Bruce Cannon Gibney is the author of A Generation of Sociopaths which is subtitled “How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America.” According to Gibney, Boomers couldn’t do right. In fact, as a generation, we are clinically Sociopaths, a claim Gibney tries to substantiate using the PCL-R. He claims his qualifications for propounding such a thesis are not a degree in psychology (not even a BA in the subject), nor any particular knowledge of history, but a career in “finance, first at a hedge fund and then at a venture capital firm.” Gibney’s conservative outlook is quite evident. I have discussed this book already in the blogpost, Talking ‘Bout My G-Generation. There, I provided a stunning quote of how reactionary Gibney’s politics really are. I will repeat the entire quote here.
A long and pleasant retirement is both a historical curiosity and a financial improbability. Until relatively recently, only the rich could retire. Everyone else simply worked until the arrival of disabling infirmity and then waited for the gruesome end: That was it.
It’s not that Gibney doesn’t think aging Boomers deserve social safety nets like Social Security. We just can’t afford it. Selfish Boomers are starving the younger generations by forcing them to support us. Why aren’t we willing to just work until we drop like earlier generations did in the blessed gilded age? Theodore Roszak, The Making of an Elder Culture, describes life in that golden age.
Initially and for the next century or more, the new industrial economies took an especially savage toll among older workers., The men burned out early at the heavy and dangerous work they did in the factories and mines, on the railroads, and in the oil and timber fields. The women grew old before their time in the sweatshops and mills. Even if older workers kept their health and strength, industrial accidents, for which there was no compensation or adequate medical care, might cut them down at any moment. During the early generations of the industrial revolution, the aged, unless they belonged to the propertied classes, ordinarily ended lives of hard labor assimilated to the status of the poor. Even if they had worked all their lives, they were expected to die as paupers. The workhouse and county home were little better than concentration camps for the elderly. They were fed on gruel and bedded down at night on straw or bare wood.
Conservatives find the idea of supporting people who can’t work and add to the wealth of the upper classes repugnant. Unable to sell their mean-spirited values, “the right-wing opposition presents its hostility to Social Security, not as a matter of ideology or ethics, but as pure mathematics.” Gibney’s approach is nothing new. Sadly, many Americans are drinking the cool aide and fatalistically chanting that Social Security is over and won’t be there when they retire. It is only “over” if the American voters decide to let it be over. There are many ways it can remain solvent indefinitely. Conservatives have hated the plan since the day it was created and have been actively trying to destroy it. I think this really means they hate the elderly. They especially hate the Boomers who are now old enough to collect benefits.
But how did Boomers become such losers in the first place? Gibney blames it on our upbringing. We were spoiled as children, you see. “Permissive” child-rearing is an anomaly according to Gibney. Kids never used to be coddled. “Like factory workers and farm animals, children were not to be indulged—they were to be managed…. Children were to be formed according to their parents’ wishes and society’s needs, with parenting a matter of coercing useful behaviors, instead of catering to childish whims.” Gibney longs for the good old days when children and elders knew their place.
At the root of all this catering to the useless eaters is the liberal/romantic view of human nature as basically good. Children don’t need to be beaten to become good people. Raise them with kindness and understanding and their natural goodness will blossom. Gibney thinks it is not only wrong, it is the cause of most of society’s problems. This view not only damns human nature. It damns nature, itself.
Camille Paglia, author of Sexual Personae, goes to the very root of the matter. She looks at the two diametrically opposed views of human nature in terms of the opinions of two writers, Jean Jacque Rousseau and the Marquis (Donatien Alphonse François) de Sade, both Frenchmen. In addition to their nationality, these two have something else in common. They were both kinky in the BDSM meaning of the word. Rousseau was a sexual masochist while de Sade, as everyone knows, was a sadist. Rousseau believed human nature (and nature itself) fundamentally good. De Sade, not so much. Paglia takes de Sade’s view that nature (including human) is dark. We don’t suppress sexual expression because of the damned Puritans. Sex is intrinsically dark. She wrote, “Sex is the point of contact between man and nature, where morality and good intentions fall to primitive urges. I called it an intersection. This intersection is the uncanny crossroads of Hecate, where all things return in the night. Eroticism is a realm stalked by ghosts. It is the place beyond the pale, both cursed and enchanted.”
For years, witchcraft was likened to devil worship by our Christian society. Recently, it has been rehabilitated as WICCA, a form of Pagan nature worship. Never-the-less, there has always been a hint of darkness in neo-paganism and/or Wicca which (in my opinion) makes it more interesting. It’s generally agreed that nature, Wicca and paganism are likened to the feminine side of humanity. Feminists and neo-Wiccans such as Starhawk look to this feminine quality as everything good about humanity which has been spoiled by Patriarchal incursion into the innocence of our original peaceful and loving society. Aleister Crowley, who was the head of Ordo Templi Orientis, a solar-phallic quasi-masonic order, had a much darker view of the feminine magical world. ” In his Book of Thoth, he wrote,
“The Moon, partaking as she does of the highest and the lowest, and filling all the space between, is the most universal of the Planets. In her higher aspect, she occupies the place of the Link between the human and divine, as shown in Atu II. In this Trump, her lowest avatar, she joins the earthy spear of Netzach with Malkuth, the culmination in matter of all superior forms. This is the waning moon, the moon of witchcraft and abominable deeds. She is the poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light…..She is uncleanliness and sorcery. Upon the hills are the black towers of nameless mystery, of horror and of fear. All prejudice, all superstition, dead tradition and ancestral loathing, all combine to darken her face before the eyes of men. It needs unconquerable courage to begin to tread this path.”
In my opinion, both of these views of the feminine, the human and nature are beautiful and true. Nature is probably the most wholesome phenomenon on earth. The perception of darkness probably comes from our fear. Perhaps it is the masculine side of our natures that make the feminine side so threatening. Both sides make a whole. The masculine, rational, conscious and partaking of the sun and daylight, is what built civilization and science. The tension between each side makes life interesting. As Camille Paglia wrote,
Sex is daemonic. This term, current in Romantic studies of the past twenty-five years, derives from the Greek daimon, meaning a spirit of lower divinity than the Olympian gods (hence my pronunciation “daimonic”). The outcast Oedipus becomes a daemon at Colonus. The word came to mean a man’s guardian shadow. Christianity turned the daemonic into the demonic. The Great demons were not evil—or rather they were both good and evil, like nature itself, in which they dwelled. Freud’s unconscious is a daemonic realm.
No more Pollyanna. Life is more complicated, more terrible, if you will, than the cliche-ridden cooing, “There’s no such thing as a bad boy, only a sick boy.” The pagan religions which so many people idealize recognized the dual nature of reality, both the light and the darkness. Goddesses like Kali and Hecate attest to that. Nature is both beautiful and terrible. Paglia has a word that represents the very fearfulness of birth. The vagina, the gateway to life, and, therefore, mortality. It is “chthonian.”
The cool beauty of the femme fatale is another transformation of chthonian ugliness.
Psychopaths are known for cool, intellectual objectivity, free from the darkness and chaos of the chthonian. Borderlines probably exemplify that quality the most. But both are Cluster B and neither can exist in a vacuum.