Spring 2020 – I think of how to get to Alabama for my research fellowship, and if it’s even possible. It has been seven years since I left Poland and started a nomad life between various countries and fields. There’s obviously been geophysics at first, but now it’s just a shadow of a teenage passion, fading away after the hard expat life in soulless places, and of course, I don’t mean whole countries, just specific environments. In hindsight, and they say that hindsight is 20/20 – I could already see some of my preliminary cultural shocks as early as in 2012, during my first internship in Paris. I thought… I thought people know the same portions of history, and even if they don’t, they will be open and empathetic. I thought we share similar culture that’s probably Christian in the roots, no matter how you define your relation (or lack thereof) with God. I thought the general manners is to be sensitive and unassuming when it comes to such topics. I thought many things. But I didn’t think the world could be diverse so much that who you are born as and where you are from matters to the point of not being able to find common language.
I used to see diversity as exciting… And it is exciting as long as you are open to the difference. If you’re not, it’s isolating. And I’ve lived in probably the most close-minded places, even if they advertise themselves as the exact opposite of what they truly are.
So this happened, my cursed PhD program, living in the Netherlands and Switzerland and Germany, being an alien, longing to connect with someone who shares my contexts, running away to learn economics in Alabama for the first and for the second time, then discovering the horrifying disorder of my own advisor, learning clinical psychology while still getting abused in the apathy and dismissiveness of the environment I was stuck in… Another internship, this time in data science, to learn a trade… And the isolation of someone whose parents and grandparents actually lived behind the Iron Curtain and managed to tell the story… Why isn’t this recognized? Why are all these relations so shallow? I get it, I’m Polish – I didn’t think it mattered so much a few years back, but evidently, it does. How to make peace with being an alien? An actual cultural alien? Why do I have to be double isolated, both on a large historical scale and by my own narcissistic abuser? Is it possible that both these phenomena is just almost-sociopathy?
(Don’t get me wrong, I did connect with some good Dutch people and expats in the Netherlands, too. I just had to actively look for them… And none of it happened inside of a university)
In 2019, I wrote my first paper comparing the two, a bit of a trial-paper, but it got published – I took my first step. It was hard writing it while still waking up with muscle pains and having this routine of screaming in anger during lonely evenings… If you had a narcissist in your life: it fades. In a slow and messy manner. Give yourself patience. You deserve it.
But then in early 2020, I’m determined to take it to the next level, and I want to go to the Mises Institute for a fellowship… At this point I wasn’t even sure if I can make it in a pandemic. I write my Brazilian Mises Uni friend, asking if he’s also under the travel ban, but he’s inside the US and will drive over to Alabama, and it’s exciting, and I’m jealous.
He asks me about my research plan, and I explain: so I’m looking for psychological manipulations in collective political philosophies and for abuse symptoms in their victims. I argue that we can study such objectification of a human being based on what we know about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And it hasn’t been done before.
He then writes: Oh, so this is like ponerology. Do you know ponerology? Have you heard about Łobaczewski? Check it out!
Wait… That is a Polish surname. And he… He did research psychopathy and argued we are ruled by psychopaths. Not quite what I am aiming at – and also, doomed to be outside of the mainstream for so many reasons… But… I am amazed and I feel like my Guardian Angel is playing hide and seek with me.
Andrzej Łobaczewski was a Polish psychiatrist born in 1921 close to Kraków, and he studied at Jagiellonian University, my first Alma Mater, and the Alma Mater of my parents. During the communist rule, his interest grew in the direction of psychopathology of the system. His research proceeded, and he found out that an earlier generation of psychiatrists and social scientists has already carried out similar investigations under secret agreements. They would meet in conspiracy – the citizens of the satellite countries of the Soviet Union that used to be prominent scientists and thinkers before civilization fell on their heads – and start meetings with „We live in a sick system and we can’t even describe it to the outside world”. Their network’s proceedings were then destroyed by the secret police. Quite a compliment…
Łobaczewski was forced to emigrate to the United States in the seventies – after being denounced to authorities and having all his works confiscated. There he wrote his book again, from memory, however, he did encounter serious problems with its publication… Academia and the publishing industry turned out to be taken over by the apologists of the communist system, undoubtedly steered by certain intelligence departments that I’d argue did not have their headquarters anywhere near Washington.
Only after 1990 he could return to Poland, bounce back to life and finish the manuscript of Political ponerology…
Why ponerology? In theology, ponerology refers to the study of evil – from the Greek poneros. Łobaczewski argued that we are ruled by people that have differently shaped brains and interact with each other in a different manner than neurotypicals do. His focus was on psychopathy, and he actually used this word, along with the word „evil”, a lot…
Wow. And I didn’t know about him. This would have been my life in the previous century, although it wouldn’t, because I’d probably be closed off as a frustrated geologist living hand to mouth in a provincial institute with suffocating architecture.
Still, isn’t this what I’m experiencing on a different level, different scale – and with a different disorder… And he’s from Jagiellonian, he’s from my mountains!… I wish I could meet him. I’m amazed at the links we drew independently, however, it feels so ungraceful to compare myself to him, for I’m nowhere near the level of an experienced psychiatrist that was raided by the secret police – and also, my life is in the XXI century, which makes all the difference.
But it does seem like fate, whether I believe in it or not. I got to know about a Polish psychiatrist that had a similar idea from a Brazilian colleague who wrote it from Oklahoma when I was in Sweden.
I quickly found an interview with him: https://www.sott.net/article/159686-In-Memoriam-Andrzej-M-obaczewski
And here you can find the description of his book: http://ponerology.com/
Now, this is never going to be mainstream. There is a lot to modernize. I read his words, although I’d prefer the original language version, and… He’s isolated and traumatized more than I am. Which is very understandable, but also, it does create a barrier. I wonder if I can grasp what he means by the cultural difference of Americans and the troubles he had with communicating his ideas and experiences… Although I know you may never really communicate THIS kind of experience unless you take over Hollywood and make a convincing emotional movie. I have my Polish style, too – it’s quite dense and scholarly. I think we use a lot of hidden, and mostly too optimistic assumptions about the knowledge of others, and we leave many things unsaid or not expressed with all their strength, preferring to focus on the process, the science, the „meat”. Speaking to an American? Try to cross it all out and talk emotions and solutions. Watch some American shows and learn… You want to get the story through, after all…
This would never happen in the XX century, and this couldn’t be done by an academic that was forced to emigrate because of the actions of the secret police in a communist country, and found himself lonely and targeted in the States. That speaks insurmountable disconnection, almost a separate world inside of a thoughtless and loud New York.
These cursed times were not meant for ponerology. Firstly, there was the police and the intelligence agencies, the dark hand of Moscow cutting all the means to a possible publication. Then, the cultural difference and lack of common language bigger than what I’ve experienced… I see now the blessings of the globalized world, the blessings of living in peace with people of so many nationalities – even though I had serious issues in bad places myself, I can still pitch my ideas. I don’t think it would be possible if I was a refugee 50 years ago.
But it’s not just that. We can call the ruling class psychopaths and we know it wouldn’t be far from the truth. We can look for convincing clues that it actually is true (and, let’s face it, that confiscation itself says a lot). However, that wouldn’t make it as a real scientific statement… And we also know that is true.
Unless we raise all the megalomaniac philosophers and the insane dictators from the dead, lock them up in a closed facility and test them with all the modern knowledge for ASPD type I and II (psychopathy and sociopathy; ASPD stands for Anti-Social Personality Disorder) and NPD (obviously), we won’t ever be able to raise it as a serious claim.
However, the approach to go around it would be to show the objectification mechanisms in their philosophies and manipulations in their actions. This way, you can say you’re not attempting to diagnose anyone, but you focus on the process of treating a human being like a pawn. This is possible.
Also, writing about „psychopathy” and „evil”, however born in righteous pain and anger, may create distance between you and the target audience… I know how it is to be abused by someone so charming and of such great reputation. You want to shout and scream „he’s downright crazy! He’s a monster!”. And he IS a monster. But to others, you are just proving yourself to be crazy by calling him a monster, even if in truth, he’s the biggest monster in the world.
I’ve learned it the hard way, and a lot of dissidents before me learned it the harder way.
Nowadays, someone says „psychopath” or „evil” and the listener thinks „He’s too intense, evil? Psychopathy? Does it even happen in real life?”. It does happen in real life. Actual abusers, whatever the disorder, and actual totalitarian regimes, did exist and still exist. And they affect real life human beings with goals, aspirations, aches and passions.
We should strive to make this more approachable and relatable. And maybe we can. Maybe – in my area – after some decades the trauma faded enough so that now the youngsters can talk globally. Am I being narcissistic here?
That’s why it’s better to stay away from using „evil” or „psychopathy” even though you know you want to. Psychopathy, or ASPD type I, is actually pretty rare and solely biological. But there’s more! Sociopaths and narcissists, as some argue, are born in childhood trauma. They are cursed to live with a twisted brain, but that’s because someone very early on didn’t love them enough… This claim can go further than just „evil”. It speaks connection. And there are far more narcissists than psychopaths and sociopaths. The word is gaining ground on its own; a lot of people are affected by toxic relationships in the family and workplace. Maybe that’s how we can educate about a totalitarian regime? Using bottom-top psychology?
I’d be so honored to take over just a tiny bit. Life has made this choice for me. And I’m more than grateful for the link to Łobaczewski’s work, even if I won’t be able to use it academically. It certainly deserves a mention.
To quote him…
„It seems that, in the natural order of things, that those persons who have suffered the most from psychopaths or bearers of other mental anomalies, will be those called to do this work, to accept the burden. If you do, accept also, ladies and gentlemen, your fate with an open heart and humility, and always with a sense of humor. Cherish assistance from the Universal Mind and know that Great Values often grow from Great Suffering.”
Thank you, professor.