Monday, August 16, 2010

One Flew Over The Bankster's Nest

I love the internet. Whenever I want to know more about something I just have to get online and start Googling. Almost everything I could hope to learn is contained here, in one form or another. Sometimes I need to find technical information, such as how to repair a 50 year old single barrel carburetor, other times I just need to get a detailed definition of a word. It’s all there.

Take for instance the other day… I decided to look up the definition (and symptoms) of the word “sociopath.” I’d been using it to describe the folks who run Wall Street for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I was using the accurate and appropriate term. Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that I am.

I learned from a number of articles that to be considered a “sociopath” a person has to exhibit three out of seven discernable character disorders. I wasn’t surprised to discover that bank executives (as a group, if not individually) meet the behavioral criteria of the sociopath. Those 3 criteria are:

1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

There’s also trait number 4) “Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.” And some items that don’t generally apply to bankers overall, but may exist within the individuals include:

5) Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
6) Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; and
7) Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

Even without the last three criteria it appears that the folks on Wall Street have enough behavioral disorders to qualify them as sociopaths. You won’t find much argument against that on the internet.

God, I love Google!

Let’s take a closer look at the first 3 abovelisted items and see how they apply.

1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.

An article here further states that the sociopath repeats antisocial behaviors despite having been previously caught and punished for them. The suggestion the author makes is that sociopaths do not historically ‘recover’ from their mental illness because they lack the necessary brain functions that mitigate antisocial behavior. A disconnect occurs in the brain of the sociopath, and the mitigating function (the thing in our head that says "I really shouldn't do that") gets put on the back burner while the personal reward function (the greed function) goes unchecked.

I should also add that the term “antisocial” means a lot more than not talking to people at a party. Antisocial technically means “against the people” and can refer to intentional acts ranging from distancing one’s self from his peers, to cheating, manipulating, stealing, murder, and anything else that harms the fellow man.

Applying this to the financial industries, the reason that the banks, credit card and loan companies keep trying to find loopholes that they can slither through in order to continue raping the public and stealing its money, is because the slaps on the wrist they receive have no lasting psychological effect on them. The sociopaths who operate these corporations are apparently unable to equate the punishment they receive with any wrongdoing on their part… primarily because they believe that their actions are justified and ‘normal’. They use the terms “ambition” and "talent" to describe their sociopathic behavior.

2) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

How many horror stories have we heard regarding people who were sold junk debts after being guaranteed they would pay off handsomely? How many lies were told in order to sell those debts when the sellers knew they were toxic? Plenty! Those guileless bankers knowingly defrauded their customers by lying through their teeth because their brains were focused on their own personal reward – regardless of the collateral damage they created in their wake. To a degree, the banks are STILL deceiving their customers and the Government by trying to pretend that their transaction-reorganizing scam is something we all wanted. Lies upon lies. They will say whatever is necessary to keep the gravy train of your profit pulling into their station instead of taking their lumps as we all know they should.

3) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Throughout this whole financial ordeal – the mortgage meltdown, the fee debacle, the fraud charges, the credit card rate scams – the banks have remained aloof and indifferent. They have offered no apology to the people they have harmed through their own avarice and negligence. In fact, they are appealing the recent restrictions imposed by Congress and Judge Alsup because they somehow believe THEY are the injured parties, not their long line of victims.

They use their only weapon in the fee debacle – repeating over and over again that we, the public, want them to reorganize our transactions from highest to lowest regardless of the cost to us – as a smokescreen to hide the issue that they employed this plan when some other sociopath discovered it could generate huge amounts of revenue for almost nothing. And the fees, they argue, are the cost of doing business.

They double the interest rates of credit card users in good standing, and penalize individuals who purchase certain items with their credit cards in order to “justify” charging a higher interest rate. And they callously kick families out of their homes when the loans they planned on seeing fail finally do.

They continue to reward their execs with outrageous bonuses, despite the Government’s insistence that they do not. The reason/excuse they offer? “We have to pay these bonuses to get the talent that will make our stockholders happy.”

Adding insult to injury, they use those same stockholders as their scapegoats in order to try to trickle the responsibility down off of their shoulders and onto to the shoulders of their investors. After all, it’s the STOCKHOLDERS who make them do such dastardly deeds. It’s the STOCKHOLDERS who are the greedy ones. Not them. Not the banksters. The banksters never look in the mirror when blame is being tossed around. They just keep trying to flick it off like a booger on the end of their finger, hoping it will stick to anyone or anything other than themselves.

It’s always someone else’s fault. The banks are the victims, dontcha know. That’s why we had to bail them out. They didn’t know that so many loans were toxic when they slipped them quietly into derivative junk packages. No… they are the innocent ones. And the reason they keep lying to promote that image is because they fail to see their own wrongdoing... forgetting of course that a lie is of itself a wrongdoing. Oh, they know that the public sees their acts as criminal, but the public is wrong. We have to be wrong, because the banks are always right.

Well, they may not be right, but they are truly sick.

Where things are not clear to me – and perhaps many others - is whether this sickness is something innate in all of these people, or whether the sickness is acquired by being exposed to that particular environment. Certainly, those at the top of the industry have suffered the disconnect from their conscience long enough that they will probably require years of institutionalization. But what of the underlings? Is the whole financial industry a magnet to people with Antisocial Personality Disorder? Or does exposure to other sociopaths within the industry rub off on reasonably well-balanced folk and thus imbalance their brain-chemical balance? In other words, is the sociopathy within the financial industry inborn, or is it contagious? Or both? It’s an interesting question, and one whose answers might someday lead to better screening of job applicants on Wall Street. But first we have to get a few long-term studies underway.

Now that we know that our financial bigwigs most likely are sociopaths, the question becomes what do we do with them? Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose we could demand that the Federal Government mandate the full and complete psychiatric evaluation of all financial corporation leaders, and institutionalize and/or incarcerate those who are deemed psychopathic or sociopathic (both terms fall into the category of Antisocial Personality Disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association). Given the nature of sociopathic disorder, I lean toward institutionalization rather than incarceration. Besides, our jails are already full enough. And if, as I suspect, these banksters are indeed sociopaths, prison is absolutely the wrong place for them to be… along with at the helm of any financial firm.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. The born psychopath is rare, probably born without the mirror neurons necessary to experience empathy.

    Most psychopaths are run of the mill and they get that way because like most people they beleive what they choose to believe, as you point out in this article.

    The degree to which business practices have become amoral and are nonetheless accepted by nominally "normal" people is a measure of the degree of decay in civil society.

    I wrote an essay on the subject for the online book Stop teh Madenss: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America: