The State as Serial Killer


The evil man is the child grown strong. ~ Thomas Hobbes

If one person kills another, he is a murderer. If he kills 100, he is a monster. But if he kills 10,000, he is a hero. And the only way one can become this type of "hero" is through the agency of the State.

The victims of the worst serial killer in the world are but a drop in a lake compared to the political victims of Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler. They are still but a drop compared to the victims of Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR. They're a drop compared to what Bush has done, and to the murders that will be committed by those who come after him. The State is the worst serial killer in the world.

How people can engage in such enormities with a clear conscience is something I understand imperfectly. But I do understand it to a degree. It has to do with our inborn narcissism, which perhaps may be a modern term for Original Sin.

To a degree, everyone is narcissistic. What psychologists call "primary narcissism" is an inescapable -- and universal -- phrase that all people go through as babies and children. We never grow out of it, a good thing in certain circumstances. But taken to an extreme, especially when politics is involved, and we have Hobbes' opening quote.

Our narcissism is what allows us to treat others as things -- to "objectify" them, to see them as objects. Perversely, the more power one person has over others, the more it is necessary to objectify them. Considering the history of the human race, power over others leading to the objectification of them appears to be inescapable. It would certainly explain the accuracy of the story of Satan, as told in the Bible, and in John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Taken far enough, this objectification is an example of the saying, "Power is the horse that evil rides." Power over others is intimately tied to doing evil to them. And power over others -- when those others can do little or nothing about it -- is the definition of political power.

"To some extent," writes Dr. Sam Vaknin, author of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, "leaders of all sorts -- political, military, or corporate -- [objectify people]. In a range of demanding professions -- surgeons, medical doctors, judges, law enforcement agents -- objectification efficiently fends off attendant horror and anxiety."

I don't think it's possible for a surgeon to open someone up with a scalpel and root around in his insides if he always had it in his mind that it's a living human being he's working upon. It's easier for the surgeon's peace of mind (and I'm sure for the horror-free, anxiety-free exercise of his abilities) to imagine the patient is a "thing" that has to be fixed, much like a mechanic working on a car.

Unfortunately, that "objectivity" is almost always part and parcel, in varying degrees, of grandiosity, the belief one is god-like. It explains the popular joke: "What is the difference between God and a doctor?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor."

Healthy narcissism can turn into malignant narcissism. The Greeks called malignant narcissism hubris, and the Bible calls it pride. A one-sentence definition of it is: you're a thing, and I'm a god. It's the reason why humility is considered such a virtue.

Perhaps anyone who actively seeks political power over others is already a malignant narcissist. If that is true, then Satan is a politician, the obverse being, all politicians are Satanic. I think history backs up that observation.

Vaknin's observation is also a great argument for decentralization and small government. It might be the best argument there is. The bigger the government, the more the citizens are going to be objectified. Not "probably." Always. No one has ever found a way around this problem, except to reduce the size of the government. The State always considers itself to be the chosen of God, indeed God on earth. Has there ever been an example in the history of the world when the State did not?

Let's take George Bush as an example of someone who objectifies others. What he's doing is not unique with him. Unlike others, I don't see him as an evil man, or a conscienceless psychopath. He is in over his head, as most politicians are, and is unqualified for his position. But then again, so are most politicians.

People are appalled at his lack of concern for the tens of thousands who have died because of his decisions. But no one should be surprised. No one could remain sane after what he's done, unless there are psychological defenses erected. He can't even look at the coffins of returning soldiers.

Bush has to rationalize what he's done, to distance himself from the effects of his decisions. It's not just him: it's all politicians. It is not possible for Bush, or anyone in his position, to maintain his sanity if he truly thought about the mass murder, the torture, the mutilation, the broken minds and bodies, the lies, and the theft, that wars always bring. He has to deceive himself, to rationalize, that what he has done is right.

In his case, he has decided, for one thing, that God has chosen him to be President. That's an awful big crutch, but I understand why he has to use it. He'd collapse without it. I certainly can't read his mind, but it seems to me he is thinking, "Since God chose me to be President, I don't make mistakes [grandiosity], so the deaths of all those people are irrelevant [objectification]."

Bush is part of the problem, but any President in his position might have followed the same course he did. A bigger problem is the neocons and their plans for remaking the world in their image.

Writes Vaknin: "The narcissist's pronounced lack of empathy, off-handed exploitativeness, grandiose fantasies and uncompromising sense of entitlement make him treat all people as though they were objects . . . the narcissist regards others as either useful conduits for and sources of narcissistic supply (attention, adulation, etc.) -- or as extensions of himself."

Vaknin is speaking of clinical narcissists, but what he wrote applies to everyone in some degree. It especially applies to some people more than others. One only needs to read the writings of people such as William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Richard Perle to realize how Vaknin's oh-so-accurate observations applies to them. I doubt they, or any of the other Would-Be World Conquerer neocons, perceive others as fully human, only chess pieces to be moved around (even if they are destroyed) to fulfill their plans to bring "freedom" and "democracy" to the benighted wogs of the world. They're trying to make the world into an extension of their very bad ideas -- of themselves.

Vaknin's statement echoes what Thomas Sowell wrote: "Most wars, however, are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."

He also made the comment, "If you have ever seen a four-year-old trying to lord it over a two-year-old, then you know what the basic problem of human nature is -- and why government keeps growing larger and ever more intrusive."

Christopher Lasch, in his book, The Culture of Narcissism, had some relevant comments about narcissistic people: "He praises respect for rules and regulations in the secret belief that they do not apply to himself. Acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits, he . . . demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire."

Lasch's quote about praising respect for rules they don't believe apply to themselves explains the Chickenhawk ("You fight and die; I'll yell directions from the sidelines") that all neocons are. And that desire for immediate gratification and "restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire" does not bode well for the US and the world, since they plan on using the former to conquer the latter.

Some people can handle political power. The ones who don't want it. But those who seek out this power are the ones who shouldn't be allowed near it. They are invariably more childish and narcissistic than more healthy, normal people. They are the child grown strong, doing evil to others.

"In malignant narcissism," writes Vaknin, "the true self of the narcissist is replaced by a false construct, imbued with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. The narcissist's thinking is magical and infantile. He feels immune to the consequences of his own actions . . . the narcissist cannot afford to be rejected, spurned, insulted, hurt, resisted, criticized, or disagreed with."

Magical, infantile thinking. Is that not the thinking of anyone who truly believes the US can invade, conquer and remake entire countries in its image? "Resisted, criticized, disagreed with"? The behavior the neocons exhibit when people point out what they really are is something I need not repeat.

Ultimately, the State is childish, narcissistic, and murderous. I can't see any way around that, except to get rid of it. It's astonishing so many people see the State as a good thing. It's almost a form of insanity, if insanity is defined by that old joke: "Trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

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Bob Wallace's picture
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