Are You A Psycho ?

The term ‘psycho’ is often used to describe murders who behave in an irrational and bloodthirsty way. Alfred Hitchcock’s film helped the word to enter the public consciousness. People use the term when someone loses their temper,but true psychopathy isn’t widely understood.

I wrote a novel called ‘The Perfect Murderer’ in 2014,in which one of the lead characters is a psychopath. He’s a respected member of the establishment,but has killed a victim a year for four decades. I toyed with the sympathies of the reader,as he killed only villains,usually really nasty criminals who society was better off without. Most people would secretly approve of his activities.

The genesis for the novel was partly inspired by reading Jon Ronson’s ‘The Psychopath Test’,a couple of years ago. He’s best known as the author of ‘Men Who Stare At Goats’,that was made into a movie.

Much of his book on psychopaths deals with the invidious DSM manual put together by the American Psychiatric Association,and which is used to ‘diagnose’ a bewildering range of mental disorders – most of them are phoney. For instance,anyone who spends more than a few hours a day online could be labelled as having Internet Addiction Disorder. The whole enterprise is tied to the activities of drug companies,who market medication to treat the ‘condition’,adding to their vast profits.

Ronson also writes about the Hare test for psychopathy,a well-respected diagnostic check-list which is much-used to identify those with this disorder.

A simple version of the test is here :

It’s worth doing,though as with any questionnaire there’s always a certain amount of ambiguity when it comes to interpreting what the question actually means. I scored 4 when I last did it.

In fact,psychopaths only make up 1% of the general population. They are often very successful,at least in terms of money,fame and power,becoming film stars,singers,captains of industry,politicians,bankers,lawyers,doctors and sportsmen. But when things go wrong,look at the disaster that befalls the rest of us !

Just think of the collapse of the world economy,the recent sex scandals in the U.K. and such stories as cyclist Lance Armstrong cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs. He still doesn’t see that he did anything wrong,lacking the empathy to appreciate the damage that he did to people’s faith in who they thought he was. His latest lies about drink-driving only confirm his lack of character. He has no shame,because he can’t understand the concept.

The recently convicted paedophiles are apparently the same way,with Rolf Harris trying to get the length of his sentence reduced. It’s a chilling thought to realise that many of the people we admire,who are seen as role models,praised for their achievements,focus and determination are actually rather repulsive as human-beings.

Although they walk among us largely without causing disruption,psychopaths represent about 20% of the population in prisons. They’re also responsible for causing more disruptive incidents while inside,and the likelihood of their re-offending is a depressing 85%.

I should point out that simply being a psychopath is not illegal,any more than being depressed,schizophrenic or bipolar is against the law. Mind you,the old expression ‘the lunatics are running the asylum’ might be more accurate than it first appears.

Books in prison

In 2014,the British government tried to ban prisoners receiving books sent to them through the mail. Their declared reason for doing this,was to prevent drugs being smuggled in.

After vigorous protests,the ban was recently overturned in the High Court.

This makes sense,for one only has to look at the illiteracy and numeracy rates of those imprisoned. Half of male,and three quarters of female prisoners have no qualifications at all,and 67% of them were unemployed at the time of their offending. There has to be a link between their breaking the law and the opportunities that they’re denied though a lack of education.

Poor self-image doesn’t help either,so for those wanting to better themselves and turn their lives around through the education programmes available inside,having access to books is vital. Prison libraries are poorly funded,and wouldn’t necessarily stock the much-needed books that a prisoner needs to transform their thinking.

Restricting access to the latest and most pertinent books would have been petty-minded censorship. As Joseph Brodsky,poet laureate of the United States in the 1990s,said : ” There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”

booka book can bring light to the darkest places