A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Let’s reconnect with what this subject offers us; how it can improve our lives as rewilders, human beings, village-creators.

In reading about psychopaths, something hit my consciousness with an almost physical force, that in a certain sense has nothing to do with this terrifying syndrome, but rather the opposite…

If psychopaths experience so much success, and in truth (much like no house has an immunity to a fully determined burglar, given enough time) can manipulate almost anyone, then what does this tell us about the rest of the world, the 95% or more of humanity?

It means that the vast majority of people, almost every human you meet, has a deeply feeling heart hungry for human connection, relationship, meaning. It means we share a language of love, joy, rage, sadness. And this commonality makes us vulnerable to the psychopath who can only imagine what this might feel like.

When I realized this, when it hit home, I think I also realized that I had begun to assume that many, many people I met every day didn’t care, had stone-hearts, when looking at what we’re doing to the world and ourselves.

Now I fully realize, that regardless of any other issues, 95% of the people I meet only feel fully nourished by deep, real connections with other human beings.

Stop and absorb this. Take a moment to do this.

A psychopath abuses this knowledge…but this knowledge empowers us as cultural creatives.

So then, accepting that…how do we explain the present monstrosity, the devouring of the world?

We feel pretty confident, from American-based research performed after World War II on the nature of “evil” and human morality, that ~65% of a given population have an ability, and a willingness to mute their conscience when influenced to do so by someone they accept as an authority. They still have a conscience; their actions still haunt them (in the form of PTSD, for example), but they will do it in the presence of sufficiently powerful, eloquent authority.

However, ~30% of a given population has a far less developed ability to do so – you might consider these the ones protesting in the streets, arguing with family members, acting out and objecting to the pressure of authority to act against their conscience. They can’t ignore it. They can’t mute it so easily.

And then, ~5% of that population requires little or no inducement to act in ways contrary to the expected desires of a healthy conscience, and seems to suffer no remorse.

Does this spread accurately represent human communities through out time, back through 200,000 years and beyond? I suppose we may  never know. For our purposes, I propose that we treat it as such; that this probably biased, American vision of human behavior in terms of authority and conscience, that we accept it fully.

If nothing else, if you live in the modern Western world, you have to deal with it no matter what you think about its normality.

Again, perhaps surprisingly, I find these statistics inspiring. This means that 30% of the people you meet struggle deeply with muting their conscience, even under authoritative pressure. 1 out of 3 people!

I can also imagine a world where the 60%, whom I sometimes call “sheeple” for their willingness to go along with the herd, contribute deeply needed stability to human communities by a stubborn willingness to perpetuate old wisdom and long held traditions even in the face of questions and uncertainty. I equate the “authoritative” figure in western culture, to the traditions of indigenous culture. What authority exists in an egalitarian, non-hierarchical indigenous village? The authority of tradition, of course.

I don’t doubt this makes human beings more successful; if we abandoned every traditional belief or tool just because we started to question it, or it became uncomfortable, then, where would we end up? Nowadays many rewilders probably wish we had fought harder to resist change.

And yet, on the flip-side, now all our modern traditions, values and conservatism seem to drive us towards our doom. So let’s start listening to that 30%!

We’ve arrived at another way to think about Daniel Quinn’s notion of needing “another Story to be in” [sic].

So we have talked about the “sheeple”, what about the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”?

My inability to find a wild, nature-based analogy for the predatory behavior of psychopaths disturbs me more than anything else. I feel strongly that we must accept everything in the world as something that happens, that has happened, that may happen again. Meaning, we must accept it as natural. We can’t treat reality as “unnatural”. I feel this as a tracker, a thinker, a human being.

You would think, then, that this psychopathic behavior would pop up other places. Let’s find it together.

What do you think? Where do you believe you see a lack of a conscience in the natural world?

Written by Willem