Why do some strive for it, and others strive for the opposite?
I found myself wondering about it yet again as I watched on TV Pope Francis speak to the Inuit in Iqaluit yesterday. He was on the final leg of a penitence mission in Canada in which he addressed the genocide of Indigenous Peoples committed by the Roman Catholic Church in the past. And he apologized to some of the now-elderly victims — “the survivors” — for it in face-to-face meetings, as well as conducted masses and preached to all who would listen.
I was inspired. I admired him for both doing all that, and for the road he had chosen in life. Whether we buy into the supernatural belief systems of organized religion or not, Pope Francis is a man of peace, and the bottom line for him is brotherly love. That is what he represents. And I felt that from him yesterday.
Seeing him reminded me of what we should all be striving for every day. I guess that’s why some people go to church every week: to get a booster shot of purity.
Of course, the vast majority of people know in their hearts that brotherly love is a universal principle we should strive to embrace each and every day of our lives. But we get caught up in whirlpools of distrust and anger. We stray. Still, though, the majority are good at heart, I want to believe.
But not everyone. Take Vladimir Putin, for example. Destiny has given him a great platform. So why has he abused it? Why isn’t he more like Pope Francis?
Putin cannot justify what he has done in Ukraine. He breaks the most fundamental of laws: Thou shalt not kill.
It is the classic good vs. evil story. But why did he choose evil over good?
One does not have to believe in supernatural beings to choose good over evil. Goodness is in our hearts from the moment we are born.
With exceptions, it seems: Vladimir Putin, Adolph Hitler and other tyrants in history who pass up the opportunity to spread love and goodness in favour of hate and terror. Were their hearts defective from the start?
And what about the people who enable them? What of Putin’s righthand men? And Hitler’s? And those of the other tyrants? Why are they indifferent to the evil of their masters?
I also couldn’t help but think yesterday that some future Russian leader will be making a similar pilgrimage some day to apologize for Putin’s crimes against humanity — that is, if Putin doesn’t wipe out the human race.
I really think that being a psychopath has advantages when climbing the ranks of government. This is especially true when you’re either in an authoritarian regime or a situation of utter chaos. A psychopath is someone inherently who lacks human empathy and one way it manifests is an extreme level of “ends justify means” thinking. His “objective” is to go down as one of the great leaders in Russian history. He likes Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Stalin, all of whose hands are soaked in blood.
Psychopaths can be extremely adept at mimicking whatever emotions give them the most leverage at the moment. They make great con artists. They are also very good at lie detector tests because being false causes no emotional disturbance. Lacking empathy, people are just tools to be manipulated.
We consider murder to be evil because we empathize with the victims. If you lack empathy it stops being evil. As Stalin famously stated, “One death is a tragedy, a million are merely a statistic.” Unfortunately, there is no way to counter someone like Putin or Stalin without being willing to kill his forces in return.
Yes, “psychopath” is the key word there, I guess. But that is a mental illness, too. Could it be treated with drugs? How about cannabis? Maybe all Putin needs is a good toke to see and feel the error of his ways.
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I guess some psychologists don’t call it psychopathy or sociopathy anymore. They lump them together and call it antisocial personality disorder. Mayo Clinic says there is no treatment and instead recommends therapy for everyone they abuse.
My understanding is that the theory is that the genes that allow us to feel empathy are damaged or gone. Maybe they don’t generate any oxytocin.
I am exactly the opposite. If I see someone get hurt, I feel the pain. I mean that I really feel the pain- it’s actually annoying.
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I can relate to that, Steve. This blog is full of that hurt and pain, I guess. And I am glad that we have that faculty. It’s a blessing.
Last year my wife got a mild sunburn. She was working in her garden while I stayed inside the house. But when I saw her burned skin, she was surprised that my skin was noticeably warmer to the touch.