Only crazy people are violent, right? This is an interesting question that occasionally pops up in the study of human behavior. The question is often deferred or deflected as being not a question of mental health but a legal issue. In a court room it would come down to whether a thief, racketeer or a murderer was sufficiently competent mentally to stand trial for his or her actions. The debate often focuses on issues of a clinical nature such as - did a brain tumor or neurological or psychological disturbance act as the underlying cause for the malevolence or was the action a simple pre-meditated one designed for the aggressors own pleasure or aggrandizement. In simpler terms, is the offender ill with a tumor or schizophrenia and/or a bipolar disorder and has lost their ability to make rational decisions? If there is no illness then they know exactly what they are doing.
People who act with malice and forethought and do not have an underlying illness that drives their actions are described as psychopaths. There is no official clinical diagnostic category of psychopathy, it is not technically a diagnosis but psychological assessment scales have been devised to measure psychopathy and many scholarly articles have been written about it. Most agree that a psychopath is someone who has little fear, can tolerate stress at rates significantly higher than the norm, is cold hearted and lacks empathy, can be highly charming but is also extremely manipulative, impulsive and is often prone toward criminal activities. Despite this broad and consensus driven list of symptoms there is no agreement among researchers as to the criteria for a diagnosis of it and that is likely why it does not exist as a category. The closest diagnostic category that does exist and is used clinically is Antisocial Personality disorder. The criteria for this category are a disregard for lawful behaviors, pervasive lying, impulsivity,aggressiveness, disregard for safety and no or little remorse, essentially the same basic, though more specified, description of a psychopath.
Overwhelming charm, a sense of grandiosity and an intense desire to succeed regardless of the impact on others are the traits of not just malevolent psychopaths but according to Professor Kevin Dutton at the University of Oxford they are also the traits of some highly successful politicians. Count Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a prime example of this theory. I would also count the Mullahs that dictate the direction of Iran as even more explicit examples. They sit discreetly, even quietly behind the action and dictate the behaviors of their republic. They give their regular religious sermons which are filled with venom for all humanity and offer fatwas overflowing with a callous disregard for life. I have often described such people as narcissists in extremis. They can only view themselves and their own desires as legitimate, others simply do not exist except as trash to be removed. And, because they are so good at manipulation, their followers follow without much questioning. The biggest problem though is that they believe themselves totally.
Despite the wishful press reports that there exists an as of yet, and despite the regimes violent suppression of an uprising, untapped intense desire for freedom by the Iranian public, it is clear that Ahmadinijad would not be spewing hatred unless the Mullahs allowed him to. I am not an historian but I am a student of human behavior, I am far from the first to point out that there is a gross and palpable similarity between the Iranian regime and the Nazi regime. Listening to the speeches of Iranian Mullahs and their political front-men as translated by MEMRI and those made by Hitler and his henchmen at the build up to World War II one should be struck as I am by the interchangeability of the phrasing and grandiose intent to rue the world and destroy the Jew. More importantly, I have heard it said that Israel is a one nuclear bomb war – meaning that just one Iranian nuclear device will wipe Israel off the map, never mind how many Arab lives will be destroyed or that the land will be left uninhabitable for decades. Psychopaths have no empathy they have only their pathological goals.
Perhaps the illness is ours. We tend to delude ourselves into believing that there are rational individuals hiding in the bodies and minds of these psychopathic rulers and politicians. While it is true that as of this moment there is no treatment to cure an Antisocial Personality that does not exempt us from the responsibility to try and stop another genocide. Too bad the world cannot or will not openly acknowledge the destructive pathological drives of those regimes and their leaders. Instead we reason and debate and continue to provide a forum which only reinforces the psychopaths motivation to continue with their destructive drives.