A saving grace for psychopaths in society is the relative ignorance of the condition by the general population. People tend to equate ‘psychopath’ with the most heinous of actions and fail to realize that many more of us are not doing (or least getting caught) such actions than those that are. This lack of awareness may save us for the moment, but statements like some I heard the other day in response to a news story worry me about the future.
I was reading the comments section of a news story a few days ago about a man who shot several people before being killed himself. In general, stories like these do not elicit any real emotion in me – “bad” things happen to “good” people all the time – but I like to see the responses and comments from non-psychopaths; from people who are empathic. The refrain was disheartening. The commenters wanted to ensure that people “like him” found their way to prison before committing violent actions. That is, they want the antisocial to be disenfranchised before ever committing a single action. This seems awfully Orwellian to me.
Should I be locked up because a common instinctual reaction to others angering me is to strangle them or knife them? I’ve said on many occasions that I am not violent. That is true. I do not actually physically harm people. However, I do often think about a reaction to others’ actions that is orders of magnitude greater than their offense against me. It’s not that I want to rough them up – I don’t even think that would bring satisfaction – it’s that such just is my instinct. So, should I be imprisoned forever? I would not think that is fair.
What about the neurotypical that is not psychopathic but becomes highly violent at times for reasons of passion or drink? Should they be locked up? I would bet that society would be far more forgiving in this case and wait until an action is actually committed. I believe this to be a case where neurotypicals would get a free pass on violent impulses but the psychopath would not. For the sake of my freedom, this disturbs me; I want to be the sole arbiter of whether I remain free. Should I behave socially, I should. Should I behave antisocially and get caught, then probably not so much.
The mob mentality is strong against psychopaths. We see this everyday in social media via the cries for imprisonment of anyone that may become suspect. Kids are locked up over threats made as jokes. Everyone is on edge. I would posit that a much better approach is to, you know, punish those that have done wrong – not those you suspect may do wrong. Why should we disenfranchise those that are different if they are not actively bringing harm?