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Psychopaths etc.

Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.

Psychopaths Etc. : harley waddell : 2005-10-14

Dear Roedy,

I have been reading your site for a couple of weeks now and I quite like it. You have made many good points. Your guide to computers is one of the best I have read and much more helpful than any commercial computer buying guide. You have written one of the most thought-provoking essays on consciousness I have read.

However, I find a few of your arguments to be irrational and in a few cases disregarding the facts. Here are a few I take issue with:

1. Your claim that all people who join the military are psychopaths. I know a man who joined the military voluntary and did two tours in Viet Nam. He is cynical about the war in Iraq and questions the wisdom of involvement in Viet Nam in the first place. He now lives in predominantly Viet Namese neighbourhood. He has said some of the most intelligent things about war and violence I have ever heard. Claims people like him are nothing more than sociopaths are revolting and childish.

I must admit I am so disgusted with what soldiers do, that I well could have been inaccurate. Let’s examine. What is a psychopath? The Yahoo online dictionary defines it as a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse. That fits to a tee anyone would would kill children for the paltry inducedemnts of army pay. However, there are a few who would better be described as delusional. They are so naïve that when they torture children in Iraq, they imagine they are protecting their loved ones back home. They are still without empathy or remorse, so I would still classify them as psychopaths.

Admittedly psychologists are unwilling to label even the most antisocial behaviours psychopathic when large groups of people exhibit them or when powerful men exhibit them. That is just cowardice. The behaviour is what matters.

There are a tiny few who develop conscience and only a handful who act on that conscience and refuse to continue killing or aiding and abetting the killing. Your friend in Viet Nam I put in the same category as people on death row who have had time to reflect about past misdeeds, but that does not excuse them. His original behaviour was just as homicidal as anyone’s on death row.

2. Your comments on tobacco. Tobacco is not addictive in the true medical sense. Tobacco is addictive in the same way sex, television, the Internet, or chewing gum is addictive. You seem to have little problem with marijuana, but marijuana contains more cancer cause chemicals than tobacco. Also, your claim that children of mothers’ who smoke are three times more likely to become a criminal is specious. Wouldn’t economic factors be a more relevant factor in crime than tobacco use?

I don’t know what your source for the claim tobacco is not addictive, but I have been told by addicts of both that nicotine is harder to kick that heroin. Further, I have watched people trying to kick tobacco and they are definitely suffering. Caffeine is mildly addictive. I don’t experience anything like that degree of discomfort when I stop using it. Not even the tobacco companies are trying to keep that old lie alive.

My arguments or marijuana are for decriminalisation and replacing alcohol use with marijuana — harm reduction. I don’t use it myself and I don’t recommend others use it. The problem from cancer is much more of a problem from tobacco because typical use per week is much higher with tobacco. You would have to be a statistician and read the original paper to determine if the study on children of smokers was flawed in the way you claim. My understanding is second hand smoke is harmful no matter what economic status you are. It has been linked to SIDS deaths too.

The people I trust most for such data are the insurance companies. They have a vested interest in seeing their customers live a long time. You seem to trust the tobacco companies. If you went to the Philippines and saw how they sell tobacco for toddlers as medicine that trust might evaporate.

3. Blaming the media for violence. Come on, this is the sort of thing that limp-dick right-wingers do. You should know better than that.

It is not the entire cause, but it is obviously part of the cause or why is they army bothering to fund violent video games? The main way people learn is by repetition and play rehearsal. Thus it would be very odd if video games did not teach violence. The proper way to approach the issue is to measure the effect, not pontificate based on ideology.

You are a very intelligent person, probably more intelligent than me. But you really should look at things at different angles and calm down a bit. Try to take all facts into consideration.

I think your problem is accepting claims as facts without checking multiple sources and thinking about the vested interested of those who give you those facts.

Thank you.

Harley Waddell

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