We have spent an large amount of time on this site examining the psychopaths who are estimated to represent around 1% of the population. We have often focused on the micro level of human interactions, but what about moving up to the macro level and looking at society as a whole? Can western society and culture be considered psychopathic?
Large parts of western society can certainly be considered psychopathic, since psychopaths by their nature tend to gravitate towards the areas of society where they have the most power and control over others – politics, business and media. They then use this power to remould these areas in their image and create a culture and mindset which matches their own.
Evidence of the psychopathic aspects of society can be seen all around us from the levels of violent crime, to the daily injustices people suffer in the political and business spheres, and the constant tendency towards lying and deception by large parts of the western media. In today’s world, immoral or amoral behavior is often rewarded and moral behavior remains unappreciated and unvalued.
High Level Business is Extremely Psychopathic
We have covered this issue extensively in our psychopathy in the workplace articles. Large parts of western business, particularly the corporate upper echelons, have become extremely psychopathic.
In the high level corporate and financial world, you will often find a ruthless, win-at-all-costs attitude where people will do whatever it takes to get the results and advance their own careers. They have no problem trampling over others to get to the top.
This has been backed up by a 2010 study we have cited numerous times, conducted by psychopathy experts Robert Hare and Paul Babiak. In it, they studied the character traits of more than 200 high level executives, finding that there was a significantly higher proportion of people with psychopathic traits in the upper levels of business.
This demonstrates that high level western business does indeed seem to encourage and reward those with psychopathic traits, and they appear to be concentrated more heavily in this area. See our article on whether psychopaths make good CEOs for more on this issue.
This approach is exemplified in the “nothing personal, just business” mindset which now infests so many areas of upper (and lower) level business. This mantra has become a perfect excuse for psychopathic characters to hide behind to justify their poor treatment of others to advance their own ends.
This phrase has now lost so much of it’s credibility, since it has too often been hijacked by psychopathic characters to rationalize away how they are treating others.
There is a difference between someone having to make a difficult decision in business and hating every minute of it, and a psychopath who will say all the right things but really doesn’t give a damn about other people and even jokes about destroying people’s careers and livelihoods. Too often it is the latter type of person who is hiding behind this mantra.
This mindset has also filtered down to lower level retail companies, with reports of poor treatment of employees by middle level management in these lines of work only increasing as time goes on.
The stagnation many western economies have experienced since the financial crisis of the late 2000s, with many economies never really recovering strong growth, has shifted the power back to the employers in many areas. If a worker is not happy with their conditions or treatment, it is not so easy to walk down the street into another job as it once was.
This puts the employers in a position of power in many cases and is the perfect breeding ground for psychopathic cultures to form where people are treated poorly with the implicit message being “What are you gonna do about it? If you don’t like it, leave”, knowing that options are often limited in many areas of work now.
An excellent summary of how and why high level Western business has become so psychopathic. See here for the full video from which this clip was taken.
Psychopathy in Politics
Another area where psychopathy is very prevalent is in the upper echelons of politics, where again these traits of dishonesty, ruthlessness and desire for power are very beneficial and serve people well. Most people recognize that western politics is dishonest at the core, with constant lying, half truths and misinformation on both sides, so straight away this milieu is a perfect place for a psychopath to flourish.
The psychopath who will sweet talk a target in the micro relationship level, before then devaluing and discarding them, can play the exact same game on entire populations in politics. He gets elected promising all the things he knows his target voter base will like, then immediately betrays the promises as soon as he gets into office. Top level western politics is in many ways the perfect fit for a psychopath.
Politics also offers an excellent facade or mask for the psychopath to hide behind, since they can pretend that they really are a well intentioned person that wants to do good for society and is entering the world of politics to “make a difference”. See our article on the professions psychopaths gravitate towards for more on this.
The power factor is also a huge lure for psychopaths, since so many of them crave for power and control over others and want to remould the world in their image. Hitler was of course a pretty extreme example of this with his hateful ideologies, but all psychopaths have this desire for control to some extent and the political sphere is the perfect place to play this out.
Psychopaths often also consider themselves superior and other people inferior, which is the perfect mindset for upper level political elites, who believe one rule applies to them and another to the “great unwashed” masses down below.
This arrogant mindset is prevalent in politics and is the driving force behind so many of the corruption scandals we see with politicians, where they believe they are above the laws that are enforced on everyone else.
The psychopathic trait of extreme control is also another factor which is showing up more and more in the political sphere, with more and more surveillance and restriction of civil liberties going on around the world now.
The creation of these “police state” forms of government, where everything you do is watched and monitored, is symptomatic of the growing psychopathic nature of government in so many countries. People around the world are realising more and more that they don’t have rights but only a list of temporary privileges which governments will suspend whenever they see fit.
The toxic nature of modern politics is created by, and therefore draws in, psychopathic characters
Psychopathy in the Media
The media industry is also another area of society which is deeply psychopathic, since it pays to be dishonest in this field. Publishing misleading or plainly false accusations and stories about people, conducting smear campaigns and ruining a person’s career and reputation are all fair game in this industry. In this sense it is perfect for psychopaths without a conscience.
In a wider sense the media industry also thrusts blatant sexuality, materialism and other intrusive advertising into all corners of society, and also often glorifies the psychopathic traits we already mentioned in the fields above by portraying these people as heroes in movies and TV shows.
These aspects of the media have always been there but have grown worse as the divisiveness in politics has also grown in the last few years especially. Nevertheless the trend of falling trust in media has been gathering force for years and more and more people are turning away from traditional news sources and getting their information from elsewhere.
The growth of fake news and relentless bias has destroyed trust in mainstream media and there seems to be not even any attempt anymore to hide the dishonesty. Polls demonstrate this has been going on for a while and similar trends are evident when people are polled on their trust of politicians and the police.
Levels of trust in US Mainstream Media
Trust in the mainstream media has been declining for years, currently hovering at around 30% of the population at best and continuing to fall.
The Common Denominator of Power
The unifying priniple of all these areas where psychopaths tend to gravitate towards is power and control. Psychopaths are disciples of power and will go wherever they can get it.
Some vent their need for control over others in terms of physical violence and end up in prison, some of them infest the lower levels of society harassing others, but many gravitate towards the top levels of society where they can have the most power and influence.
Whichever way you look at it, we repeat what we have stated in other articles – psychopaths may only be a very small portion of the population, but they are in some ways the most significant, since they tend to gravitate towards these positions of power in society.
There is therefore a concentration of people with psychopathic traits at the top levels of business, politics and media, where they can have the most influence on society. Therefore it should be no surprise that these power seekers have moulded society in their image and caused large parts of it to be psychopathic.
Can Anything Be Done?
Recognizing the psychopathic aspects of society is one thing, but can anything be done about it? If so many of the psychopaths gravitate towards the top and have all the power, is the situation not hopeless?
The first step is for awareness to grow of the dangers of psychopaths and the psychopathic society they create. Far too many people still hold onto the cliche belief that the only psychopaths are the ones in prison for murdering others. These are in fact only a small portion of all psychopaths.
The reality is that most psychopaths are non violent predators who roam free in society and seek out positions of power in personal and social circles, and these are the psychopaths people need to wise up to. We need to start spotting these people with glib, superficial charm and dishonest, manipulative characters more readily and resist their influence instead of being taken in so easily by them.
The growth of the internet has also been a great advance for people in fighting against psychopathic political and media entities, since it is an unfiltered source of information that can cut through the bias and misinformation that is so often embedded in information from official or mainstream sources.
The growth of Youtube and other online platforms allows people to bypass mainstream media especially and have access to different perspectives and more complete information on events. The large news corporations and politicians don’t have the same control over the narrative that they used to and this is one reason governments around the world are trying to control and restrict the internet more and more.
In terms of the toxic political sphere, more and more people are turning against this in the form of separatist and protest movements such as the Yellow Vest Movement springing up in many countries now. People are fed up with the same old career politicians lying to them and are throwing out whoever is in power and voting for more radical or outsider candidates, whether left or right leaning.
Some people believe this is the way to go; other people believe in disengaging with the political system completely since it has become so psychopathic and corrupt at the top levels. Either way people are starting to fight back against the abuse of control and power they are seeing and demanding some change.
The problem is that these changes are too often an upgrading of the same corruption with a new younger face, who will say all the right things but under whom it will be business as usual for the political elite – “Corruption 2.0”, so to speak. Time will tell whether the growing trend of civil unrest and protest will bring any change about in the top levels of society.