Ever since humans attained higher cognitive abilities, men have been pondering the meaning of life and human existence. They have also been pondering the emotions and this is reflected in society today: The masculine gender role has a disdain towards anything emotional or “feminine.” MRAs whine about how men are being “feminized.” The stereotype of nerds and geeks (male of course, because female ones can only be fake) as losers who live in their mother’s basement and play WoW all the time. The demonization of women as crazy, hysterical, overdramatic and overemotional, incapable of reason or logic. Use of drugs, self-harming and sadomasochism in order to numb the emotions. Artificial intelligence as a way of overcoming human “flaws” like – you guessed it – those damned pesky emotions, because emotions make us suffer. Or something.
Ayn Raynd in her Objectivism created a philosophy completely centered around self-interest:
In a way, this could almost seem revolutionary for a woman… To maintain a focus on self in the face of a patriarchal society that seeks to erase women completely.
Unfortunately, her ideas were not only male-centric, but they exalted capitalists and capitalism and literally fetishized rape. Her female protagonists were raped and fell in love with their rapists. Her books would have disappeared into the bin of long ago bodice-rippers, if not for her good timing.
She was basically a mediocre, dime store novelist who showed up when the conservatives of the US needed a mascot for the moralization of the hatred of the poor.
I could literally write an essay about her (indeed, I have) but those are the basics.
Oh, by the way, she also admired a serial killer who killed and dismembered a little girl, then delivered the dismembered parts of her body to her family after they paid the ransom.
And today’s conservatives still worship her.
I have not read any of Raynd’s books, but I have read a number of quotes from her excerpted from her books, and I know eventually I will have to read at least one (preferably watching a movie version like The Fountainhead instead). What is clear to me is her racism, her “primitive savage” tropes, her glorification of Europeans as “real civilization” and bringers of knowledge and freedom. The main character of Atlas Shrugged is a male (John Galt), playing the rugged individualist stereotype to the hilt. I see a lot of special snowflake wannabes treating this as a struggle against mediocrity and as an example of egalitarianism, her unapologetic bigotry as being brave and exercising freedom of speech in the face of dissent (to put it vaguely; really, veiled hate speech). According to Libertarians, it is fine for a business owner to discriminate against whoever he doesn’t want to serve as customers.
And by Ayn Raynd’s accounts, the sociopath is the ultimate rebel, the individualist living in a bubble unaffected by social norms and conditioning, the “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” man who is completely self-sufficient. He doesn’t give a shit about rules or courtesy or emotions, though he appears to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen. He’s great at compartmentalizing, and lives a double life or more. He’s also completely selfish; it’s all about what he gets out of the deal. Chances are I have met sociopaths, but didn’t even know it.
Sometimes, “sociopath” is just a stand-in for “crazy person” or someone who is an abuser or murderer. Regardless of the word you want to use, our society has some fucked-up values.
It is fortunate that we have managed to capture some sociopaths and study their behaviors and personalities. For clarity’s sake, a few characteristics of a sociopath are as follow:
– lack of empathy
– disregard for rules
– use of people as a means to an end
– creation of a “willing” victim
– willingness to get what they want at all costs
Sociopaths are not “mentally ill” in the conventional sense, because they can be incredibly high-functioning, detached and “rational” (which means “cold and calculating” for them). They seem normal. They’re not “bleeding hearts” because they don’t fucking have hearts. Good and evil don’t mean anything to them; they are indistinguishable.
Is the sociopath the ultimate rebel? Let’s see:
- It’s a man’s world, and sociopaths by and large tend to be male; specifically, white males
- Certain countries, like America, are conducive to sociopaths or sociopathic tendencies (if not true sociopathy)
- Politics is a great field for a sociopath; they’re charismatic, charming, etc.
- Even if a sociopath doesn’t commit violence himself, he can commit violence by-proxy (see: politics)
- Sociopaths uphold the status quo as it suits their position of power
- Sociopaths support the “free choice” arguments of sex industry advocates, and doubt that there are victims
- Using people as a means to an end is the norm, we just know it better as objectification: we’re “on the market” for love, we have to meet the customer quota and profit in business, men marry women as status symbols
And here we have some apologism for sociopathy by claiming that there is a fine line between sociopathy and “genius”:
Note the same man, Paul Joseph Rovelli, has elsewhere (in email and on the phone) openly supported men using prostituted women (an antisocial practice) by claiming they are geniuses (ha!) who are so occupied by their creative talents that they “don’t have time” to even pursue seeking sexual partners.
I find it suspect to claim that a “true individual cannot be exploited.” This is a delusion, because one cannot avoid being exploited as long as they are living under a system that exploits people. Even happening to come out on top is still playing the game, being ensnared in it – there is no opting-out of the game to speak of. It is similar to the “happy hooker” trope, where the women are considered to be invincible and invulnerable.
On the contrary, the glorification of sociopathy is a bunch of ego-stroking and navel-gazing. So no, I’m going to need more than worship of the worst human qualities as a criteria for a rebel. Sociopathy upholds the status quo, and Objectivism continues capitalism; the idea being that there is nothing wrong with the world, just your relationship to it:
“The corporate world sees that it can make its workers more self-reliant, balanced and focused. What could be better? Take your medicine, because the mindfulness movement is symptomatic of what late capitalism requires of us. A contemplative space opens up where religion used to be. We learn techniques to make us more efficient. This neutered, apolitical approach is to help us personally – it has nothing to say on the structural difficulties that we live with. It lets go of the idea that we can change the world; it merely helps us function better in it.”
Ever heard of the phrase,”It’s just business?” Well, this is compartmentalization in action. Under this worldview, murder is just business. Sex is just a service where there are “good” women you love and “bad” women you use. A man who murders and is covered in blood and guts, or who rapes women, has no problem going home to dinner afterwards, acting like nothing has happened. Other people rationalize it away or attempt to reconcile with cognitive dissonance; the sociopath, apparently, has no such conflict.
In modern psychology, cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. In other words, people want reality to conform to their preconceptions.
The dissonance part is uncomfortable, sometimes unbearably so, and people WILL try to alleviate the feeling.
According to Festinger (the guy who coined the phrase in his book “When Prophecy Fails.”) they will try one or more of three solutions;
1. They will ‘lower the importance’ of one of the dissonant factors.
2. They can mitigate by adding in ‘consonant’ or positive factors.
3. Or they can simply change one of the dissonant factors.
— Bill Moody
It is true that to a degree we are expected to compartmentalize, as in “putting on your game face” for work or not bringing personal problems to work and vice-versa (bringing work problems home); if you don’t, you are seen as disturbed and not a good worker or partner. The difference is in not having a conscience and in the ability to dissociate – compartmentalization in this sense is used to isolate or wall off undesirable feelings, negative behaviors and hypocritical beliefs, a set of double standards, of being numb to violence and pain. Amoralists and nihilists love to degrade having a conscience as just another way that Christianity gets people to feel shame and guilt, but this implies there is no such thing as ethics or morals outside of organized religion. Having a conscience lets us know when we are harming others, without being dependent on outer authority.
There is a caveat to living in accordance with your values: it is individualistic. This is not to say that people cannot live in accordance with their values without being a sociopath, just because we all have to make some manner of compromises under a patriarchy. But it does come with a lot more struggle, struggle which is distasteful to many people. Women will be called “crazy,” but then again women are called “crazy” anyway.