Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It's In the Eyes

There's a reason that people talk about looking other people in the eyes. The old wives tale about seeing the soul of a man through his eyes or some old timers concept of judging a man by whether he looks you in the eyes, the firmness of his grip and the words from his lips aren't just old cliches. They mean something that most people just don't get.

Today I was watching the trial of Saddam Hussein on television and, for the first time, I truly felt that I was looking into the eyes of a socio-path. Not that I didn't know he was one already, but innocuous photos and still shots from a distance don't really give you the essence of a man. It's the close up shots taken when the man is stripped of all trappings of power and mystery that give you the real man. Many would argue whether Saddam Hussein is crazy or just crazy like a fox. In a socio-path, both of those constructs come together and create one of the scariest types of human predators to walk the earth.

The first thing you have to know about a socio-path is that he believes the cover story he has created for himself. Maybe, in the beginning, he hasn't quite imbibed and embraced the story. He's still worried that he is going to get caught. But, as time goes on and he is not caught nor punished, he believes himself invincible and thus he begins to believe the story he has concocted about his existence. He believes that, not only is he right but that rightness was ordained or meant to be.

I can honestly say, until now, even with all of the evils that Saddam committed against his people and others, that, when he proclaimed himself the new Nebuchadnezzar, when he waved the sword or pistol around, I imagined this to be simply the props that a man in a dangerous position used cynically to convince others of his power when in truth, it was also the props he used to construct the story for his own mind.

Today, watching the video, you can see that Saddam crossed the line from a cynical power mongerer to a socio-path that lives outside of and refuses to acknowledge any reality beyond that which he created. He still insists that he is the legitimate leader of Iraq; that the court is illegal and further, today, he insisted that a "great revolution" was coming that would see the judge punished for taking part in these proceedings. Some were worried that this was a signal to loyalist insurgents to make an attack and I wouldn't rule that out, but I believe that, even if it was, he really believed that a new revolution would occur that would vindicate him if not bring him back to power. I think he thinks it will happen before the trial is done and he is punished even though he said that he is ready to die, regardless. He still believes that he has some leverage.

That is the bluster of a man who doesn't really believe that he will die. Even Hitler, forgive me for such an easy comparison, often talked about the Third Reich going on after he was dead, but he never imagined until the last moment, that he would die so soon or the Reich be crushed after only twelve years in existence. Even at the end he believed that its destruction was not his own making. Saddam's "Reich" or glorious utopia lasted thirty so you can see that he had much longer than Hitler to develop this delusionary construct. Maybe the time he was in power is more comparative to Stalin who had 25 years in power to create his own construct of reality while millions died and Russia simultaneously leaped forward as an industrialized nation while creaping slowly to its death as the Communist utopia. Or maybe Saddam sees himself as greater than any of those because he maintained his power for even loger than either?

As a socio-path, I imagine it is the last, that he outlasted them all and that was part of the story he told himself as to why he was invincible, why he was meant to exist and why his actions, however reprehensible, were right. In his own story, he does not see himself as a pawn of other powers greater than he or just some small part of a larger story that found him less than important in the whole scheme of things. He did not construct the propaganda of winning the first Gulf War simply for the edification of the direct masses under his control, but as an added link to his own story. The years of sanctions and the willingness of leaders to allow him to go on, dealing with him as a legitimate power added even more links, more bricks into the building of his own story.

It's the story that he keeps telling himself, even as he walks in handcuffs to a building where he is on trial for his life.

A socio-path has no remorse for his actions because he believes he was right or justified, no matter how repugnant his acts.

I was reading MSNBC's new blog Blogging Baghdad and Richard Engel wrote:

One reporter joked, "I hope tomorrow they bring Saddam in like Hannibal Lechter, complete with face mask." Everyone laughed because I think everyone secretely wished it would happen.

Everyone secretely wishes it would happen because normal people feel empathy if not sympothy for others, even often people they have victimized in some manner. It's called "remorse" and Saddam had none. When people suddenly realize that they are not in the company of their own kind, but in the company of a cold blooded killer, the mind instinctively feels the danger, even if the conscious mind can see that they are a safe distance away and the killer is restrained. It's an age old instinct that is all too often latent in mankind, but once saved his life when he lived in caves and the animals were just as deadly to him as any other man.

I believe I know the moment that these reporters felt that instinct kicking in. It wasn't when Saddam stood up and lambasted the judge or railed against the legitimacy of the court or even when he threated the "great revolution". Those moments, if seen by themselves, might make you believe that he was just a crazy, pathetic old man who had lost touch with reality or maybe, if you're in the other camp, it would make you see him as a still strong and viable leader taking his persecutors to task. No, the moment of recognition that you were looking into the eyes of a socio-pathic, cold blooded killer was when he laughed.

(see this video, watch after the piece by Engel about how stories are selected and the media attempts to weed out propaganda -?-, there is the film clip of Saddam on trial)

A witness is giving statements about the round up of people from Dujail after an attack on Saddam's motorcade in 1982 and breaks down crying and Saddam begins laughing. He called the man a traitor, a coward and a liar, but, even though the actual incident was documented by Saddam's regime (like serial killers and rapists who like to keep trophies of their acts to relive whenever they feel the urge) including a video of Saddam's speeches after the event declaring that he was in his right to protect himself and Iraq and, even though there are hundreds of mass graves with proof of his atrocities including men, women, children, the elderly and the infirm, some tied, some blindfolded, all dead, he refused to recognize it as wrong. The look in his eyes as he laughed said that he had no remorse and felt no pity for the man who had lost most of his family to Saddam's killing machine.

I was not even in the same room as these men, yet, just seeing the video I felt the cold slither, the subconscious recognition of a remorseless predator. It is no wonder that these men wanted to see him bound and gagged because they did not want to see or hear the truth. Not the truth that those who support Saddam and opposed his over throw feel that we do not want to hear, but the truth that speaks clearly: even in this civilized, enlightened age, so far along recognizing and denouncing the worst socio-pathic mass murderers of our times, we cannot stop the creation nor end the existence of such men. We cannot stop them from coming to power; from victimizing many and we have to recognize that we too could one day be the victim.

Or maybe it is but for the grace or accident of our birth in a different country and time that we were not.

We don't have to look at histories biggest and best known socio-paths like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao or even Robespierre to feel that dread. In every society, the socio-path exists as a common man, unseen and unknown until many victims have suffered and been found like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer, or BTK.

This is Dennis Rader, the BTK killer in his own words.

In short, Saddam is no different than any other socio-path. His long life of criminal, anti-social behavior eventually led him to where many socio-paths have gone, needing more adulation and more victims, living or dead, to re-enforce his self worth. It is these socio-paths that often become leaders of cults. These cults have taken on many forms from religion to science to political. As one site on socio-pathic behavior and its victims stated, victims fall into three categories:

1) Those who discover they have been manipulated and abused, finally escaping, who feel that they have "spiritually" raped (if not physically already many times), denouncing loudly even if no one listens or believes.

2) Those that do not recognize that they were manipulated and upon break up of the original organization seek other similar organizations where they continue to fall victim to socio-pathic behavior

3) Those that do not recognize that they were manipulated, do not believe they were victims and continue to validate and support the "truth" of the deposed leader.

In Iraq, all three victims of the socio-path are exhibited in Iraqi society. Those in the first category fearful to trust again, rejecting assistance as some self punishment and those that are attempting to recover through many different means, attempting to re-establish their self worth through improved living or changing politics to insure that this behavior cannot occur again.

The second category also exists which includes those who are fearful of leaving the construct of their past lives, seeking out membership or closer relationships within other socio-pathic, cult like groups including Sadr's al-Mahdi, the Shi'ite Badr and Dawa organizations and those that have joined the Sunni Islamist organizations including Al Qaida, Ansar al-Sunnah and many others.

The third are the Saddamist loyalists or those who simply yearn for the life they lead that did not require them to make their own decisions, that gave the power over their lives and emotions of happiness and saddness to another.

Unfortunately, while cultist socio-paths have developed proven methods to damage, control and even murder the masses, we have yet to develop a proven technique that would reverse, en mass, the damage inflicted.

Possibly, the closest we may ever come is putting Saddam on trial on television and providing call in radio stations or other forums where the victims can get some sense of catharsis from talking, crying and screaming.

Indirect victims of the socio-path are all those who are left to clean up after the destruction, who must deal with those who know that the socio-path existed but have in some manner determined that they were not as psycho-pathic or dangerous as reality (as evidenced by pictures of mass graves and first hand stories of victims) shows them and who must deal in with the socio-path until such a time as his disposition insures no one else will be a victim. Until that time, he is still dangerous and still capable of using the tools of his trade (ie, superficial charm and manipulation, etc).

Another writer wrote on December 1 in 10 ft from Saddam:

I learned a long time ago when I was a crime reporter that people — terrible people — never seem that sinister up close in a courtroom setting. They are kind of 'de-fanged.'

Saddam looks that way. Slow moving. Casual almost. Sort of disoriented sometimes. But suddenly there is that cold cool look from eyes that lock on you and you see the old Saddam is there — just as dangerous, just as unrepentant.

Socio-paths almost always share the same look. The problem is that society is so afraid of this kind of remorseless predator among us that we rarely take time to study them, to recognize the signs. At least, not as a whole society. Further, there are those that have not studied it accept superficially who then claim any number of leaders exhibit these qualities, probably because, to be a leader, one must share some of these qualities, such as the ability to communicate, exuding confidence and providing some definitive answers that resonate with the general populace. All of these things lead to two contradicting behaviors in society:

1) An unutterable fear that the socio-pathic predator walks among us.

2) The inability to recognize a true predator until the victims have piled up.

This contradictory nature and the ability of the human mind to compartmentalize fear, the ability to disassociate ourselves from inexplicable or terrifying episodes when it has happened to "the others" and still allows us to function without curling into a tight ball and never leaving our homes, also leads to the existence of "realists" who would be quite happy to leave the socio-paths alone, in power and perpetrating their acts as long it happens to "the others" and has no discernable, direct impact. It may also be because our mental self protection requires that we believe that we can control the distance from or behavior of the socio-path. Witness the years of sanctions against Saddam that were eventually slipping away and providing him with one more piece of his egomaniacal sociopathic story.

This is why certain "realists" feel that they can and must say such pithy things like, "Yes, the world is better off without Saddam in power, but.."

1) There were better ways to do it. (I always question what way would have been better. Probably nothing, but its alwasy a nice bit of self protection to imagine it)

2) We should have waited for the entire world leadership, also filled with multiple other real socio-paths, to agree that he was dangerous (as if Seattle, WA needed every law enforcement agency in the world to agree that 48 murdered women in a river were the work of a serial killer before setting out to catch him).

3) He was contained and no danger to us (even if he was systematically killing all those in his immediate vicinity, branching out with money to assist in killing others and, by the dent of a socio-pathic personality, unlikley to remain dormant as all socio-paths require escalating recognition which they generally get by acting out in violent ways)

For some reason, the realist world is ready to forgive all sins and accept such people into our midst as if, since we cannot stop them from being created, we must accept them as a part of daily life's danger and not attempt to take them down whenever they show a weakness that would allow us the opportunity to rid ourselves of one more danger, increasing our survivability and ability to do the same to the other socio-paths in charge of the world.

It is truly puzzling. If only we could make the "realists" look into the eyes of the socio-path and then look into the eyes of his victims, but, then again, maybe realists suffer from some form of disassociative socio-pathy where no victims exist and, therefore, no real boogey man can exist either?

Maybe, someday, man will be able to really look into the eyes of another man and know his soul.

That may be trully scary.

Update: After you read the extended version by clicking on "read more", I suggest that you read this excellent round up of Iraqi and other bloggers discussing Saddam's trial.

1 comment:

FbL said...

Wow. That may be the best/most insightful thing you ever wrote.