27 July 2013

Weekend Viewing: I Am Fishhead

"An ordinary human being, with a personal conscience, personally answering for something to somebody and personally and directly taking responsibility, seems to be receding farther and farther from the realm of politics.

Politicians seem to turn into puppets that only look human and move in a giant, rather inhuman theatre; they appear to become merely cogs in a huge machine, objects of a major civilizational automatism which has gotten out of control and for which nobody is responsible."

Vaclav Havel, 24 May 1993

I have a high regard for Frank Ochberg, although he normally writes about other aspects of psychology especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and victimization. 
Like others in business, I have had the occasional misfortune to encounter a few obvious narcissists, and probable psychopaths, during my thirty years long corporate business career.   I learned to avoid them at all costs, no matter how intriguing or attractive their activities and personalities may have been.  There was always a price to be paid.  And if you have one as a boss, change is sometimes the only recourse.
They are rarely responsive to or capable of genuine friendship, but rather tend to relate best on a power-subordinate level, and in peers prefer more active controls like greed, scheming, and if possible, various forms of blackmail, often financial but sometimes more involved.
They do not like the independent minded person or moral personality in the least.  They despise and fear them because they view morality or other limitations as a weakness, and fear them because they do not bend easily to control. Even if loyalty is offered they do not trust it because they do not know what it is.  It is most often about the need for certainty and control on a primitive level.
Invariably if you know someone who holds quite a few people in contempt, and not mere dislike, the chances are pretty good that at some point they will hold you in the same contempt as well.  If you wish to know the measure of a person, watch how they treat those who they perceive to be weaker or vulnerable.  Listen to their words, but pay more regard to their actions.
And they tend to attract other people with personality disorders into loose groupings that can become self-promotional.   If they ever obtain a significant amount of control of a business, that entity will sooner or later be in serious trouble, often shockingly so.  What were they thinking?  They were well beyond reason, and their morality is largely self-referential.

It is a problem that far too often power attracts those who would abuse it.  And so there is a need for transparency, checks and balances, and rules that limit concentrations of power, both in the corporate and in the political worlds.

All systems that rely on the assumption of a natural rationality and inherent goodness of leaders and key participants are doomed to a tragic failure.  There is strength in diversity, simple because as Lord Acton observed, 'where there are concentrations of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.'