When I was a child, my parents were close friends with another couple who had children, a boy and a girl, whose ages corresponded to the ages of my sister and me. When we got together, the kids liked to play “Devils and Angels.” We girls got together and were angels. We assigned the boy, David, the role of devil. Mostly, we tried to sneak up on him and run away. Although we knew it was a game, the sense of being “good” seemed to infiltrate our consciousness during the course of the game. It was fun but sometimes I felt limited by my role.
As an adult, during the years of the “Satanic Panic” (when people not in the lunatic fringe believed there were satanic cults which practiced atrocities on children), my partner and I were “good” girls. We were Catholic, went to church and passed this news vendor we believed to be a “satanist” with our noses in the air. At this time, I felt I was sacrificing something by limiting myself to one side of the equation.
As a kid, I belonged to two “gangs.” Nothing serious. Just kid stuff. But these “gangs” were enemies of each other. I told each one that I was spying on the other for them so I got to play with both groups of kids. There was never anything to report as a result of my “spying.” It was just fun.
The belief in “good” and “evil” is deeply endemic in Western civilization. The ancient Greeks worshipped gods who were capable of both. But the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all insist on a great divide between the two. That has forced people to feel they had to take sides and either be “good” or “bad.”
In psychology, this mentality is called “black and white thinking” or splitting. It is a known characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder. But it is really characteristic of the Abrahamic religions.
More people identify with the “good” side than the “bad.” We can find this just about everywhere. In politics, for example, Leftists are convinced they (we?) are on the side of the angels. The other side is cruel, heartless, destroying the planet and on the wrong side of history. Rightest are just as firmly convinced that they are the morally justified. Leftists are godless sinners, without standards of righteousness. It can be shocking to go from an atmosphere which is peopled by only one side to the other side. It’s a lesson on how thoroughly the moral significance of ideology can be split.
Sometimes people can redeem their self-image by looking at an unflattering role assigned to them by society as a form of oppression. Identity politics has done wonders in transforming the experiences of many people who grew up with the idea that they were defective, inferior or even “bad” to the awareness that they were really victims of evil “isms.” That would include sexism, racism, looksism, etc. People who felt like freaks because they were molested as children, now saw themselves as victims. Gays weren’t “perverts” any more. They were victims of homophobia. Fat people rejected the standards imposed upon them by the culture and asserted their right to accept themselves as they were. Rape victims rejected the stigma that had long been attached to them as having somehow deserved it. Politics was redeeming the outcast and people were feeling empowered.
However, the newly empowered didn’t always want to accept certain others into their ranks. For example, gays wouldn’t accept pedophiles although they organized their own identity driven liberation organization, NAMBLA, for an obvious reason. Gays had long been stigmatized as “child molesters” and accepting actual pedophiles would have sabotaged their long, uphill climb to be seen as acceptable. The taint of predator that continues to color the “boy lovers” still hung over the group like a poisonous miasma.
Another group that was rejected by the feminist and lesbian community were sadomasochists. Male gays didn’t seem to have that much of a problem with the gay leathermen. But feminists believed sadomasochism to be at odds with their values. While NAMBLA brought with it a huge public-relations problem, the tension between s/m women and the rest of the lesbian-feminist community was more ideological than PR. I was personally part of this interesting piece of social/political history. As a member of SAMOIS (the name was taken from Story of O). I was physically present at protests against WAVPM (Women Against Violence in Pornography and the Media). The interesting thing about these “Sex Wars,” was the absolute conviction each side had in it’s moral rectitude.
Identity politics continues to be a banner behind which people fight for acceptance while insisting on their right to retain their identity as a group. A recent addition to the frey is the dichotomy between the victims/recoverers of abuse by narcissists and psychopaths and psychopaths, ourselves, who, weary of being discussed in the third person, have newly found a voice of our own. In my own engagement with people on the “other side,” I have become aware of how completely some of them identify as the “good girls.” I discovered a particularly vehement denunciation of my kind which I took on on my blog as Pus Spewing Haters. This blog brought commentary from another blogger, ifonlymommy. She and I entered into a dialog which continued into another blog called Tough Love which her comments inspired. What impressed me about her input was the sense that I was dealing with a “good girl” or an “angel” from my old, childhood game. “Have I ever abused anyone? No. I’m not perfect but I haven’t ever abused anyone. My husband and I are separated. There wasn’t any much give and take in our relationship. He just took. Was I perfect l, no but in comparison to him, I was a saint.” It reminds me of myself when I was active politically. I felt I had a purity I had to maintain. One of the truly liberating things about being a psychopath is that I am not stuck in this limiting persona. Sure, it bothers me somewhat when I am stigmatized as an “evil” doer. Ifonlymommy even asked me once, “Are you ever abusive in any way to anyone else?” This was a good, if difficult question as it forced me to look for the meaning of “abuse” and especially psychopathic abuse. While I stumbled to find an honest answer to her question, I learned that she believed she has never abused another person.
I guess these exchanges define our roles so far. I am glad not to be limited to only being “good.” My favorite diety is the Hindu Goddess, Kali, who represents both the good and the terrible aspects of nature. I think of myself as being “beyond good and evil.” Is this grandiose? I suppose it is. A friend on this blogosphere, Lucky Otter, talks about her faith in God a lot. I am my own God. But I accept that everyone else is as well. So that is more mystical than grandiose. Whatever I am, it is all mine.