terminal naivete

Psychopaths & Fairy Tales

So, I’ve been reading The Psychopath Test – A Journal Through the Madness Industry, by Jon Ronson.

  • Amusing
  • Fascinating
  • Disturbing
  • Frightening, actually


when you get to the point where the author points out that psychopaths have a tendency to “rise to the top” – so our governments, corporations & bureaucracies are rife with this very kind of (very) scary individual.

Psychopaths have no conscience or morality, no empathy with their fellow human beings, an utter lack of remorse for whatever acts or crimes they commit, and “shallow affect” to boot (i.e., they don’t seem to feel things deeply that other humans do). We can all think of some outstanding, horrible crimes & their perpetrators, & fervently hope these criminals will be locked up forever.

Many psychopaths will probably never be locked up at all, unfortunately. (Use your imagination as to whom I might have in mind when I cast my eyes about Canada & the world in general.)

I know I have (personally) met a psychopath or two in my life over the past, oh, 4 or 5 decades, & they certainly do give one pause.


I feel somewhat foolish, truth to tell, that I did not intuit decades ago that our world has for far too long had too many psychopaths in charge of too many things (& people, & countries). I feel I’ve suffered a dangerous case of Terminal Naivete. (I also believe I am far from being alone in this.)

I recall recently coming across a really disturbing Chris Hedges article, “The Careerists,” in which he suggests that our increasingly insane & dangerous world is run by people trained to coldly & thoughtlessly keep the machine going – seemingly with no concern for those being hurt or killed, whether it was the Jews (& others) slaughtered in World War II, or those being murdered or gang-raped or exploited or starved in countries too numerous to name, right now, right now, as we speak.

Brilliant article! Very sobering. Very sobering indeed.

Which brings us nicely along to

Fairy Tales

So, I think too many of us think we are somehow miraculously entitled to some sort of privileged little storybook life – that we can expect to live our lives as some kind of personal little fairy tale. Kiss the prince(ss). Live happily ever after. Comfort & sanity guaranteed forever.

I wonder if some of us think we were born into that kind of privilege. Perhaps by virtue of our gender? Or that we can buy (or marry) our way in, with money &/or social class &/or by way of exercising power/control over others, one way or another?

In some ways, I feel as though at a certain point in my own life, I did lead a fairy-tale-ish existence, & there is this peculiar thing with any kind of privilege or entitlement – one can come to believe almost that one is entitled to it. As though one has somehow earned it.

I suspect this kind of thinking takes place beneath consciousness. I think we have to deliberately become conscious of these unconscious assumptions & privileges we lug around with us.

Meanwhile, the world is shouting at us to be aware of the psychopaths &/or bloodless bureaucrats & “careerists” who make things keep ticking – & not, shall we say, in a positive way.

And now, here we find ourselves!

In a world in which

  • Our air is full of killer pollutants
  • Our oceans acidified due to climate change. Coral reefs dying, fish stocks overfished
  • Earth & soils/crops filled with poisons/pesticides
  • Fertility-destroying agents present in our air, water & soils
  • Factories/corporations run on exceedingly shoddy practices, with workers exploited shamelessly so we in the privileged west can eat & clothe ourselves cheaply
  • Unsafe nuclear plants (watched over by unreliable regulators) with this scary propensity to go ballistic on us at any moment
  • Some populations being subjected to dangerous radioactive fallout or waste, from big accidents or long-term chronic exposures (think Chernobyl, Fukushima, Port Hope here in Ontario)
  • Governments of so-called “democratic” countries behaving ever more like pretty scary dictators
  • Climate change positively galloping away on us
  • Canada’s shame, the tar sands: the rape of the century – proceeding apace in so-called gentle & lovely Canada (Hah!)


& I don’t know about you, Readers, gentle or otherwise

but it seems to little old Pollyanna me to be getting harder & harder by the day to think about long-term ANYthing.

It’s a bleak picture. Can’t candy-coat it for you, I’m afraid.

I’ll tell you what I’m continuing to focus on, every day. My priorities for coping in these stressful times.

  • Gratitude for what I have
  • Remembering to live in the present moment (it takes effort!! I have to keep working at it, all the time all the time all the time **)
  • Activism/work that is meaningful to me (not financially remunerative, in my own case, as it happens – but very meaningful & rewarding, all of it aimed at making the world a safer, saner place. Much of this blog is really dedicated to the world of activism!)
  • Simple joys (e.g. walking, bike rides, a cold beer on a hot day, reading great books)
  • Hanging out with the people I care about the most


A day at a time, a day at a time, a day at a time…


p.s. just finished reading a quite amazing, disturbing, enlightening memoir by Ashley Judd called All That is Bitter and Sweet. Not always an easy read, I have to say, given its chilling subject matter about women in developing countries subject to the slave trade, forced prostitution, AIDS, poverty, rape, etc. No, the subject matter is not easy to take. But it’s a book I’m glad I read. Ashley Judd is a woman not born into privilege – who earned her way into the life of a movie star after a challenging childhood, yet who now spends a huge amount of her life energy working with others on behalf of women so horrendously treated it makes you shudder to think about their daily realities. Hard to read, but so glad I read it! (& yes! I borrowed it from my local library, where I get so many wonderful books!)

** writers & spiritual leaders like Eckhart Tolle & Pema Chödrön provide wonderful, practical tips for this being-in-the-moment stuff… They’ve helped me tremendously & I’ve blogged about both of them any # of times.

‘Quote of the day’: “There is an almost gravitational pull toward putting out of mind unpleasant facts. And our collective ability to face painful facts is no greater than our personal one. We tune out, we turn away, we avoid. Finally we forget, and forget we have forgotten.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. 

Runners up for Q. of the Day: 

“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.” – Blaise Pascal in Pensées, quoted by Chris Hedges in the article on ‘The Careerists’) 

“…the idea of work – work, with its immense banality – strikes me as so absurd I wonder how the economy lurches on. Does anyone, anywhere, perform daily tasks of value? Even doctors treat boredom and loneliness as much as any real physical complaint. What do the rest of us do? Make useless shit to sell to each other so we can buy more useless shit. I buy a venti latte so the Starbucks employee can buy Billy Blank’s Boot Camp workout so Billy Blank can buy a new Volt so a GM exec – my brother, for instance – can rent a Yo Gabba Gabba bounce house for the kids’ party. And so on. Where along this line is anything necessary, anything of true human benefit, accomplished?” – from A Working Theory of Love, by Scott Hutchins (2012)

“We Americans are locked in an asylum for the criminally insane with the criminally insane, and they are armed to the hilt. We are in a dangerous place. Yet we continue to call ourselves free. Psychosis and delusion is not freedom.” – Charles Sullivan in ‘Contesting the Systems of Power’ 

“I can say that it is time now to play ‘the end of the world’ symphony. I don’t know what instrument you hold, but you need to play it as best as you can, & find your place in the score. You don’t have to play a solo here. But this is our task now.” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber, in an interview with Bill Moyer  that I blogged about here

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” – Hannah Arendt 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968 

“A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” – Paul Dudley White, physician (1886-1973)

“Two centuries of philosophers stand in opposition to the modern American recipe for happiness and fulfillment. You can’t buy your way in. You can’t amuse yourself in. You can’t even expect falling in love to deliver you. The most promising way to happiness is, perhaps, through creativity, through literally creating a fulfilling life for yourself by identifying some unique talent or passion and devoting a good part of your energy to it, forever.” ~ Kalle Lasn/Bruce Grierson in Utne Reader (many good quotes about work & purpose here

“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre LordeSister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

** More awesome Audre Lorde quotes