office as long as they run the show, because nothing ever changes.
I am not totally sold on this argument because I do think we can live with capitalism and I’m not holding out for a revolution. And I do think that as long as politicians are not greedy or corrupt, there is no way any corporation can assert its dominance over a government. Maybe that’s asking too much! But I think we can all agree that we should aim for the majority of our democratic representatives to be of good character. With this in mind, it is important to stipulate that how psychopathic some politicians are is not an indicator of how undemocratic or corrupt a government is. Neurotypicals are corruptible too. Some of you probably call these people “apaths” or maybe even “flying monkeys”, I just call them human. Ordinary human beings with no pathology to speak of are sometimes bad people. This is a fact.
But let’s not get too bogged down with blame-shifting, after all I want to write a positive piece about why psychopaths might make good political leaders.
My argument (the really important bit)
In a democracy, where citizens are equal under the law, we all have the right to shape our society, either through voting or becoming directly involved in politics. To deny some portion of the population (i.e. psychopaths) that right (i.e. by excluding them from politics based on an MRI scan) is profoundly undemocratic and anti-egalitarian.
In Britain, and the rest of the European Union, such a move would be illegal under the European Convention of Human Rights. In the United States, it would even be unconstitutional. Think about it. Substitute ‘psychopath’ for any other minority you can think of and imagine a law that forbids them from full political participation.
Such a penalisation is nothing less than taking a demolition ball to democracy and destroying any hope for future equality and good relations between psychopaths and the general population. In turn, this has the potential to open the floodgates for the total exclusion, not only of psychopaths but of anybody deemed to have an “unsatisfactory” mental state, from whatever role in society anybody cares to come up with.
But let’s put that aside for now, and instead examine the reason given for psychopaths being excluded from politics. Tina Taylor says “Policymakers who don’t have the ability to empathise when they are making decisions are naturally limited.” (and yes, that is a direct quote; Tina and I are friends, so naturally we have discussed this issue before). To me that sounds an awful lot like the argument people used to make about women or black people in politics. It is a patronising and insidious way to justify the poor treatment of others.
And it is not true. From my perspective, not being able to easily empathise (let’s not forget that psychopaths do have empathy, so if empathy really is essential to politics, psychopaths are no more limited than anyone else) is an advantage rather than a limitation. Rather than relying on my emotions or my empathetic concern for others, I make decisions based on logic. Using the critical thinking that I have learned both from experience and my education, I weigh up all the pros and cons of every possible outcome and choose the outcome with the most pros and fewest cons. As a psychopath, I will not get de-railed by angst or self-doubt during an emotionally difficult decision. For instance:
Psychopaths have no trouble dealing with the really tough questions politicians are faced with all the time. And they make the right decision more often than not, because they are logically compelled to do so. If you examine the professions which have the most psychopaths, you don’t just see fat cat CEOs and stockbrokers, you see lawyers, surgeons, journalists, members of the clergy, police officers, and… you guessed it, politicians! Everyone assumes that is a bad thing, and that psychopaths only excel in these jobs because of their conniving, back-stabbing ways, but if that were true, wouldn’t psychopaths be in senior positions in every job out there? What if psychopaths simply make good doctors, journalists, lawyers and politicians? What if there are millions of psychopaths out there who are among the very best examples at these socially-vital positions?
Still not conviced? Well…
Good and bad leaders
I admit it, many psychopaths would and do make terrible politicians. Such historical leaders as Caligula, Napoleon and Hitler are often said to have been psychopaths, but obviously there is no way of ever knowing for sure. But just because these despicable people exist doesn’t mean they are representative of all psychopathic politicians. Tony Blair is another politician widely-cited as being a psychopath. Again, we shall likely never know for sure if he is or not, but my “psycho senses” certainly tingle when I see him. Blair’s first achievement was making the Labour Party electable for the time in 18 years, effectively bringing to an end two decades of Conservative-dominated politics. Tony’s time as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is widely remembered for notorious reasons, including joining America’s invasion of Iraq and the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly. But his governance can also claim responsibility for the ending of war in Kosovo, the resolution to the decades-long Troubles miring relations between Ireland and the UK, the start of self-government for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the very first Human Rights Act in Britain’s millennium of parliamentary democracy, which, among many other achievements, once and for all abolished the death penalty and paved the way for legal recognition of non-heterosexual couples and their rights to adopt children and marry. Not bad for a psychopath, eh?
Out of a list of U.S. presidents ranked by psychopathic traits, John Adams, Andrew Jackson and both Roosevelts score near the top. John F Kennedy is at the very top. Even the truly great presidents, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Eisenhower, though further down, are all in the top half of the list. Also near the top are less reputable presidents such as Richard Nixon and George W Bush. The point being that there is good and bad in everyone, and just because somebody is a psychopath does not automatically mean they will be a bad politician, indeed they may be good or even great. In a similar manner, just because somebody is not a psychopath, doesn’t mean they will be a good or trustworthy leader. Whether one is a good or bad politician comes down to a person’s motivation. Those who want great wealth stand a good chance of becoming a corrupt politician. Those who are ideologically-driven to the extreme may just turn out to be a Stalin or a Hitler. And this is true regardless of a person’s ‘psychopathy status’.
We have established that barring psychopaths from political positions is undemocratic, unfair and anti-egalitarian. We have also explored how barring them from politics is not even necessarily going to solve any of the problems and that such moves are likely to evolve into more complete segregation of society. And we have looked at what psychopathic politicians actually look like, and have pointed out that they’re not all that bad.
Let me just finish on a personal note. I am interested in politics, I may very well one day in the far-off future stand for election. If I became a Member of Parliament (the American equivalent would be a Congressman), I would not be interested in lining my own pockets. I am not greedy for financial wealth. I don’t really like money. But I do like power. I would naturally be motivated to reach the most senior position I could. As Prime Minister, or as a cabinet minister, or just as a regular MP, I would treat the creation of a fairer, more just society not as a sacred duty from on high, or as an empathic obligation, or as the morally right thing to do, but as a challenge and a power-trip. And what better way of wielding power or of becoming immortal in history is there than being the one to end corruption, or stop war, or to redistribute wealth equally across society?
If you disagree with this post, why not write a comment below? Better still, write an article in response and tell me why you believe I’m wrong. You can be sure to receive a reply whatever you decide to say.