I'M having to ask myself if I want to be a psychopath.
No, before you think I've been watching too many Sam Raimi films, it should be explained the clinical definition of a psychopath is wider than we'd all assumed. Jon Ronson's book, The Psychopath Test, sees the writer go in search of the true meaning of the term, and Ronson, pictured, reveals that psychopaths are not only the axe murderers, the crazed, they cut right across society.
Very often our business leaders and politicians reveals psychopathic traits, characterised by the capacity not to care. That's why there are liquidators who can take control of a company and make the entire work force redundant without blinking a tearful eye. That's why there are self-serving politicians out there who can close schools or flatten housing estates without a concern for their constituents.
This week Jeremy Vine carried a psychopathy feature on Radio 2, asking the question: "Would you rather be a psychopath?" Thankfully, no-one volunteered a desire to become a creature without compassion. But what's fascinating is we're coming to appreciate there are many people out there who don't actually give a damn.
We've always long assumed there are military chiefs out there who may relish the odd missile strike and there were school teachers whose main function was to make kids' lives a misery. (Newspaper editors, it should be pointed out, never reveal psychopathic traits, but are always entirely empathic and understanding). But now we can understand the psychopathic can also be the bare-faced liars, those who for example, will take others into court, see them prosecuted, without compunction. (Ronson also cites evidence to suggest psychopaths can be revealed by CAT scans, by the size of the amygdala gland in the brain.)
Comedian Bill Burr made headlines by pointing out that while Lance Armstrong, who lied and defamed so many, including newspaper writers, is a psychopath. "We're all pretty lucky he only ever wanted to ride a bike," he said on TV. "As far as I'm concerned, we got off easy. If that guy worked for a corporation, he would have been pouring stuff in the water supply doing God knows what. Just keep him on the bike, just let him go up and down the hills."
So now we're getting to grips with psychopathy. We can watch out for the signs. And contain it. Hopefully. And okay, no I don't want to be a psychopath. But it would be good to have a day off now and again.
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