Sounds depressing doesn’t it? Just think about that phrase for a minute…it’s outrageous isn’t it? Why don’t you do a little “Google search” for a few minutes and read a few things I did earlier this week. Check out the following:
Let me say as I continue here – I’m not going to get “overly religious” with this short post. Although there are obvious conclusions and statements of faith that could be (and, truthfully, should be) spoken, I’m looking at the PURE realism of something that is fast becoming a reality in contemporary culture – that being, systemic sociopathy. You know what that means? Essentially, moral and ethical anarchy.
I have listened intentionally to the major stories in the news over the past weeks. From Lance Armstrong to the Notre Dame football player to the continual discussion in sports about P.E.D. (performance enhancing drugs) and to the droning effect of our nation’s divisive and hostile political climate…from the Bernie Madoffs of the world to the Presidents who look straight into a camera and argue about the definition of “is” – it is all the same story, different day. Sociopathology. You tell me…here is a “short list” of what is now called, “antisocial personality disorder (short for sociopathy):
Anti-social personality disorder is characterized by at least 3 of the following:1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others;
2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations;
3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them;
4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence;
5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment;
6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.
Hard not to jump to conclusions, isn’t it? For example, I read some of the transcripts of Lance Armstrong’s now famous interview with Ms. O. Mr. Armstrong did not have a bit of shame for promoting years of lying, bullying and deceit. In fact, the only reason he felt badly about anything is because it was going to cost him money (at least temporarily). He said he felt like he was getting an unjustifiable “death sentence” and that it wasn’t fair for people to critique his life and behavior. Now, there are many who are willing to look the other way because the guy is famous and rich. In addition, his foundation has raised a half a billion dollars for cancer research. So, in some eyes, the “ends justifies the means.”
Now, again, I will walk away from the temptation to explore the philosophy that the “ends justifies the means.” That will have to be a discussion for another post. Without even making one statement of critique, let me say this, a lifestyle of believing that “the end justifies the means” has become a mantra for contemporary living for many people. From resisting personal responsibility for an inherent laziness to addictions to video games and video violence…from people blaming fast food restaurants for their weight problem to students who blame teachers for their “less than average” grades (every, single semester in my college teaching career I have a minimum of 20% of students who want to argue their grades despite the fact that they did not do the work). We have starlets who aren’t in jail for repeatedly driving drunk and we have football and other sports stars who are so spoiled by the constant adulation and a culture of “fame worshippers” that they feel that they are above personal guilt for any of their actions. All these examples have one thing in common – they all fit within the above description of sociopathic behavior.
I heard the other day on a television show (a panel was discussing current events and the history we have in the most recent decades of denying truth, boldface lying and deceit-filled living especially among those public figures whom we are challenged to trust) some shocking but true words:
“Being famous and being cool is more important than being moral. Having fame and coolness is more important than shame.”
I must admit, I wasn’t carefully watching the show. I was actually on the floor playing some tug-o-war with my dog but that phrase SCREAMED at me as if I had a massive speaker system blaring over 120 db. straight into my ears. I paused for a moment and without a hesitation or rationalization I said “YES, that’s true!” I guess that being cool gives you a personal pass these days to do what you want. Fame and narcissism allows you to do anything and say anything and act anyway you want without the potential of negative repercussions. It is simply THE excuse, THE rationalization and THE way that most people live their lives – it is as if they were “giving the finger” to the world as they prepare to tell their next lie, blame the next person, or act in another irresponsible manner.
This is NOT a proclamation of fatalism nor am I attempting to judge culture…all I am attempting to do is observe what we see taking place around us. I think we have “cried wolf” enough times about lying that it is now inculcated into our existence in a manner where shame and guilt does not alter the story. And friends, that is simply sad. What more is that it is an epidemic that has crippling implications. There is a level of cynicism in society that is palatable…there is a level of distrust that actually perpetuates or “juices up” the problem because if everyone is a liar and out for themselves (without guilt or shame) then it is every “man and woman” for themselves and the “end does justify the means.”
So, I’m going to stop here…not very uplifting but an observation that I am in the process of processing. Call it what you will this is a well-embedded cultural dilemma of which there is no simplistic answer. You would think enough lessons from the school of hard knocks would correct the listing of the ship but that’s not what I have experienced. Sociopathy births more sociopathy. And you know what? We might not see a change until the whole system implodes. If that is the coming scenario, God help us!