Sheep, sheepdogs, wolves
In his book On Killing, retired lieutenant colonel Dave Grossman observes that throughout history, only 15–20% of soldiers actually fired on the enemy. About 2% killed without regret or remorse. In contrast, 80% had an intense resistance to violence and murder. Grossman writes:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf.
But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.
We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.
Snakes in suits
Psychopaths have no conscience. They are incapable of empathy, guilt, or loyalty to anyone but themselves.
Approximately 1% of people are psychopaths. This rises to 4% for executives and 8% for criminals. Male psychopaths outnumber females 4:1.
Avoid psychopaths and remove them from your life. They are terrible partners, friends, and coworkers.
Here are signs of a psychopath:
Superficial, grandiose, deceitful
Lacks remorse and empathy, doesn’t accept responsibility
Impulsive, irresponsible, lacks goals
Poor behavioral control, history of antisocial behavior
We estimate that about 1% of the population has a dose of psychopathic features heavy enough to warrant a designation of psychopathy. Perhaps another 10% or so fall into the gray zone, with sufficient psychopathic features to be of concern to others.
Oppressed become oppressors
During the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl noticed some Nazi guards treated prisoners with kindness. He also noticed some Jewish prisoners persecuted fellow prisoners. Frankl wrote:
From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two—the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people.
The presence of psychopaths in all groups causes cycles where the oppressed become oppressors. For example, Joseph Stalin was leader of the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1953. During World War II, Stalin helped defeat Adolf Hitler and liberate Europe. And his socialist policies were celebrated by American liberals. But behind the Iron Curtain, he perpetrated evil on a vast scale.
1960s activist David Horowitz recalled:
I and my former comrades in the Left dismissed the anti-Soviet “lies” about Stalinist repression. In the society we hailed as a new human dawn, 100 million people were put in slave-labor camps, in conditions rivaling Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Between 30 and 40 million people were killed in peacetime in the daily routine of socialist rule.
While Leftists applauded their progressive policies and guarded their frontiers, Soviet Marxists killed more peasants, more workers, and even more communists than all the capitalist governments combined since the beginning of time.
Power is always dangerous. Power attracts the worst and corrupts the best.
Neumann CS, Hare RD. (2008). Psychopathic traits in a large community sample: links to violence, alcohol use, and intelligence. J Consult Clin Psychol. 76(5): 893–899.
Coid J et al. (2009). Prevalence and correlates of psychopathic traits in the household population of Great Britain. Int J Law Psychiatry. 32(2): 65–73.
A survey of 638 adults between ages 16 and 74 found that 0.6% of men and 0% of women met criteria for “possible” psychopathy
70.8% of people had no psychopathic traits
At every level of psychopathy, men outnumbered women 4:1
Babiak P, Neumann CS, Hare RD. (2010). Corporate psychopathy: Talking the walk. Behav Sci Law. 28(2): 174–193.
Coid J et al. (2009). Psychopathy among prisoners in England and Wales. Int J Law Psychiatry. 32(3): 134–141.
Babiak P, Hare RD. (2006). Snakes in suits: When psychopaths go to work. ReganBooks.
Frankl VE. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Beacon Press.
Grossman D. (1996). On killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society. Back Bay Books.
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