When you say the word “psychopath” images of an axe wielding homicidal maniacs come to mind. Norman Bates dragging a knife into Marion Crane’s shower. Mark Lewis skewering women so he can capture their fear with his father’s cine-camera. The mythical psychopaths who inhabit our imagination, and manifest in the films of “Psycho” or “Peeping Tom”.
The truth is considerably less histrionic, a whole lot more mundane, and come in the form of the compulsive liars who always get what they want. The social butterflies able to evade responsibility for the whirlwind of destruction they leave in their wake, and the “intraspecies predators” who control others to satisfy their own selfish needs.
While researching on my first screenplay I came across Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. The checklist is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. It is a clinical rating scale of twenty items. Each item is scored between “0” and “2”. A value of “0” is given to any item that does not apply. A value of “1” is given to any item that applies somewhat. A value of “2” is assigned to any item that applies fully. The twenty items are.
- Glibness/superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Pathological lying
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Shallow affect
- Callous/lack of empathy
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Poor behavioural control
- Promiscuous sexual behaviour
- Lack of realistic long-term goals
- Juvenile delinquency
- Early behaviour problems
- Revocation of conditional release
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Criminal versatility
When properly completed by a qualified professional the test subject is scored anywhere between “0” and “40”. The prototypical psychopath would score the maximum “40”. While someone who has no psychopathic tendencies would score the minimum “0”. A score above “30” diagnoses the subject as psychopathic.
I am not a qualified professional, but I know at least two individuals who would score above “30” on Dr. Hare’s Checklist. More worryingly I look around and see it manifest in an entire class of people, whose actions, attitudes, and behaviour, if taken as a whole, would score “30” or more. I know I’m throwing boulders into the water, but I am pointing a finger, and saying it, the Middle Classes are psychopaths.
I’m not the first to look at an entire institution and conclude if it were an individual it would be diagnosed as a psychopath. Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar’s 2003 documentary The Corporation did exactly that. They applied Dr. Hare’s Checklist to the corporation, and concluded that if it were an individual, it would be a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.
The individual members of the Middle Class may not be psychopathic on their own, but as a whole, with a set of clearly defined values, they score “30” or above. Take that core member of the middle class, bankers, I’d score their personality and case history as follows.
- Glibness/superficial charm (2)
- Grandiose sense of self-worth (2)
- Pathological lying (2)
- Cunning/manipulative (2)
- Lack of remorse or guilt (2)
- Shallow affect (2)
- Callous/lack of empathy (2)
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (2)
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (2)
- Parasitic lifestyle (2)
- Poor behavioural control (2)
- Promiscuous sexual behaviour (2)
- Lack of realistic long-term goals (2)
- Impulsivity (2)
- Irresponsibility (2)
- Juvenile delinquency (1)
- Early behaviour problems (1)
- Revocation of conditional release (2)
- Many short-term marital relationships (0)
- Criminal versatility (2)
By my gorilla maths that gives them a Checklist score of “36”. They should be on a psychiatric hold, receiving treatment, a danger to themselves and others, but they’re not. They go about their business, in the name of the free market, and a profit.
I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it in any meaningful way, but the next time you see some banker on television failing to accept responsibility for their action by asserting their right to a bonus, or some well dressed politician demonstrating a callous lack of empathy by admonishing the long term unemployed, or you see the grandiose sense of self-worth innate in parents who set up a school for their children, take a look at the checklist, and see how they score. When I do it, they are always Middle Class, and they always score “30” or above.