A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”
The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”
Replies the scorpion: “Its my nature…”
Might makes rights.
Whether we like it or not, that is a fact. Those with power determine the rights of everyone else. Only when the people rise up en masse – showing those in high positions where the ultimate power really lies – do the powerful cede us some ‘rights.’ That has been the history of every progressive movement, from women’s suffrage to the labour movement to today’s environmental and social justice movement (formerly two separate movements, most have now realized they are inextricably linked).
As for what is morally ‘right,’ while the vast majority of us readily agree on much of that, the powerful seem to have a different code of ethics, best summed up as ‘Whatever I can get away with.’
The reason we’re not getting movement on the social and environmental fronts is because first, those in power believe themselves to be in a safe position, and second, those in power don’t care about us or the future.
Climate change is going to destroy civilisation-as-we-in-the-West-know it, following which it will wipe most of humanity from the Earth – and we are not doing anything serious to stop it. (Depending upon who is reading this and when you are reading it, that statement may seem obvious or ridiculous.) We need a rapid transition to clean and green everything, and the technology largely exists to do so – so why aren’t we? The usual answer is that entrenched interests, e.g. oil companies, are standing in the way. But oil companies are led by people – why are those people stalling action? It’s not a lack of awareness of the danger, because oil company executives have known for longer than the rest of us that burning fossil fuels will cause devastating climate change. They have actively suppressed that information and discredited anyone who attempted to bring the truth to light. Why would they do that? For money, is the standard response, and certainly oil executives have done very well over the years.
Behind every great fortune lies a great crime
Honore de Balzac
But would you out your children’s future for any amount of money now? That seems an extraordinarily selfish thing for a parent to do. It defeats a large part of being a parent – giving your children a better future. Unless, of course, you were a sociopath.
I am going to try to avoid topical references, for example that drought in the Middle East and Sudan has contributed to the ongoing wars there. The reason is that in coming years these horrors will be dwarfed by what is to come. We will go from hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced to millions dead and hundreds of millions driven from their homes and lands. If we continue on our current climate change course, temperatures will rise by 3C or more, and that means billions dead.
I am not going to attempt to convince anyone that climate change is real. That fact has passed from the realm of science to observable reality in many parts of the world, and its continuing advance is becoming ever more undeniable. Yet, almost all of those in leadership positions – Presidents and Prime Ministers, CEOs and major ‘think tanks’ – deny, ignore, or pay lip service to the danger. Even those who proclaim their awareness of and commitment to addressing climate change are frequently and deliberately making it worse.
What I will do is suggest that our leaders are scorpions and we are frogs. They are destroying all of us and they cannot help themselves, as it is their nature. I will say that many of our climate-denying leaders are sociopaths, and that sociopaths are missing fundamental human qualities – and are therefore not humans. As we know all too well, labelling one group of people as subhumans has led to scapegoating and mass slaughter many times in our history.
Let’s be clear: I am not calling these people subhumans, I am saying they are not humans. They do not deserve human rights – they are a foreign species and it is us or them. They care only about their own lives and lifetimes, and feel not a whit of guilt or shame for what they are doing to others now or in the future.
Climate change is real, dangerous, and our ‘leaders’ just don’t care
As mentioned, I am not going to try and convince anyone that climate change is happening. Anyone who does not accept this reality at this point is a fool, an ideologue blinded to reality (ideologues are a subcategory of fools, wherein very smart people can do very stupid things), or a sociopathic liar.
So, let us accept that climate change is happening and it going to continue to get worse. The forest fires that are already bad will get much worse. The forestry industry and tourism in affected areas will continue to decline, with equity and jobs literally going up in smoke. ‘Smoke season’ will continue to worsen and many people will have their health damaged – forest fire smoke is quite toxic – and their businesses and jobs destroyed. They will not be ‘bailed out’ because they are small businesses.
Sea levels are rising but have barely affected us so far. At the current rate of rise, which is accelerating, dozens of very populous coastal cities will ultimately have to be abandoned. It will not be possible, never mind affordable, to build massive sea walls around cities like Miami, Osaka, Alexandria, Rio de Janeiro – these are just a few of the dozens of cities that will be drowned by rising seas. Where will these millions go?
Droughts and crop failures are becoming more frequent and more damaging, resulting in countless farmers being forced to abandon their farms and move to growing urban slums where organized criminal gangs are the only ‘law.’ Their sons and daughters will have little choice but to join these gangs.
These mass dislocations of people mean hundreds of millions will be driven from their homes, farms, and businesses. This will inevitably produce civil and regional wars, which have in fact begun.
Civilization will not survive this onslaught. I will make the risky prediction that by 2050, and more likely 2030, civilization will have essentially collapsed. Capitalism will certainly not survive climate change, and in fact its most fervent proponents will be reviled for concealing and accelerating it. Global trade will be greatly curtailed, as more and more resources must be devoted to ‘adapting’ to climate change. There won’t be money for big screen televisions when literally trillions must be poured into fighting fires, rising seas, crop failures, and of course civil unrest.
Our leaders will increasingly lose legitimacy as they fail to protect their citizens – us – from the ravages of climate change. This is not a new phenomenon: Throughout history, self-interested leaders have held onto power until the bitter end, ignoring and suppressing any signs of impending danger. In fact, such leaders typically double-down by putting on ever more wasteful spectacles to demonstrate their own power, and by becoming increasingly oppressive.
It’s worth pausing for a moment to expand on this. Wasteful spectacles back in Maya or Inca times meant more sacrifices, more smoke-and-mirrors, more demagoguery. In our times, we have billion-dollar summits for world leaders to pretend to care about the economy, the environment, human rights, or any other thing to distract the citizens from a declining reality.
The Greatest Generation somehow raised the Least Generation. The Greatest sacrificed their lives so we could live, and live free. The Least did the opposite: They sacrificed future lives so they could live plush.
[As an aside, most of us in the West don’t realize it, but we have been living in a declining society for some decades now. Wages have been relatively flat while prices, especially for necessities like housing and healthy food, have skyrocketed. The middle class has been declining, the poor and billionaire classes growing. That’s a decline by any measure except by number of billionaires.]
Oppression also increases. Some people can see the growing danger or are less accepting of declining living standards, and some of those speak up and, heaven forbid, start organizing their fellow citizens to do something about it. Those who reveal the corruption and/or incompetence of those in power are an existential threat to the powerful.
Those in power use that power to discredit or destroy their enemies. Those in power rarely attempt to address the actual concerns of the people, because that would require them to give up some privilege and power, which they have become addicted to. This leads to problems being concealed or ignored until the populace is showing signs of rebelling. Of course, it is vastly less costly to deal with problems in their early stages than when far advanced, and sometimes it is simply too late. It will certainly be too late for the people the leaders tortured and killed in order to avoid facing the problem. This is one reason many otherwise good people do not speak up.
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
Lord Acton, 1887
What I will argue later is that bad men are drawn to power. Power does not so much corrupt as reveal. Bad men (and it has been mostly men) have less need to conceal their evil deeds the more power they have.
Why would leaders ignore the suffering of those they rule? In reality, in many cases leaders cause great suffering in the pursuit of their aims. This is a key point: What kind of person believes himself justified in killing countless other people for any reason except self-defence? Certainly, any individual or group being attacked has the right to defend itself, including as violently as necessary to destroy the attackers.
However, most wars are not for self-defence. This is such an obvious historical reality that it needs no citation. Wars typically are waged so the leaders can enrich themselves and their cronies. This may be done under the guise of self-defence or to spread the word of some God or another. I consider extreme nationalism a type of god, in that people are persuaded to worship the nation as supreme. The Spanish conquest of the Americas is a good example: Under the guise of converting heathens to Christ, the Spanish tortured, enslaved, and killed millions to steal their silver and gold.
With the rise of powerful corporations, corporate leaders have successfully bribed governments to allow outsourcing of jobs from high-wage, high-standard countries to those with minimal labour or environmental protections – and that are often vicious dictatorships. These executives know full well how things work.
Take a typical example: Nike outsources production to a ‘contractor.’ The contractor is responsible for making shoes to Nike standards. How that happens, Nike executives pretend is not their concern. They set standards for shoe quality, but not quality of human treatment. (Nike and similar companies will certainly have statements that people are to be treated well. These should be taken as seriously as company visions that claim things like “People are our greatest resource. We treat them with respect.”)
They know how it works: The contractor opens a sweatshop in a cooperative dictatorship. They hire young women, work them until they are useless because their eyes are burned out. The factory pollutes the local environment, poisoning those who live there. Birth defects skyrocket, as do various cancers and other diseases. The factory pays little in the way of taxes which could be used for things like schools and hospitals, as bribes instead grease government hands.
But that’s not the contractor’s problem, until it hits the news. Then Nike (or whichever company) makes a mealy-mouthed apology promising to do better, which really means a slight and temporary improvement while they find ways to conceal their operations better.
What kind of person would knowingly do such a thing? This is a key point. Could you do such a thing? Not if you’re a decent human being. If you owned a shoe factory and found out that, for example, CEO Phil Knight of Nike was leading a lobbying effort to outsource production to third-world dictatorships, would you not oppose that? Perhaps even lead a counter effort? You would if you had any loyalty to your fellow humans and to your country.
Traitors betray fellow citizens to profit themselves. Human history is rife with examples of one person or group betraying another, either slaughtering them and stealing all they have, or selling them into slavery. Today we occasionally catch a spy selling our secrets to people who would destroy us if they could.
Again, what kind of person would betray their fellow humans? Would you sell out your fellow citizens for money? Ultimately, that is what most traitors do. They may claim some ideology, which conveniently always comes with money.
Climate deniers have betrayed us all. Consider the executives of Exxon: Decades ago, their own scientists reported that burning oil could cause disastrous climate change that would cost a fortune to respond to and that would harm many, many people. Would you have done everything in your power to cover up the danger to your fellow citizens and the nation? The Exxon executives did. They not only suppressed their own findings, they went on to attack any independent scientists who came to the same conclusion and raised a warning. The Exxon executives did, and lied about it, and said they would stop, and lied about that, too. For decades. They may still be lying – every time they’ve promised to stop funding climate denial, they’ve been found to be still doing so.
It is not at all a stretch to say that the Exxon executives betrayed their fellow citizens and their country. Many other executives made the same choice. The fossil fuel companies, the US car manufacturers – the US Chamber of Commerce that represents thousands of US companies – have all been actively working to suppress climate warnings until now we are doomed to very serious, including lethal impacts.
Again and again, what kind of person would do such things? Who thinks it is acceptable to betray, torture, poison, rob their fellows?
It takes a special kind of person, one lacking a conscience, one only concerned about one’s own life, one who sees other people as prey. Such people are commonly known as sociopaths. They feel no guilt or shame, no remorse. They don’t – can’t – empathize with other people. They can’t love anyone except themselves, even their own children should they have any.
Sociopaths thus cannot care about the future. They feel no responsibility to other people or future generations. There are many kinds of sociopaths. Some enjoy torturing and killing people, sometimes even eating them. Others are ambitious and happily lie and cheat their way to the top, where they extend their sociopathy to the corporation. Others are lazy and con someone into marrying and supporting them. Some are con artists bilking seniors out of their life savings. Too often, they become murderous dictators – the examples are endless: Countless Roman emperors, including the one who murdered his brother and father to ensure his place on the throne. Conquerors of all kinds, including Genghis Khan who ordered his troops to rape to death conquered women. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping along with countless lesser ones like Bashar Al-Assad, Marcos, Pinochet, etc., etc.
Sociopaths are predators of humans. They see other people – us – as prey. They feel no guilt or shame, though they will pretend they do. Criminal sociopaths who are given ‘sensitivity training’ simply use that to better deceive humans.
Sociopaths are not human. By definition, a sociopath lacks humanity. It cannot be taught to one, as they lack the necessary brain connections and regions. They are not sick or diseased and so cannot be cured. In reality, sociopaths are more advanced as individuals. They succeed faster than we do because of their ruthlessness. They read and manipulate humans extraordinarily well. If you re-read the examples of sociopathic dictators just above, you can see that sociopaths are responsible for most wars, for deliberately starving tens of millions of people to death, for slavery, for torture and much destruction.
By denying the reality and danger of climate change, they have doomed all of us and our children to lifetimes fighting climate change, eking out a living under increasingly difficult conditions, suffering crop failures, forest failures, the spread of diseases, mass migrations of refugees, wars….
And they don’t care. At all. They feel no guilt or shame. They don’t care about you and your kids. They only care about themselves. Their core desire is to dominate others.
I believe that sociopaths are a different species. We are Homo sapiens, capable of love, of caring for others, of wanting to provide a better future for our children. Homo sociopathicus cannot do any of that – they don’t have the mental equipment – or a soul. Where sociopaths are superior individually, we humans are superior as a species. That is, only humans can carry forward the human race because only we care about our children’s future. Sociopaths are capable of caring only for themselves.
If the world were entirely composed of sociopaths, life would be brutal. The strongest would dominate and everyone else would be at their mercy, of which they have none. Life has appeared that way at times; it is not necessary for the whole society to be composed of sociopaths. There was a time in Dark Ages England when more than one-third of all people died violent deaths, at least according to their exhumed skeletons. Hack marks in skulls, ribs, arms, etc, were incredibly common and testament to what must have been a horrible life.
If a sociopath becomes the leader of a country, he will do his best to remake the country in his own image. Hitler, Lenin and Stalin, Mao – all had insane ideas, from the human point-of-view, about how the world should be. They did their best to force their countries to realize their vision, and really didn’t care about the human casualties.
Before going on to what to do about this, we need to consider corporations. Corporations are not new – they have been around since at least the 1500s. Consider what a corporation is: It’s a legal structure whose sole goal is to make as much money as possible. Period. How that money is made is irrelevant. General Motors makes more money from financing car buyers than from manufacturing cars. Nike is all about marketing their brand; it manufactures almost nothing; that is done by ‘contractors.’ It’s not hard to see how this leads to sociopathic behaviour.
If you agree with the idea that “the love of money is the root of many kinds of evil,” then corporations are the root of many kinds of evil. This certainly has been borne out in reality.
The Meek versus the Arrogant
It’s us or them
The question is what to do? Whether we know or like it or not, humans are locked in battle with sociopaths. They will destroy us unless we neutralize them.
Sociopaths are fundamentally arrogant, in that they believe they have the right to do what they want to who they want – they see themselves as superior beings to humans. In reality, as mentioned earlier, they are. They read and manipulate us with relative ease. However superior they may be individually, left in charge they will destroy not just humanity but themselves. Sociopaths cannot exist without humans, because we are their prey and they will destroy the world through their greed and selfishness.
We humans are meek, in that we take what scraps the superior sociopaths leave us. We follow them into wars of conquest that benefit only the sociopathic elite. We believe their lies, we allow them to whip us into a frenzy, to divide and conquer us. The great divide is not racial, or economic, or religious, or any other such grouping, usually manufactured by sociopaths to keep us at each other’s throats instead of theirs. The real divide is the humans against the sociopaths, and the future of humanity is at stake.
It may already be too late, in that we may have polluted enough that runaway climate change may be inevitable. Runaway climate change means average temperatures worldwide rise by up to 6C. At this temperature, the oceans turn anoxic. This means they stop producing oxygen and the ‘air’ becomes sulphurously toxic. Humans and all other beings requiring oxygen will die off. This has happened before and it took millions of years before enough oxygen was again present in the atmosphere to support plants and animals. Scientists now believe we won’t hit 6C, perhaps 4-5C – that is still the death of agriculture and therefore most of us. The changes at 4C and 5C are absolutely massive and most of us will not survive them – the Amazon rainforest will be grasslands, much of Central America and the southern USA will be a massive desert, and so on.
At this time of writing, it is believed we still have time if we take drastic action such as planting one trillion trees, returning prairies to permaculture, or not deforesting the Amazon. However, all these cut into the power and profits of one sociopath or another. As sociopaths don’t care about the future and only care about themselves, they oppose any action.
This newsletter is about the battle between us and the sociopaths: The Meek against the Arrogant. We are losing, badly, and soon completely. Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, but even if we somehow control that, the sociopaths in our world are cooking up more ways to dominate and destroy: surveillance technology has vastly advanced and is being used to round people upon into concentration camps in China, for example. (The Chinese refer to them as re-education centres but one critical step we must take is reject their bullshit and reclaim truth in language.)
There is no guarantee we will win – as I said we have not been for some time.