2016/04/07

The Sociopath Next Door musings

This is not really a review. Given it's a commentary on a subsection of the population, it can't really be spoiled, but there is some expectation that you will either read it soon or have just read it.

Throughout this 'article', I'm using sociopath and psychopath interchangeably. People think there is a difference, but don't seem to agree on what that difference is. In this context, I'm using it as defined in the book, i.e. a person without conscience.

I do find it a curious point raised in the book that our culture glorifies sociopathy. Not necessarily just heroes, but the characters in the media we like to watch. The Joker, Hannibal, uh... Others. The movie Seven Psychopaths inadvertently shows us what is wrong with most of these interpretations, in that every "psychopath" is a cartoon version of a psychopath. In The Sociopath Next Door, it takes great pains to affirm that most sociopaths are not violent, but simply use people without remorse to get what they want.

Despite it railing against the ultra-violent psychopathic cartoon character, the book itself bases much of its musings about "Eastern" culture on a somewhat cartoon view of East Asia. Nonetheless, our own predilection towards sociopathic ideals does seem somewhat troubling.

For instance, flagrant abuse of social rules to get what you want is considered ok, as it is the victim's fault they succumbed to your advances. It is the poor's fault that they are poor. Responsibility is only as far as you can be legally held accountable, and only if you think that's likely. And so on.

Certainly, internet trolls seem to have a lot of sociopathic traits, and are held pretty much unaccountable for any anguish they cause. From inside that community, 'clever' operations are glorified, such that even relatively nice people might do them just for the attention or praise.

The book also points out that sociopaths abuse pity in normal people, which has made me personally more aware of when I'm using pity to get something. But it's also made me a lot more aware when it's happening to me. A few nights ago, a random woman joined our table at the local pub. She rather blatantly flopped between either trying to get us to pity her and one-upping us constantly. It made everyone involved very uncomfortable.

The book doesn't at all mention two sociopaths meeting, which I guess isn't really the point of the book. But it would be a curious study, perhaps a libertarian-eye-view of social interactions. Shame.

I had more points somewhere, but right now I'm punishing my liver for existing.

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