|August 16, 2005|
Of Course He Is a Psychopath ...
A BUZZFLASH READER
... or a sociopath -- the distinction here is insignificant.
I'm a mental health professional and psychopaths are a professional interest of mine. There is little doubt that Bush's is a psychopathic character structure.
Another, and I think very appropriate term to describe psychopathy is emotional retardation -- an inability to experience higher emotions expressive of the highest human values (such as empathy and guilt, sympathy, compassion, devotion to common human ideals such as peace, for example, etc.).
A psychopath is a person who uses his often considerable intelligence in the service of his primitive drives (think sex, aggression, power). Being fairly bright, he learns, imperfectly, to mimic emotional expressions suggestive of some higher emotions (compassion, for example), but his reactions hardly fool anyone because they ring hollow as there is no truth and authenticity in them. He can use lofty words when needed -- an easy thing for a fairly intelligent psychopath -- but there is no emotional content to them.
Just look at Bush's responses whenever he is asked, unscripted, about anything that would require him to express either empathy, or caring and compassion for others, including his own family members. He stammers and stumbles, tries some platitudes or inappropriate jokes, and eventually makes a fool of himself. It is always painful to watch and it clearly demonstrates his emotional retardation.
Even most recently, when asked about Cindy Sheehan, he responded by saying "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say." He followed it with "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."
This statement in itself is very revealing. First, it sounds like something Bush has just learned to say on advice of his handlers who reminded him to pretend to be human (he *thinks* it is *important* for him to be thoughtful and sensitive ...). Not that he knows what this means, or that any of it resonates emotionally for him, as evidenced by how quickly he closed this statement with a glib reference to, what else, his own need for a "balanced life," a reference that sounds so incredibly insensitive in this context that it completely invalidates the message intended in his previous sentence.
I have no doubt that this emotionally flat and highly inappropriate statement came from the desk of one of his advisors -- which only shows that psychopathic leaders surround themselves with psychopathic handlers who are equally clueless about what it means to be a feeling human being. It's nothing new or surprising -- we have seen it before in the history of the world. But it's horrendously painful to witness.
Bush's fumblings with statements that are supposed to express higher human emotions are not a proof that he is unintelligent in the conventional sense (i.e. intellectually impaired). His intelligence appears normal (= average at least) -- but it is the emotional sphere that is so dangerously underdeveloped in him.
Notice that typically he does not encounter similar troubles when he talks about what is really close to his proverbial heart (not that he possesses a real one): power. All those swagger-filled threats, gestures of intimidation, and displays of bravado -- often in the most inappropriate contexts ("Shock and Awe," "Mission Accomplished," etc.) -- are further proof that we are dealing with intelligence in the service of primitive drives, combined with emotional hollowness. A.k.a. psychopathy.
And while you're right that playing an armchair diagnostician is a task of dubious value sometimes, in case of G.W. Bush the evidence to support the diagnosis of psychopathy (or sociopathy) is just overwhelming and in plain sight for anyone to see. So if the shoe fits ...
E.L. Doctorow's essay sums up the core of Bush's psychopathic character so well -- and so painfully for all of us who have retained humanity in our souls.
The intelligence in the service of primitive instincts that Bush's actions and words represent; the raw aggressive power, unmitigated by thought or higher feeling; and the surge of compensatory confidence it engenders, are what appeals to a great segment of this -- or any other -- society, especially to its powerless and emotionally underdeveloped members. They rally around their leader, seeing in him both a reflection of themselves and a promise of a "victory" that would release their fears and frustrations, and avenge their sorry, hopeless fate. Of course what they do not realize is that their leader couldn't care less about their fate. To him, his minions are an echo chamber for his words and cannon fodder for his missions.
Tragically, as a nation, we will remain in the dark ages as long as we keep choosing psychopaths as our leaders and pretend this is a good thing. And no matter how hard we will try to convince ourselves that what we yearn for are freedom and democracy for all (and whatever other ideals we choose to endorse by our words), our actions -- the choices we make, including our choice of the leader -- will keep telling the rest of the world otherwise. As shameful as it is, the psychopathic Bush represents America to the world.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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White House Diary of a Sociopath (A BuzzFlash News Analysis)
OUR UNFEELING PRESIDENT: Bush cannot grieve because he doesn't know what death is (E.L. DOCTOROW, Houston Chronicle/East Hampton Star)
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