Astronaut George Taylor said it best, “It’s a Mad House!

By Brien Pittman

psychopaths_humannatureIn the last post we performed a symptoms check on society revealing a not so good prognosis. But, before we start the next section of this series I feel the need to say that, if you are still having difficulty admitting to yourself that our society is truly ill, think Orlando.

A holistic approach involves a procession of steps, logically the next step for us then would be to identify and examine the primary cause or causes of our poor sick society; to determine if viable treatments exist. The following post attempts to expose one critical ‘cause’ of societal illness that is being recognized by more and more individuals; despite the enticement to blame everything on psychopathic leaders.

Divided and Conquered: We Are A Cause of Societal Sickness

Despite the positive advances humans have ‘fought’ for and obtained in civil rights laws, (thank god for the constitution) little advancement has occurred in understanding the actuation of human nature making the ‘fight’ for civil rights necessary in the first place.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity; said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Whether we want to admit it or not, every hour of every day a dormant primitive tribal response, shared by all, is tapped, and our nature is nurtured with extremely predictable and inevitable results. We don’t even notice the tampering or give it much thought. Partly due to “sincere ignorance,” and partly due to desensitization to pathological behavior; making it insidious difficult to recognize, even in our own nature and associated actions.

Racism, genocide, religious wars. Almost everyone recognizes those obvious examples of “Us vs. Them” mentality, they’re written across the history books in blood and bullet holes. Quite honestly, many of us say, “Well I never took part in any of that stuff so, whew I’m obviously not acting like a psychopath!” Maybe not but, at the very least, years of constant bombardment from a “profoundly sick society” can become endemic through osmosis.

Regardless of what we may choose to accept about ourselves, our human minds have a remarkably strong, and frequently dangerous tendency to categorize people into social groups. And most often these social groups can create, or be ‘manipulated’ into creating, a deadlock of Us vs. Them mentality toward people who may be different than us in some way.

Exhibit A: Minimal Group Paradigm. The basic idea behind this concept is to investigate the minimal conditions required for discrimination to occur within groups.

Amazingly, it was discovered that people tend to favor a group bias even when they are categorized on ‘relatively meaningless’ distinctions, for example: eye color, what kind of paintings they like, or even the flip of a coin.

We have the damnedest time admitting this but, research, history and todays societies plainly tells us that we can potentially separate ourselves from a certain group of people on any random and arbitrary characteristic. Therefore, everyone is susceptible to be a perpetrator and/or victims of social prejudice and ostracism.

Thinking of ourselves in terms of groups automatically leads to a kind of irrational group favoritism.

Even more interestingly, it was found that all of us will often maximize relative in-group gain (“Group A” vs. “Group B”) rather than absolute in-group gain. This means that people are more willing to see their Group “win,” rather than have outcomes where all people end up better overall. Why, is this a law of human nature?

Regardless of the answer, it’s not hard to see how “Us vs. Them” mentality can be destructive to both ourselves and society as a whole. And it is scary to think just how susceptible we are to these biases, even under completely random circumstances.

So, add one more thing to the human to-do list: Need to become more aware of our susceptibility and tendency to put people into groups and create an “Us vs. Them” mentality.

But it’s hard, today many of these social categories and stereotypes are propagated by society, tradition and culture.

We see it all the time in politics (Republicans vs. Democrats), war (Palestine vs. Israel), sports (Mets vs. Yankees), even in meaningless aspects of our culture from brand loyalty to our little cliques but, at the end of the day a lot of this thinking creates unnecessary tension and antagonism between everyone.

Group thinking causes us to act irrationally and uncooperative, because we are more concerned about conforming with ‘our group’ instead of thinking intelligently for ourselves, or recognizing other people’s interests and values outside of our own social circle; and that’s not very healthy folks, and contrary to what so many people profess.

Next post, Getting Through the Front Door of Progress: Understanding the Favorite ‘Nature Shaping’ Tool of Societies Leading Psychopaths and Their Sycophants.



About Brien Pittman

Brien’s articles for FāVS generally revolve around ideas and beliefs that create unhealthy deadlock divisions between groups. He has received (minor) writing awards for his short stories and poetry from the cities of Portland, Oregon and the city of (good beer) Sapporo, Japan. In 2010 he was asked to present several articles for the California Senate Committee “Task Force for Suicide Prevention” and has been published by online magazines and a couple national poetry anthologies in print form.

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  1. Okay, I’ll toss in a couple more of my own Lincoln’s here before you reach your finale. Your posts often seem like attempting to tame a velociraptor by the tail 🙂 sometimes a lone adventurer in the prehistoric backwilderness of societal imbalance can benefit from a fellow investigator as a mirror to one’s back 🙂 I believe your excavation is close to what I’ve concluded as the sole culprit of our demise in our DNA. When you refer to ‘group thinking,’ I suggest digging one strata deeper to question how we are wired to think in OVERALL ‘bucket’ terms (like smart, stupid, sane, crazy, leaders, followers) approaching almost everything we engage. Take a look at the listed pairings. Can we ever point to PURELY one or the other in ANY case? Personally, I’ve concluded in order to rewrite broken coding of ‘us and them,’ it requires addressing underlying errors in the more pervasive, all encompassing, binary language, itself.

    • From one lone adventurer to another (very funny by the way)
      I agree. As a lone adventurer though I’m always mindful of the process that led
      me to (continually) address my own “binary language” the journey of
      single steps, is a journey that I didn’t even realized existed, until I took
      the first step which led to another…

      One of my concerns with writing this stuff is the fact; we have thrown the baby
      out with the bathwater and replaced so much with (in my opinion) too much Kumbaya PC thinking. Labels in and of themselves can be dangerous – dividing but, in same cases they can be revealing – and lead to better understanding when
      diagnosing that which afflicts our society. No one wants to be called a
      psychopath, and I don’t enjoy calling someone a psychopath but, until the
      fabled utopia arrives -psychopaths exists and we have some in positions of power.
      Their actions confirm that diagnosis; not the whim of labeling others in order
      to place blame. They need our help, as well as, we need to help ourselves
      understand that their illness, no matter how functionally successful they may
      be according to today’s definitions of success; their mental illness is unaffected
      by reason or conscience. This is a beginning step which, people are more poised
      than ever before to take but, I agree with you, acknowledging our own flawed
      “binary coding” is also a beginning step we must all take if we wish to
      properly get on the road to progress.

      Significant social changes start with societies individuals but, not every individual in society is mentally able to start. That fact alone, if not recognized, can make those who adopt peaceful pacifist forms of existence victims. They are following the right message (the goal) just perhaps at the wrong time or out of step. My father had a saying; “sometimes we can become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”

      Thanks Riff

      • Legitimate concern, however, WE have not thrown out any baby, only an isolated population has chosen this road and developing strategies for subsets achieves little.

        Let me ask you this. What good are all your labels if none of them fit me? Misplaced, labels are slothful and dangerous as the death penalty. Used with discipline and focus, as in science, labels are efficient directional indicators. The question isn’t whether or not to dispense with labels in a collective, politically-correct, kumbaya, pacifist, leftist, unsustainable, one-sided withdrawal. The question is WHEN and HOW to embrace labels as effective qualifiers. If labels repel or incite rather than clarify, avoid them. Sound logic must be our weapon of choice. There is an enlightening, even salvific, difference between labeling people and labeling behavior. Labeling Trump a psychopath (or any other derogatory moniker) is not only counterproductive to unraveling his rhetoric away from becoming more wide-spread policy; it actually serves to tighten the grips of mindsets attracted to his tactics. Your words are like a mechanic’s who’s saying we just gotta loosen this screw a bit in order to relieve some tension all the while his hands are turning the screw clockwise tighter and tighter and tighter. So you and I are at odds in this territory, Brien. It is territory in which I am quite well versed. Now what?


        My suggestion: Separate BEHAVIOR from the PERSON and we’re onto something. Agreeing to what Trump is or is not relies on irrational emotional impulse. Recognizing and condemning the BEHAVIOR of gaslighting–no matter the perpretrator–is rational common ground we can all agree to if together we value America’s founding documents. Define the behavior. Isolate the behavior. Stop the behavior. Forget defining the person. Would you not treat your children as such? Donald Trump is someone’s child.

        Rewiring painful neural tracks of bucket thinking is foundational to lasting social health.

        I appreciate your efforts, but the road you are suggesting is riddled with explosives.

        If we truly believe EVERY conversation matters (including this one) we must scrutinize all introductory conveyance with rigor surpassing any potential rehabilitation strategy.


        • Hey Riff, I’m not exactly sure what it ‘is’ you’re against in my posts. I’m assuming it is the use of what you consider “labels” (psychopaths) which is a noun used to describe ‘a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior. an unstable and aggressive person’
          I respect what you are saying and more importantly what your believes are about the issue of labeling. Whether you believe it or not I’ve tried to describe my own beliefs on labeling which are similar to yours. So, I’m not sure why the (what seems to me) attack. Especially since my posts aren’t about labeling but are about human nature, and some of the influences (people) that manipulate human nature.
          From a purely unemotional perspective, which for me is what I do in the field of diagnostic neurophysiology, the behaviour of certain individuals fits the diagnosis criteria of the DSM, not some labeling criteria of my own. I have not named or singled out any one person by the way but merely restated the obvious problem due to some people in power.

          It is interesting to me that our entire discussion has been on the proper use or non-use of labels, when the post subject matter has been human nature and influence. We’re not even on the same page let alone sharing thoughts on the actual subject at hand. We’ve some how been diverted to labels and have not been able to progress past it.

          I appreciate your suggestions to me on how I should approach things in the future. In the spirit of friendship I would like to return the same suggestion and hand the mirror back to you. 🙂


          • Okay.

            So far I’ve concurred that any argument defending imbalanced social practice based upon supposedly unchangeable human nature is bunk. I concurred that societal imbalance is within both leaders and citizenship meaning we are all responsible to some degree. In part three you posited a plea to curb our ‘us and them’ mentalities and I offered that it is my experience this undertaking is much more likely to succeed when individuals first acknowledge the limitations of ALL absolute distinctions. You thanked me for this input and then reinforced your position of calling out the mental health of public officials by labeling them psychopaths when citizens somehow find their behavior matching a DSM list of criteria.

            This is when I took exception stating a caution of HUMAN NATURE resulting from such historical public practice. Trump offers the opportunity to consider what you suggest in one readily accessible figure of power. Brien, half of FāVS’ mission is encouraging DIALOGUE in very sensitive (taboo, elsewhere) territory. Human nature is often to feel attacked when people disagree. I assure you I’m not attacking you. Progression of logic was stated. I am challenging that progression. I don’t believe I left your page?

            Of course, I can wait for your last post and offer my summative comments to which you need not reply. In friendship, odds HERE are steeped against us, but I believe wholeheartedly it’s worth the risk 🙂

          • Thanks Riff, I think we agree on more than either of us realize at the moment.

            In one of my comments I mentioned PC thinking. Going back and rereading my comment, I can easily see where my sense of humor didn’t exactly help the conversation but, in fact led it to the area I was hoping to avoid “Labels” I could have done a better job of explaining myself.

            The dichotomic situation created by the first few post in my series has not escaped me, and was somewhat intentional because each of us seldom (if ever) finds ourselves doing that which, we so adamantly oppose. (in this situation labeling and condemning)

            It’s not because we don’t do these things but, rather because it is so intricate to society and ourselves, we just don’t notice when we are doing it.

            “Would you not treat your children as such?” That implication was demeaning Riff and “I appreciate your efforts, but the road you are suggesting is riddled with explosives.” According to your perception yes but, this is mine, and other peoples perception.

            I’m positive you could quote my words back to me with equal effect Riff and you would be right to do so.

            My series of article, for what ever reason, usually take on the form of a journey with a starting point and destination, and lots of stops along the way at nice gift shops but, also some not so nice gift shops. When the rest of this journey is posted. I hope I have been honest enough with my abilities and the series connects with a few others. (but I also realize that my writing style is challenging at times since it doesn’t fit in exactly right)

            The main point to me is;
            Even though the odds (seem) against us, I feel you and I have already taken the risk, and a friendship of comments has begun.
            Thanks for being human Riff, the good gift shops and the not so good gift shops. Thanks for pointing out your observations and thoughts. Out of respect, I’ll try to return the same because anything else would be a false friend.

          • Cool.

            I don’t recommend rigid conformity in writing style ?

            Never were my words intended to demean or disrespect. Black and white characters on a monitor rarely transmit full conveyance. When adults behave as children, should we not treat them as we would our own children? Generally, most parents resist condemning their own children to sanctions of summary judgement and I am a firm believer society benefits from this same mode of rational compassion. This NEVER precludes defining and limiting behavior.

            I’m not sure I appreciate your clarification of others in concurrence as defense of labeling a person according to behavior. This is akin to declaring that everyone else says the world’s flat… or this is the way something’s always been done… as grounds for continuance. It’s irrelevant if a word is a noun or adjective. Yes the topic of labels can be a round robin. We cannot concede, however, when we are so close to resolving this conundrum once and for all. I stand by the fact that it is immeasurably more productive to own and tackle behavior over personage if truly committed to restorative results. The ‘explosives’ I refer to are EXACTLY what you refer to saying, “it is so intricate to society and ourselves, we just don’t notice when we are doing it.” And, I would interject a belief such intricacies are likely engrained in neurological pathways.

            Ironically, I often find it can be more challenging for those with considerable common ground to discuss specific differences than for those with seemingly great divides between them. I think this is precisely because we are sharper mirrors for each other and thus feel more vulnerable.

            Full disclosure, I did allow my words to flow (not overthinking them) with the awareness of mirroring your prose to some degree. Your style is greatly satirical in attacking myths of human nature, culpability, and group thinking. Sincere in my counterpoint and having offered forewarning, I modeled your approach curious if you value similar critique applied to your own ideas…

            I agree, we have already succeeded. I look forward to your concluding action steps ?

          • Thankfully, the issue we have been discussing, is not of
            such magnitude that we can’t easily agree to disagree. No one’s well being is on the line here, and neither of us are completely right or completely wrong. I hope that is your feeling as well.

            I think the real lesson for both of us is: We have different
            perspectives, experiences and understandings, and as long as they do not threaten the existence or, oppress another living being; we can simply “fist bumped” and go on, courtesy of FAVS.

          • Right on. Definitely neither completely RIGHT or completely WRONG! (Believing such would be an imbalanced mental state of absolute bucket thinking.) ? (Hope you can forgive my annoying competitive human nature in such territory.) BTW Are you aware of Sebastian Junger’s new book, TRIBE? (Definitely relates to such matters.)

          • I’m definitely going to check out Tribe, thanks for making me aware of it.
            OK, here’s the deal… Riff, you have inspired me. I know that sounds cheesy but thank you. I also hope that my “comment friend” can forgive me as well. I was a little rough around the edges myself. I’m constantly reminded to my chagrin, in some ways, I’m still an ass hair away from being an ape 🙂

            Have you ever noticed that the fist bump is exactly like the Wonder Twins activation.

          • WAY cool! ✊?? and, yes, I AM a big JUSTICE League fan! Take it easy.

          • Dude, I read Tribe! Good read thanks. Godin has a few books, I’m checking some more of them out.

            According to Godin, I’m a Heretic!
            “(Heretic) Challenging the status quo requires a commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your ideas on the line” “Heretics are engaged, passionate, and more powerful and happier than everyone else. ” Yahoo! Damn Skippy!

            That’s way cool cuz many people have labeled me as an apostate and claimed I was in-league with the antichrist but, the jokes on them. I’m a Heretic! Booyah!

            Hey do you think it is sexiest cuz everyone always assumes the antichrist will be a man? lol

          • According these criteria, Christ could have been considered a heretic in His day. From what is written, however, He didn’t subscribe much to name calling. I really like the Guy? An ‘antichrist’ is an oxymoron? Glad you caught Tribe! Spot on, huh?

          • Rite! Godin’s ‘Heretic’ criteria is pretty loose and open.
            By the way, you opened a can of worms Riff and I can’t help myself, as a heretic, I’m compelled to dump them all over the place lol

            Please except my mini-post in humor, friendship and for the sake of dialog.

            Why can’t we just be like Jesus? He didn’t use labels.

            We’ve heard that question/statement before, there are a lot of people complaining about the use of labels in our dialog, and sometimes rightly so. Words can hurt. Why do we have to label people as Liberal or Conservative, Right or Left, Progressive or Traditional? Why can’t we just be like Jesus? He didn’t use labels.”

            So, for awhile, as I read through the New Testament I made note of occasions where Jesus used labels describing persons. The following list contains, I think, most of His labels (descriptive terms).

            Matthew’s List of Jesus’ Labels:

            Enemies (Mat 5:44)

            Pagans (Mat 5:47)

            Hypocrites (Mat 6:2)

            Thieves (Mat 6:20)

            Dogs (Mat 7:6)

            Pigs (Mat 7:6)

            Evil (Mat 7:11)

            False prophets (Mat 7:15)

            Foolish man (Mat 7:26)

            Dead (Mat 8:22)

            Sick (Mat 9:12)

            Sinners (Mat 9:13)

            Sheep (Mat 10:16)

            Wolves (Mat 10:16)

            Children (Mat 11:16)

            Wicked generation (Mat 12:39)

            Blind guides (Mat 15:14)

            Unclean (Mat 15:20)

            Lost sheep (Mat 15:24)

            Satan (Mat 16:24)

            Stumbling block (Mat 16:24)

            Unbelieving generation (Mat 17:17)

            Perverse generation (Mat 17:17)

            Heathen (Mat 18:17)

            Pagan (Mat 18:17)

            Publican (Mat 18:17)

            Murderers (Mat 22:7)

            Blind (Mat 23:17)

            Fools (Mat 23:17)

            Blind guides (Mat 23:24)

            Blind Pharisees (Mat 23:26)

            Whitewashed tombs (Mat 23:27)

            Serpents (Mat 23:27)

            Brood of vipers (Mat 23:33)

            Cursed (Mat 25:41)

            Mark’s List of Additional Labels:

            Unclean (Mark 7:23)

            Sinful generation (Mark 8:38)

            Adulterous generation (Mark 8:38)

            Luke’s List of Additional Labels:

            Evil man (Luke 6:45)

            Unbelieving (Luke 9:41)

            Perverse (Luke 9:41)

            Foolish people (Luke 11:39)

            John’s List of Additional Labels:

            Lamp (John 5:35)

            Friends (John 5:14)

            Servants (John 5:15)

            Devil (John 6:70)

            Robbers (John 10:8)

            Branches (John 15:5)

            Sanctified (John 17:19)

            Lambs (John 21:15)

            I tried not to list the same label twice. That is why there are
            relatively few listed in Mark, Luke and John. I’ve probably made some errors and welcome your corrections (and additions) to this list.

            In the spirit of dialog -I know I can seem like an ass, please forgive me.


          • Had a hunch you’d go there, bro. Why, might you ask? Because I also had a hunch these pesky worms escaped their can long ago. For the record, I specifically said (intentionally, mind you), ‘did not subscribe much to name calling.’ No worries. I hear you. You’re hungry for debate on the Big Man, Himself. I’m willing to go there, no problem. However, THIS tiny corner of FāVS is devoted to YOUR posts on HUMAN NATURE, not the legitimacy of Christ as Way Shower.

            I also understand how easy it is to become fixated with territory labeled, “labeling.”

            There is NOTHING wrong with labels!!!

            Our world is now literally BUILT upon there immense practicality.

            Simply, we must choose to view them through a balanced lens very similar to the five foundational principals of science as summarized in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos and thoroughly demonstrated in the LIFE of Christ:

            1) Question authority.

            (2) Think for yourself. Question yourself.

            (3) Test ideas by the evidence gained from observation and experiment.

            (4) Follow the evidence wherever it leads.

            And perhaps the most important rule of all…

            (5) Remember: you could be wrong.

            SO, ‘in the spirit of dialogue,’ I suggest we strategize a productive set of boundaries for just such a conversation take place? I strongly suggest establishing a bit more interpersonal rapport outside the digital mainframe before trusting the limited conveyance of characters on screens?

          • All in lighthearted good ribbing and fun Riff between two comment bro’s.
            As soon as we think about what is required for a conversation – mutual trust, respect, a willingness to listen and risk one’s opinions – we can see that we have a powerful regulative ideal that can orient our practical and political lives. Other times it’s just fun and friendly banter.

            I do agree with you though and by the way, believe it or not “the big guy” is one of my role models. Enjoy your day Riff. I’m off to see a screening of Suicide Squad (don’t hate) from one of my Cali/Hollywood friends who promised a (legal) copy, and she better deliver lol

            Take it easy

          • You can always tell the mirrors of conversation have been finely tuned when interests boil down to appropriate use of capital letters ? Hope you don’t mind if I simply consider you an unqualified brother? I am reminded of the bologna sandwich Sebastian received on an interstate onramp in Gillette, Wyoming ?

  2. This conversation is dynamite. I think you guys need to film a remake of “My Dinner with Andre.”

    • Freak’n hillarious Neal. Filming begins as soon as i repair the camera on my iphone and the Argonne Denny’s confirms. We still need someone to play the restaurant table. You interested? guffaw

      We’re calling it “My All You Can Eat Dinner With Andre”

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