Asian Sociopaths

So I was talking to a former coworker at the gym, and he told me about a book he was reading called The Sociopath Next Door.  He was surprised to find out from the book that 4% of the U.S. population (1 in 25 people) are sociopaths:

"We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people—one in twenty-five—has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in twenty-five everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt. 

1 in 25 people are sociopaths?!  Well that may explain the assholes I keep running into.  I was intrigued by this subject of sociopaths, so I decided to read this book myself.  I came across this interesting passage in the book: 

"Though sociopathy seems to be universal and timeless, there is credible evidence that some cultures contain fewer sociopaths than do other cultures. Intriguingly, sociopathy would appear to be relatively rare in certain East Asian countries, notably Japan and China. Studies conducted in both rural and urban areas of Taiwan have found a remarkably low prevalence of antisocial personality disorder, ranging from 0.03 percent to 0.14 percent, which is not none but is impressively less than the Western world's approximate average of 4 percent, which translates to one in twenty-five people.

"And disturbingly, the prevalence of sociopathy in the United States seems to be increasing. The 1991 Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, reported that in the fifteen years preceding the study, the prevalence of antisocial personality disorder had nearly doubled among the young in America, It would be difficult, closing in on impossible, to explain such a dramatically rapid shift in terms of genetics or neurobiology.

"Apparently, cultural influences play a very important role in the development (or not) of sociopathy in any given population. Few people would disagree that, from the Wild West of the past to the corporate outlaws of the present, American society seems to allow and even encourage me-first attitudes devoted to the pursuit of domination. Robert Hare writes that he believes 'our society is moving in the direction of permitting, reinforcing, and in some instances actually valuing some of the traits listed in the Psychopathy Checklist -- traits such as impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of remorse.'

"In this opinion he is joined by theorists who propose that North American culture, which holds individualism as a central value, tends to foster the development of antisocial behavior, and also to disguise it. In other words, in America, the guiltless manipulation of other people 'blends' with social expectations to a much greater degree than it would in China or other more group-centered societies.

"I believe there is a shinier side of this coin, too, one that begs the question of why certain cultures seem to encourage pro-social behavior. So much against the odds, how is it that some societies have a positive impact on incipient sociopaths, who are born with an inability to process interpersonal emotions in the usual way? I would like to suggest that the overriding belief systems of certain cultures encourage born sociopaths to compensate cognitively for what they are missing emotionally. In contrast with our extreme emphasis on individualism and personal control, certain cultures, many in East Asia, dwell theologically on the interrelatedness of all living things.

"Interestingly, this value is also the basis of conscience, which is an intervening sense of obligation rooted in a sense of connectedness. If an individual does not, or if neurologically he cannot, experience his connection to others in an emotional way, perhaps a culture that insists on connectedness as a matter of belief can instill a strictly cognitive understanding of interpersonal obligation.

"An intellectual grasp of one's duties to others is not the same attribute as the powerfully directive emotion we call conscience, but perhaps it is enough to extract pro-social behavior from at least some individuals who would have behaved only in antisocial ways had they been living in a society that emphasized individualism rather than interrelatedness. Though they lack an internal mechanism that tells them they are connected to others, the larger culture insists to them that they are so connected -- as opposed to our culture, which informs them resoundingly that their ability to act guiltlessly on their own behalf is the ultimate advantage. This would explain why a Western family by itself cannot redeem a born sociopath. There are too many other voices in the larger society implying that his approach to the world is correct."

Essentially what Stout is saying is that culture may have a part in mitigating the number of sociopaths in Asian societies.  So although an Asian who is sociopathic may not feel guilt or remorse, he still knows on a cognitive level what is right and wrong and is aware of how his actions affect others.

Invariably every society and culture produces a certain percentage of people who refuse to follow the rules and cultural norms.  You cannot have an entire society full of sheep.  Certain jobs and industries require sociopaths to do the dirty work, work that normal people do not have the stomach to do.  Somebody has to be the lawyer, the spy, the triad boss or the megalomaniac bent on world domination.

Although culture may mitigate sociopathy to some degree, you still get Asian sociopaths. Mao, Genghis Khan, Kim Jon Il and Pol Pot come to mind. You only need one wolf in a sheep pen to cause havoc.  If you're a wolf in sheep's clothing among millions of sheep, then you don't have much competition.  

Now there are aspects of Chinese culture and segments of society that encourage sociopathic qualities.  A book that best explains this aspect of Chinese culture is Thick Face, Black Heart by Chin-Ning Chu:

Someone who has a "thick face, black heart" has the obsessive and ruthless quality to pursue his own ends without regard to the effect of their actions on others.  A person who has a thick face is beyond shame or guilt and does not care what others think.  A person with thick face is not bound by the conventional thinking of others and can achieve things unachievable by someone worried about the appearance of his actions to others.

A person who has a black heart is ruthless in the pursuit of his goals. Though this sounds bad, it really isn't. An example of black heart in practice, given by the author in the book, is of a doctor in the Old West that is treating an injured person. The person is screaming because of his injury (and because there is no anesthesia), but the doctor is emotionless as he performs his duties. If he were sensitive to the screams of the person he is operating on, he would be unable to carry out his duties to the best of his abilities. He knows inside that it is better to cause pain now in order to save the man's life.  

Now why is there a cultural contradiction here?  The concepts of face, shame and thinking of others factor heavily in Chinese culture, and yet here is this sociopathic concept of thick face, black heart.  Sociopaths don't feel remorse or shame, and they certainly do not care what others think.  

The principles underlying the concept of thick face, black heart originated during the Warring States Period.  Although the Chinese are not considered warlike, in ancient times, the Chinese were in constant war.  Kill or be killed was the law of the land.  Every man was for himself, and every clan and every kingdom for itself.  The only interest was self-interest, and "actions were judged solely on whether they helped one survive in a hostile dog-eat-dog world." 

Numerous books about military strategy proliferated during this time, such as the Art of War and the 36 Strategems (sounds like the Machiavellian text 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, doesn't it?).  

In the aftermath of this chaotic period Confucianism was introduced as state doctrine. Confucianism stresses interrelations (son to father, citizen to emperor) and the mutual obligations of these interrelations.  In such a culture, one must always be cognizant of one's place among others and how his or her actions affect others.  Confucius espoused the Golden Rule ("Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself") approximately 500 years before Christ.

This goal of social harmony permeates Confucian influenced cultures: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Singapore.  Confucian culture mitigated sociopathy among the populations of these nations, and the sociopathic and Machiavellian aspects of ancient Chinese culture were submerged, relegated to certain situations (competing for scarce resources, undermining the system), cutthroat career fields (business, military, politics) and the criminal underworld.  Of course, that which is submerged never goes away and can always resurface, which is why you get cult leaders.  

Now I've mentioned before that I find it very strange that a lot of ABC's seem to walk through life like sheep, given the sociopathic and Machiavellian undercurrents of Chinese culture.  But given how ABC's are raised, this shouldn't be surprising.  Many ABC's are not taught the strategic thinking and survival mindset of their ancestors.  This erosion of Chinese culture from one generation to the next leaves a lot of ABC's ill-equipped to psychologically deal with the racism and discrimination of a sociopathic Western society.    It is essentially like dumping sheep into a wolf pen.  

"If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed."

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Combat

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