A few years ago, Bret Easton Ellis wrote a book called American Psycho. It was about a psychopath called Patrick Bateman who killed people in horrible ways with no remorse whatsoever. The book was roundly condemned, often reviewed as without merit of any kind. The result was that it flew off of the shelves and made the author a pot of money. It later got made into a film with Christian Bale.
In recent times we’ve seen some disturbing characters come down the pike. From Charles Manson on we’ve had an epidemic of serial killers. We’ve had the celebrated cases of John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dalmer and Ted Bundy. Then there have been the Menendez Brothers and O.J. Simpson. A certain personality type has become commonplace in society and spans the gamut from the very poor to the obscenely rich. This personality type is defined as a Psychopath. They’ve always been around but never so many as today.
(Yes, I know the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath and we’re going to go with psychopath for the purposes of this essay.)
It’s a common misperception to believe that these types are exclusively confined to areas of criminal behavior, usually resulting in murder, though often engaging in other crimes against person and society. The fact is that these types often move through life without ever being directly engaged in ‘obvious’ criminal enterprise. But one thing you can be sure of, they hurt other people. They enjoy it. It makes them feel good; if they actually feel anything at all.
My interpretation of a psychopath is a person whose reptile brain has murdered their conscience. This is their first offense and it is against themselves. Some seem to have been born this way. Some are forged out of their environment at the hands of their parents and other forces. It’s my belief that they are predisposed in this direction. Many of us have suffered greatly but we don’t turn out like that. Often our suffering makes us into better people than we might have been.
For some reason, at certain times, these psychopaths flower; the earth has the right chemical balance, there’s the right amount of sun and rain and so on and so forth. I’d blame materialism but that’s my take.
Bush and Cheney, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz, Rice, Libby and their financiers... they are all psychopaths. The radio talk show hosts; celebrities of every stripe, bankers and lawyers, doctors and priests, academics and accountants, scientists and mine owners, stockbrokers and New Age guru’s. You can find psychopaths in every field working for the one objective that is the focus of them all... self interest; and woe to those who get in their way.
Often they work alone. Not infrequently they band together; in business, politics and religion. They take language and they give it their own meaning. They smile a lot and they are very engaging. You’ll get the same smile when they sell you your house as what you get when they take it away from you. It’s all the same to them. In their minds everyone is fair game and everyone is, or should be, working for them.
They see the thousands dying in Iraq; the people suffering in Darfur, Palestine and much of Africa as something akin to animals who do not feel pain as human’s do- not that that would matter. They see economic possibility; “Okay people, let’s think about how we can get some aid money for these people and then invest it in that sub prime hedge fund and then sell it to the Europeans and Asians.” Or, “You know, it looks to me that the Janjaweed could use some better weaponry but first, let’s put some pressure on Congress to intervene so we can ratchet up the conflict and increase the need.”
On and on it goes, centuries of suffering; tens of thousands impaled on stakes, thousands sealed still alive into walls as if they were some sort of strange mortar, hundreds of thousands starved and tormented behind razor wire. We always look back and think how uncivilized they were. We believe that we are civilized in our cities, in our suits, moving though the corridors of the workplace, making money- gambling on disaster and mathematical fluctuations where no matter what happens you're okay if you bet right.
Wars created for no other motive than profit and stock exchanges filled with expensively dressed men and women buying and selling, based on commodities dependent on death and destruction, with lawyers and accountants to handle their affairs except for the ones they're having in their townhouse on the nights they don't go home to Westchester or Greenwich.
People bopping down the street with the world sealed away by ipods and cellphones, drowning in entertainments designed to focus their attention on their own needs. When the screams become too loud they can just turn up the volume.
People in cafes and diners celebrating the murder of endless scores of people who had no part in the condition created out of lies to justify their good fortune in being innocent bystanders and collateral damage; people who see people as numbers, people detached in a nation of sociopaths who drive by people living in cardboard boxes in the richest country on earth where tens of thousands of children are working the streets as prostitutes, where the easy flow of opiates is guaranteed by the protectionism of the Afghan war whose profits flow into the accounts of the same people in suits who bet right, invested right and "if I don't do it somebody will." Money has no conscience and neither do they.
These are just a few of the thoughts that run through my mind while I trace the dotted line as it weaves from point A to point B and beyond; a tortured highway of connections between a piece of paper signed in one place that, a week later, activates an army of Patrick Batemans because that Patrick Bateman signed the paper on instructions from his banker who is also Patrick Bateman.
Some people think this is funny. Some people think this is business as usual and some people think it's none of their business. Maybe it's none of my business either in this generation of vipers.
Screwing over the competition, driving the competition out of business, forcing new businesses into economic peril with the assistance of complicit bankers and then buying up someone’s dreams for a song... this is considered smart business. You get patted on the back. You get oral sex from the children of the people you ruined and everyone laughs and has a martini. Yes, it’s that bad.
The corporations don’t have to worry. When they overextend and threaten the survival of an entire country, the banks, with the people’s money will bail them out. You see it every day. The rule of law, that instrument which guarantees fair play and equitable conditions that punishes evil doers? Justice is a decision in their favor. Justice is blind because they put her eyes out. Then they tore her clothes from her body and used her and then sold her to a McBrothel. When she can’t perform any longer they’ll juice her into Soylent Green frappe and sell her at Starbucks.
It’s got to be the nature of the system. It’s got to be that the system got progressively altered over time until it was a willing whore for corporate interests. Once that was established then everything from the education industry to the music you hear was all tailored toward creating a nation of Patrick Batemans who are conditioned not to care about anybody but themselves.
It’s a hard road you’ve chosen and it grows darker by the day. With no one to stop it, it runs straight up to the gates of Hell. (A TV game show buzzer sounds.) “Shut up Cassandra, nobody wants to hear that crap.”
'Brotherhood' is track no. 9 of 12 on Visible's 2007 album 'Almost A Capella'
Lyrics (pops up)