Barbara Oakley’s Evil Genes — 46 Comments

  1. Not a good book! First of all, I was far from impressed with the author’s uninteresting writing style, her syntax, as well as the organization of her book, which does not convey ideas clearly.
    The author seems as well to make no difference between psychopaths such as Hitler, Stalin, and other well-known world leaders, and ordinary people who are affected with BPD, who live ordinary lives, and who have not committed the atrocities the world leaders she mentions have committed.
    The book is misleading: this is not a book about BPD, it is not a book that explains to non-BPD what BPD is, and how to cope and deal with it. She devotes about ONE page only, in a 400+ book, to explaining in which way BDP people affect those around them, and mostly how borderlines use twice the amount of health care resources than non-borderlines, and are a problem in the work-place: no mention whatsoever, or analysis of how borderlines affect their families and friends.
    This book, at best, is an attempt at trying to understand the monstrous behavior of some notable world tyrants, but even then, it is not a thorough study. This book in my view is what is called “un touche à tout,” ideas are scattered all over the place, and it is therefore highly inefficient.
    Last, but not least, the “boxes” of separate text that appear throughout the book are extremely annoying, and seem pretty useless in regards to the “information” they are trying to convey…
    A book not worth spending your money or time on!

  2. LucianX – The real problem is that there is no global will for peace amongst the most powerful and there is a dynamic of greed that propels the world. There is a will for peace among many ordinary people around the world.

    Consider, by way of example, the observation of George Kennan, the architect of the “Cold War”, when he made this observation during the post World War 11 era:-

    “We have about 60 per cent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 per cent of its population. Our real task in the coming period (will be) to maintain this position of disparity. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism and world benefaction … the day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered then by idealistic slogans the better.”
    George Kennan, head of U.S. State Department Planning, Feb 24, 1948.

    “We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism and world benefaction…”

    The world needs, despite Kennan’s policy dictates, benefaction and sustainable development processes.

    Now, let’s consider this. One nation by reason of its professed and declared “manifest destiny” is supposed to dominate the world’s resources in a disproportionate manner while literally the majority of humanity starves. That in clear terms and declared and enacted policies is what Kennan said.

    Then we might advance ( regress) to the more recent declarations of the PNAC and its desire for “full spectrum dominance”.

    Add the two sets of polices together and you will find lunacy declared as sensible national policies. How is the US to continue in perpetuity to dominate the world’s resources and actually expect the rest of the world to accept the disparity? How is the US in any effective way to dictate the political architecture when the economic system is dysfunctional and unsustainable on a global scale? The Chinese and/or Indians cannot continue in the footprint of the US pattern of economic development upon the use of oil and other global resources, which are finite and do need to be applied in the best interest of all humanity. It is either the utilitarian application of resources or it is the use of global resources in such a heavily skewed manner that global mass starvation is the “order” of the day. The war machine that is the US economy in this era of nuclear weaponry is playing a very dangerous game, in convincing its population as it does, that somehow the overproduction of arms can on a rational basis be justified.

    Having made those observations, the challenge, not because I have put it, but the manifest dysfunctional nature of the economic and militarilistic production processes direct that a new global architect is urgently needed for homo sapiens and our planet.

    Do you think that as the former Soviet Union imploded because, in part of the internal dysfunctional nature of its system coupled and propelled on by the armaments expenditures when the US successfully outspent the Soviet system. Now the same processes have revolved full circle and the US system’s own contradictions and unsustainably has caught up with it.

    That is how I see it and remain open to hearing what the specific alternatives can be when the system itself is showing that a new order is needed both for the American people and the wider world with which the US has most definitely interacted with and is dependant upon.

    The global process for all of us is symbiotic.

  3. Lucianx – this is a precursor to a more detailed response , since you obviously have put a lot of thougth
    into what I said in reply to you. I too must give reasonable consideration to that which you have said of substance.

    Taking your points in adumbrated form:-

    1. ” The is no global human rights military or law enforcement agency. ”

    Reply: A polictical observation revolving around a pivotal point of who controls global power.

    For now I reserve further comments, to take time to give respectful response.


  4. Courtnay I understand how you feel when you embrace people around the globe as your people. I just hope you understand that while a small minority of people embrace all of humanity as their people, the power structures of the world are still nationalist. In order to actually live as a global citizen as you wish to live, you have to solve the problems which stand in the way of that vision you have for the world. I’ll list some of the problems below.

    1. The is no global human rights military or law enforcement agency. If you don’t have enforcers you don’t have rights, and this is why human rights do not yet exist nor does the concept of the global citizen.

    A. This influences my stance on issues because I cannot get beyond the fact that the globalisation crowd are all talk and rhetoric with no practical means of operation. You can believe in globalisation but if you don’t have the means to go to war for these ideas and visions you cannot manifest your destiny. So we are still nationalists even if merely because of the fact that governments around the world deciding to be against international laws and international law enforcement.

    B. If you are a globalisation or human rights defender there is no army to defend you. So even before you can begin to fight for justice or human rights, the people who are against your ideals can just kill you and get away with it because they control all the armies, all the law enforcement to such an extent that you wont have anywhere to go. You see this all the time when human rights supporters are simply kidnapped and beheaded, or just killed by the dictator. So once again because it’s like that some countries and locations provide more protection for human rights supporters and others and once again you don’t have a global embrace of humanity. Even in the USA they aren’t fighting for human rights, but for pet issues like “gay marriage” or rights for women, or for black people, when if they would just unite and fight for rights for humanity they’d actually be fighting for all of that and then some.

    2. If we did somehow have a way to implement a global legal system with a global military force, we still don’t have a global currency. Without a global currency, money would simply corrupt the global government through bribes and over time we could end up with a world dictator or President of the world. There is already talk about there being a President of EU, and once again these nationalist groups probably wont play fair and give every country representation, so once again you’ll have some economies doing horribly bad and these people will be underrepresented in the global government. Once again these poor countries will be forced to become nationalist, and embrace war as a means to advance themselves.

    A. This is why I say globalisation is before its time, most humans still believe in race rather than genetics. Most humans are not concerned about what happens to the other races, but only their own. As a result it sets all of humanity back in the human rights battle. This has altered my stances because you see different people from difference races/cultures who fundamentally believe in human rights but who wont work together because of barriers like language and culture, as a result of divide and conquer nobody has human rights anywhere and I don’t see that changing in my lifetime even if its getting better.

    B. While a lot of the poorest people do want human rights, many of the richest people don’t want human rights, so of course workers don’t have rights, and so of course theres no quality standards or protocols for dealing with pollution control. You have many rich and powerful people fighting against human rights and these people wont go away in our lifetime.

    These are just two examples of practical realities which change my positions on certain issues. I see the problem as something systematic, the way society is structured it’s systematically against human rights and many of these problems are institutonalized. Many people who support human rights will refuse to get rid of these institutions out of some loyalty to traditions, even if these traditions are clearly wrong and outdated. Their grand parents did it that way, their parents did it that way, and they plan on doing it the same way which will of course lead to the same results. So the only way I see human rights ever becoming reality is if people around the world of every class fight for it, and I think it will be people at the top who create the institutions to organize the people at the bottom. Since the people at the top haven’t even created any enforcement institutions it doesn’t look to me like we will have human rights and a global citizen in our lifetime.

    But even if they did decide to do it, it would cost lives to implement. People are going to die if nothing is done, and people are going to die if something is being done. But if human rights are ever implemented it would protect future generations from the horrors of our generation and generations previous.

  5. Lucianx – why not choose the side of humanity?

    “Globalisation” is not a new concept, only a modern version of an old phenomenon. May I suggest that when Columbus arrived in 1492 he was engaged in a process of European discovery, conquest and “globalisation”.

    If you are smart enough to say what you just have, it is not impossible for you to embrace humanity and reject the greed and hate that serves well the process of destruction of our world.

    Having visted 43 countries, “my people”,in my lexicon, includes you.


  6. Courtenay I’m trying to do that but it’s not like they make it easy for us to be a global citizen. Corporations get to globalize while citizens get forced to choose a country. I would have no problem if they actually allowed me to have some sorta global citizenship, but the way our society works to this day is nationalist, they force me to choose a side and since I’m forced to choose a side and most of the people who love me are from the USA and speak English, I’m in no position to be a global rep.

    While I do agree with globalisation I think its an idea that is before its time in that the people who believe in it are in the same position as the people who believe in human rights and international law. There are no human rights, or international laws except on paper because there is no army to enforce them. There are no global citizens because the USA is still the superpower, not the UN. Since my people cannot leave the USA, even if somehow I could live somewhere else I’d still be loyal to the USA.

  7. @LucianX – I should have added:-

    “Actually – where the people are – all of us – is planet Earth – so try being a patriot for humanity and then maybe your world views will really start changing.”

    to be changed to…

    “Actually – where the people are – all of us – is planet Earth – so try being a patriot for humanity and then maybe your world views will really start changing for the general good of humanity in this era of ‘globalisation’.”

  8. @LucianX – my reply to one comment:-

    “I’m a patriot in that the USA is where my people are…”

    Actually – where the people are – all of us – is planet Earth – so try being a patriot for humanity and then maybe your world views will really start changing.


    P.S. If you care to respond – my next reply will be on your concept of “manifest destiny”.

  9. I’m not supporting American exceptionalism. And I do support some form of manifest destiny but only a destiny which both benefits all Americans, as well as the citizens of the globe. If manifest destiny creates a better world for us all, then I do support going to war to create a better environment for all.

    If it’s just going to create a better world for rich elite Americans, then I don’t support it. So I do support human rights and I do think that if a dictator is using genocide anywhere, even in the USA, that the international community has an obligation to do something about it. I don’t think the USA should be immune to international law either. I’m a patriot in that the USA is where my people are, and is my country, but I don’t defend people in the USA who may be terrorists themselves. So I see it as good vs evil and I see it as a global battle rather than a battle between nation states. It’s between networks of individuals, and if a terrorist network is trying to destroy the future, the people of the present have the right to defend their future and thats my concept of manifest destiny.

  10. @ LucianX – just making some corrections to spelling errors etc. ( standard English) – guess you thought I was about to change my thought processes into “evil genes” ….huh…good friend Lucian ( chuckle)!

    @Lucianx my points at core really are about questioning the concepts of “American
    exceptionalism”and “Manifest destiny”.
    Just as the British Empire saw it as acceptable to storm into other peoples’ lands and pursue colonialism and imperialist policies, some thereafter think that it is by divine right that they ought to start wars and try to subjugate others to their concepts of what is right and good for them. But, that imposition, in the ideological sense, and further in the military sense, is usually asserted when the “other” questions the concepts of “American exceptionalism” and “Manifest destiny”.
    When countries are compliant, even if dictatorial ( e.g. Saddam was fine while he was waging the 8 year war with Iran) – but it was a different story when as a sovereign leader he made known that when sanctions were lifted he would trade Iraqi oil in non-dollar currency – Pakistan – Uzbekistan – what of US foreign policies towards these?So, we have a reason and motive for war there – but a less than admirable one for having staged the start of the Vietnam war in the Gulf ( or Bay) of Tonkin and the fabricated lies which started the Iraq war – or do we ( the West)?
    I believe that the 2005 Noble Prize winner, Harold Pinter, accurately summed up the confusion of the collective American political psyche, when he said: “everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all”. And, I would add, recorded in the mainstream annals as if some noble good was being doing in defence of “American exceptionalsim” and pursuit of “Manifest destiny”.
    I can see good cause in legitimate defence against aggression – but, none when reasons for wars are fabricated and the populace is deceived into believing that some good is being done when the terror of war is unleashed by great powers unto the world in the name of “Manifest destiny”.
    Those who think will – those who are myopic because of “blind patriotism” will not think in any sense of serious and consistent analysis – and you now my friend Lucianx – do you stand in pursuit of peace or defence of unjust wars?
    And someone was asked to explain the term “anti-American” and the answer came:-
    “It’s what governments and their vested interests call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America’s citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the South with the civil rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional.”
    May God bless not just America, but the entire planet we share.

  11. @Lucianx my points at core really are about questioning the concepts of “American exceptionalsim”and “Manifest destiny”.

    Just as the British Empire saw it as acceptable to storm into other peoples’ lands and pursue colonialism and imperialist policies, some thereafter think that it is by divine right that they ought to start wars and try to subjugate others to their concepts of what is right and good for them. But, that imposition, in the ideological sense, and furhter in the military sense, is usually asserted when the “other” questions the concepts of “American exceptionalsim”and “Manifest destiny”.

    When countries are compiant, even if dictatorial ( e.g. Saddam was fine while he was waging the 8 year war with Iran – but it was a different story when as a soverign leader he made known that when sanctions were life he would trade Iraqi oil in non-dollar currency – Pakistan – Uzbekistan?).So, we have a reason and motive for war there and a less than admirable one for having staged the start of the Vietnam war in the Gulf ( or Bay) of Tonkin and the fabricated lies which started the Iraq war.

    I believe that the 2005 Noble Prize winner, Harold Pinter, accurately summmed up the confusion of the collective American political psyche, when he said: “everyone knew that terrible crimes had been committed by the Soviet Union in the postwar period, but US crimes in the same period have been only superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all”. And, I would add, recorded in the mainstream annals as if some noble good was being doing in defence of “American exceptionalsim”and pursuit of “Manifest destiny”.

    I can see good cause in legitmate defence against aggression – but, none when reasons for wars are fabricated and the populace is deceived into believing that some good is being done when the terror of war is unleased by great powers unto the world in the name of “Manifest destiny”.

    Those who think will – those who are myopic because of “blind patriotism” will not think in any sense of serious and consisten anlysis – and you now my friend Lucianx – do you stand in pursuit of peace or defence of unjust wars?

    And someone was asked to explain the term “anti-American” and the answer came:-

    “It’s what governments and their vested interests call those who honour America by objecting to war and the theft of resources and believing in all of humanity. There are millions of these anti-Americans in the United States. They are ordinary people who belong to no elite and who judge their government in moral terms, though they would call it common decency. They are not vain. They are the people with a wakeful conscience, the best of America’s citizens. They can be counted on. They were in the South with the civil rights movement, ending slavery. They were in the streets, demanding an end to the wars in Asia. Sure, they disappear from view now and then, but they are like seeds beneath the snow. I would say they are truly exceptional.”

    May God bless not just America, but the entire planet we share.


  12. if its in the national interest you don’t think thats a good enough reason to do it? I’d say thats the only reason to have war at all. Clearly Iraq wasn’t in the national interest, and they didn’t even try to make a case that it was.

    The quote you show above reveals that Kissinger has a great deal of regret or perhaps guilt over the fact that so many people had to die. Anyway I agree its terrible that so many people had to die, I just haven’t found another way. I guess the best way is to minimize the damage and loss of life as much as you can, and if that isn’t being done then you have a war crime, but stuff like assassinations and mercenaries running around with hitlists of enemies of the USA, thats just how war works these days. There always seems to be groups of people who would rather die than surrender, so those people have to be killed and its not like the USA where we can arrest the terrorists because the US gov doesn’t control the governments in these countries.

    It’s very complicated, all I can say is that there is a time and place for everything, including gorilla warfare, and while I dislike war I’m not a pacifist either. we can agree to disagree on Kissinger, I’m done trying to defend him because I admit hes difficult to defend.

  13. @ Lucianx

    In his own words:-

    “The vietnam war required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. … What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn’t make it.” »Henry Kissinger

    Well – guess he has a point, it is indeed “unnatural” to kill so many people. But, remember – its still O.K. because, its in the “national interest”.

  14. @Lucianx, I really don’t think that you have made a very good or convincing argument, and I will tell you why.Trying to argue the case based on submission to higher authority, when you are yourself a person in high authority, is a very flawed argument.

    May I illustrate with this simple example:-

    Senior police officer: “ I said go in the cell now and kick the shit out of him for calling me a ‘mother fucker’

    Junior cop: “ Sir, with respect, I can’t do that because I would be committing an illegal act and would be charged for prisoner abuse”


    Junior cop: “ As you say Sir, it will be my pleasure.”

    The actual situation with Henry Kissinger is not merely that he was the “Senior police officer”, metaphorically speaking, but he actually conceived, implemented and supported some of the most horrendous “foreign policy felonies” ( if I may term them that) that the US has engaged in post World War 11.

    If, he had an ounce of credibility, he would long ago have sued Christopher Hitchens when Hitchens published the book, “The trial of Henry Kissinger”
    “Christopher Hitchens’ Trial of Henry Kissinger: A Review By Mike McGlothlin …
    Hitchens presents a rather straightforward argument that establishes two seemingly undeniable propositions: on at least one occasion, Henry K. conspired to commit murder, and that on numerous other occasions, Henry K. was the primary force behind certain acts that could quite plausibly be considered war crimes. The case for Henry K. as murder conspirator is what Hitchens calls a “lay-down” case, i.e., one that stands out for its clear facts and clear law. The murder victim is General Rene Schneider, who was the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army, whom Hitchens misidentifies as the Chilean “Chief of Staff.”; According to Hitchens (and the 09 September, 1970 minutes of the “40” Committee, the Kissinger chaired secret panel that oversaw U.S. covert operations), the Chilean military had a strong tradition of neutrality in political affairs, a rarity on the South American continent. General Schneider was known as an officer committed to upholding the Chilean constitution and therefore opposed to the rumored incipient coup against newly elected Socialist President Salvador Allende by a right wing would-be junta of current and former Chilean military officers. Using U.S. Government communications cables from the CIA and documents from the State Department, and White House, Hitchens relates the facts of Kissinger’s direct involvement in the direction, planning, financing, and general support by the organs of the U.S. Government in the plot to remove General Schneider.”
    My point is that there are rules of international and municipal law that Kissinger has violated, and he really should be put on trial for mass murder. However, as I said before, the tin pot ones can be tried but not the really large criminals. And that is what he is – a criminal – postiuring in the guise indeed of an “evil genius” – but no excuses for his brutally, which you, as many others who can see no wrong do, once “the national interest” is invoked as a sacred excuse for criminality!
    P.S. Did someone observer that Kissinger has an excess of “evil genes”?

  15. Courtenay Henry Kissinger did not start the cold war, and was not the individual who launched the war at Vietnam or the series of proxy wars which you label as “wrong”. The man had to follow the script that was written for him, as all of us do. We all have a boss or bosses who tell us how the world or how the corporation is going to be and we only get the option to be an actor or a cheerleader.

    The point is that Henry Kissingers role was not one which would allow us to single him out for the responsibility of millions of deaths. Robert McNamara was the secretary of defense and had a much bigger role. Henry Kissinger was probably given a list of objectives which people in authority decided were in the national interest and his job was to make sure whatever the results of vietnam or any of those wars were would be in the national interest.

    It may be a bit more complicated than that but the point is that Kissinger in my opinion is no more to blame than the soldiers are. Yes he made mistakes just as Carter did and JFK, and just about everyone else around him. So why is Kissinger responsible for millions of deaths but all these other people who were higher up than him telling him what the objectives are, they aren’t responsible?

    If you look at history even in peacetime theres war and the only option we seem to have is to have a lot of small wars or one really big world nuclear war. If you want international law, human rights, or if you want to spread Democracy or whatever it is, its going to cost millions of lives. There is no way easy way to get from point A to point B. If we want to disagree with Vietnam lets disagree with the objectives of Vietnam and not blame the soldiers and in this case the civilians responsible for implementing whatever that master plan was. I don’t think Kissinger came up with the master plan, I don’t think Kennedy came up with it either, I don’t think these people are given a choice on what the plan is and I don’t think Obama has a choice either. I think they are told “THIS” is the “PLAN”, these are our objectives, and here is or mission. Then they get judged based on their ability to accomplish those objectives or that mission but I don’t think any of these guys had the ability to just pull us out of Vietnam anymore than Obama can just pull us out of Iraq and the middle east.

    It may have been stupid to go in there in the first place but if thats the case then why not blame the people who came up with the idea to go into Vietnam or Iraq?

  16. Not just me who can see the truth, and Dr. Oakley really does have to address the real issues:-

    George Galloway = British parliamentarian

    “[George Galloway] Well, first of all I am sure that they will not be prosecuted, because it is only losers that are prosecuted. In the international system that we have there’s no chance of the likes of Henry Kissinger, for example, the greatest living war criminal in the world today with the blood of millions of people in Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos and Chile and East Timor or in many other places on his hands. He will never appear in a court or be behind bars. That’s for the tin pot tyrants, the tiny tyrants like Milosevic; they get sent there. The big tyrants never face justice.”

  17. @ LucianX – thought I might just add one little extra thought.

    You ask – ” Is there another way? Even if Vietnam is wrong, was it only wrong because we lost? ”

    Well it was wrong for a number of other reasons, besides having lost the war, some of which can be indicated as:-

    A. It was wrong because all the Vietnamese wanted was to rid their country of French colonialism, which was their national right to be a sovereign nation of people.
    B. It was wrong because the US was propping up a corrupt regime in South Vietnam that did not have popular and majority support.
    C. It was wrong, because as the country which had the most superior weapons on planet earth, clearly the US was doing something seriously wrong to have suffered defeat by, effectively suffering a loss at the hands of an army of Vietnamese peasants.
    D. It was wrong because the start of the war was a US fabricated incident in the Bay of Tongkin ( e.g. you might compare the more recent fabrication of the lies about WMDs which started the Iraq war).
    E. It was wrong because over 60,000 US soldiers died, not to mention those who were maimed and suffered unseen psychological trauma.
    F. It was wrong because even after the US knew that it had been defeated, it continued and escalated the war thus killing approximately another half million people.
    G. It was wrong because of the illegal drugs that were introduced into the region directly related to the US war effort.
    H. It was wrong because of the US policy of chemical defoliation inflicted on the Asian people.
    I. It was wrong because, the US violated the UN Charter and more particularly Article 2 and started an illegal war of aggression against the Vietnamese people, based wholly on a falsehood.
    J. It was wrong, because as a human being, you should have some feelings for your fellow human beings, not rationalise brutality and inhumanity, and weigh what Napalm did to those people and the nature of the My Lai massacre against some 400 unarmed villagers, men, women and children, inclusive of rape (.
    K. It was wrong because the US has no place invading another country that is no real threat to it.
    L. It was wrong, because logically, since the US could come to terms with China and give it most favoured nation trading status, then it seems rather illogical to have projected Vietnam as this great danger, itself a smaller nation with industrious people with whom the US could always have peacefully traded in a manner similar to its dealings with China.

    M.It was wrong because sensible people should realise what the military-industrial complex does in creating these wars, many politicians and captains of industry are not themselves willing to fight and are not willing to send their own children, but are happy to rationalise the savage and sad loss of human life based on the pretext ever so often of “reasons of national security”

    ….and so I could continue to the end of the alphabet to tell you why the war in Vietnam and the more recent one in Iraq are simply wrong. Not because the US lost, but because it got involved in a situation where the primary beneficiaries are not the dead Vietnamese or Iraqis, but those who make great profits from these illegal wars.

    Yes it was wrong!

  18. @ LucianX, I would be happy simply to leave the debate at that. However, I can throw in a little humour
    (‘humor’ if you are American). You said ” …we have some of the dumbest most savage people who ever existed alive today, and we have some of the most brilliant geniuses also alive today.” Since we have been discussing Henry Kissinger, I guess of the existing categories, with all the blood he has on his hands ( e.g. illegal bombings in Cambodia and his participation in prolonging the Vietnam war after it was known that it had been lost) we can safely catgorise him as the ” evil genuis” who is not the dumbest, but definitely “most savage”.

    All the best – got work to do.

  19. @Courtenay Barnett

    No I don’t think human nature has evolved one bit. In fact we have some of the dumbest most savage people who ever existed alive today, and we have some of the most brilliant geniuses also alive today.
    Hobbes said that without government, we’d be in a state war of everyone against everyone, we’d have social darwinism. There are a lot of people who’s goal in life is to create social darwinism and these people generally are anarchists.

    Hobbes is the main reason I’m not an anarchist. Government exists to keep us from killing each other. To put it differently, if there were no law enforcement and if murder were not illegal, we’d be killing each other all the time. The only reason people aren’t constantly trying to kill you now is because these people are afraid they’d be caught by the government. The government is what allows you to live a life without having to kill or be killed.

    I’d like to discuss how to organize with you but I can’t discuss it here, so if you want I can email you or something.

  20. @Lucian – For goodness sakes man – be sensible – Hobbes was around somewhere around the 1500s – have your thought processes not evolved along with the rest of humanity even one iota since then?

    But you are contented with your declared agenda – WAR! WAR! WAR!

    When all the people are killed then maybe, if I am still alive, we can still debate – how do we organise ( “organize” if you are American) our world.


  21. @Peter
    You mention that Dioxin was used, if this is true that is a war crime, or at least it should be. Once again if human rights and laws of war are actually enforced and respected, we wont have indescriminate killing. Another problem is depleted uranium, which I heard is being used in Iraq. These kinds of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons should never be used in war. In world war 1 and in world war 2 biological, and chemical weapons were used and in world war 2 nuclear weapons were used. If the USA didn’t use nuclear weapons I don’t think we’d see Iran, North Korea and other countries rushing to build nuclear weapons. These countries are afraid Isreal or the USA will nuke them. This fear causes their leaders to act irrationally. And when the USA attacks Iraq, then calls these regimes “evil” as part of some axis of evil, now they all become friends when before they might have been rivals.

    I know a lot of people dislike Kissinger, but Kissinger still has Obama’s ear and still have influence over US foreign policy. It seems nobody has come along who is better for the job and so Kissinger is the only person qualified, He has made mistakes and I don’t know if giving him the peace prize was the brightest idea, but I don’t think we can blame Kissinger for the cold war anymore than we can blame Obama for the economic crisis. We can blame Kissinger forlosing the vietnam war, as many people say he made great errors involving that.

    But as far as I know, these people swear to defend the US constitution from enemies abroad and within, and Kissinger in my opinion has been trying to do that. He’s one of the few people involved in politics who I don’t think has been bribed and manipulated.

    Is there another way? Even if Vietnam is wrong, was it only wrong because we lost? If we had won and all had a better quality of life because of it, would we think about Vietnam in the same way? The same with Iraq, if we had won the Iraq war and US quality of life went up and unemployement went down and we were gaining rights and freedom rather than losing them left and right, would the Iraq war still be wrong? I believe right and wrong are determined by the consequences and this war is wrong because we lost it. I define victory as whats best for the our friends, families, neighbors, and the Iraq war seems to only have been victory for big oil companies and war profiteers.

  22. @Courtenay Barnett I’m not anti war, I agree with Thomas Hobbes view on the state of nature. I also agree that might is the deciding factor and that in order to have peace, violence is necessary.

    I don’t think that neccessarily leads to mass murder. We may have to kill a dictator here and there but to assume order and mass murder are one and the same is an incorrect assumption. Violence is necessary to maintain order, mass murder tends to create disorder and even in a crisis the goal is to save lives. But to be a pacifist is to refuse to fight even when your life or the lives of the people you love are at stake. To be a pacifist is to accept a miserable future without working to change it.

    I respect Kissinger because he is willing to work to change the future, and despite what we may want to believe, the fate of the planet is usually decided by war and bloodshed. I’m not talking about wars like the Iraq war which we can debate whether or not these wars had to happen, I’m talking about situations where if the USA were to sit and do nothing, that the entire USA could be invaded, enslaved, attacked, etc. I’m talking about situations where the future of the USA is at stake, and where quality of life for all of us is at stake. We have to accept that some wars are necessary even if just to guarantee that the next generation has it better than our generation.

    I don’t like violence, I hope we can minimize it, but there are violent regimes all around the world, and if we choose not to go to war those violent regimes are like viruses or cancer, they spread fast just as fascism spread through Europe. I understand that Kissinger was trying to stop the spread of communism, because the Soviet Union was a dictatorship and as communism spread so too would the influence of that regime.

    It’s sad that many millions of people had to die in the cold war, but those millions who died in the cold war prevented a global nuclear war in which billions may have died. This is why I say Kissinger actually saved lives, he is responsible for the USA having victory in the cold war.

    That being said I don’t think the current situation the USA is in is a good situation. I think we are less free than we were during the cold war, and it seems we lost the Iraq war. I do not agree with the rise of authoritarianism in the US gov. But I think it’s a matter of principle that human rights be the #1 issue in this country to unite people. Most people in this country are for human rights even if we divide over gay marriage, womens rights or whatever, and if we don’t have human rights which are enforced by some enity, then human rights will never exist anywhere on earth and then it’s only a matter of time and odds before we have a President of the world who decides on global genocide. It’s only a matter of time before corporations become powerful enough to enslave workers. And torture is already going on and must be stopped immediately, so you see it’s a very slippery slope.

  23. @LucianX – there was the words: “It’s a dangerous nasty world, and we need people like Henry Kissinger to defend human rights” . So, in a somewhat Orwellian sense mass murder becomes – a necessary military exercise for the good; a war of aggression – becomes a noble cause – and Alfred Noble (himself – no saint) – turns in his grave as the peace prize was given to Henry Kissinger.
    As the General said:-
    We destroyed the village to save the people:-
    or, words, somewhat along your line of reasoning – similar to that!

  24. Hello Ms. Barnett,
    What you are saying here is does not contain a modicum of truth in it about Mr. Kissinger and the War in Vietnam. We are stil at war to protect so called American interests and this notion that we were out to prevent the communists from taking over is bogus as well. The idea that he made mistakes is well taken and with most of what he did was a mistake, a huge mistake. This war was fomented by our own doing since French decided they wanted out and we already had covert operations in place to do in there and get a toe hold of this country for economic reasons and keep a location for ourselves there in the Asian continent
    where we could contain communism from its spread as the saying goes or what was called the “domino effect”.
    When I said we are still at war its been one long circuitous route since the inception of America as a power in the world through many foreign interventions for multitudinous reasons and not just to protect the capitalist system from its demise. In fact we are witnessing some of that right now with our time spent fighting in countries we have no business being there. The continuous thread of warfare is the way of life for many of the Americans who believe we play a roll in preventing future wars by fighting wars on a small scale so as not to have another large one. Its still war one way or the other. Even the war on terror, or the war on drugs, the war on everything for that matter is used as a metaphor and a poor one at that.
    WWI was so supposed to keep the world safe for democracy and we asked to solve the poitical and economic problems of Europe and we were pulled into this situation by inept politicians and capitalists who were going to make money on this by all means, send in the troops. WWII was just the continution of the WWI with a little to rest a recuperate while the depression came along and made life difficult so we had another go at it and the prosperity that came on its heals in the 50’s along with the “cold war” and the McCarthy era where everyone who was
    affiliated in anyway wtih the communist party would be rounded up for questioning. The Russians had parity with us because they had the “bomb” when they field tested it in 1949 we figured we might as well build quite a few of those in case we might have to use them. That was futile and idiotic notion that brought us into an “arms race” as if we needed one after what we had been through. The Russians who were our allies were now considered suspect and the insidious tale of spying went on for a very long time until we decided maybe it would be a good idea to keep our selves planted in Asia and so we did for a very long time as a supposed “police action”. Vietnam was just a continuation of a request made to bomb all the reds in China which was Gen. McArthur’s beautiful plan to solve the problem of those evil communists and godless people once and for all. His wish was not granted as we already used the Atomic Bomb on the Japanese as a test and to show the world we were top dog.
    Now, the last thing here in regard to the Vietnam era is that we are still waring,
    pillaging, bombing and there is nothing new under the sun. Next time you say something about what Kissinger did, said or stood for, ask a veteran or someone who was there about the war and the ones who were fighting had their heads filled with all kinds of dubious nonsense and propaganda so as to justify slaugtering one another over a cause being that one was a capitalist and one was a communist and I can tell you when I was there in the midst of this action
    I could see the futility of this and the pain and the sorrow along with abject misery that it creater in the faces of young children, mothers, and fathers who lived or wanted to live a simple agrarian existence raising their rice and feed themselves where we on the other hand were there for larger stakes. What were fighting for? It beats me and the ones who sent us there to do their bidding
    have no idea of the damage the cost to human life and the environment which still reverberates in the deaths of many men and women who were subjected to agent orange who are now dying many years after the fact of cancer. Dioxin is the deadliest substance known to man and we used on the foliage and at the same time it not only killed the plants but took along a few unsuspecting individuals with it. What did we learn from this, I would say nothing of any consequence as the arsenal of chemical weapons and many more devices that one can name are sold all over the world and where do they come from is not something to be proud of. We dropped more bombs on that country than in the combined world wars. All this with the idea is that we are containing the red menace. Total ludicrous nonsense. I cringe to hear about Kissinger or any of the other cronies of his ilk because to sit here and state policy and not even know
    what is happening on the other of the world tens of thousands of miles away where a so called war was fought (undeclard war) and one that was extremely unpopular where people here took to the streets in protest and anyone listening?
    Or were there any lessons to be learned about what went on then?
    Peter Tarsio

  25. @Courtenay Barnett

    Kissinger only gets a bad rep because he practices Realpolitik. But I think realpolitik(power politics) are how the world actually works. Peace is therefore achieve by creating a balance of power. Politics are about the distribution of power, resources, money, and not so much about ideals. The ideals are what politicians use to market their schemes much like used car salesmen.

    That said, I do have ideals. I’m a supporter and defender of human rights. We only differ on our ideas of the means which should be used to support human rights. I think a lot of people on this planet will be doing everything in their power to bring slavery back, or promote genocide, and to prevent the establishment of human rights and thats the reason we currently do not have global justice or human rights, the opposition to human rights uses all means to demolish human rights.

    I promote utilitarian ethics because only utilitarian ethics will give young people the psychological software they will need to be human rights defenders. I understand why you wouldn’t look at Henry Kissinger as a hero, even if you disagree with the results of his actions, I hope we can agree that he was a results oriented leader and probably one of the few utilitarian leaders of his time period.

  26. @Courtenay Barnett

    Maybe Henry Kissinger knows stuff we don’t. He probably has top secret level clearance. Henry Kissinger is a utilitarian, he believed that he was saving lives. He believed the war in Vietnam was a proxy war against the Soviets, and in my opinion it’s guys like Henry Kissinger that prevented an all out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. I think Henry Kissinger helped to prevent nuclear war by declaring war on communism rather than directly declaring war on the Soviet Union.

    Of course these people make mistakes, such as not pulling out of Vietnam when the war was obviously a lost cause. I don’t agree with every decision Kissinger made, and I think guys like Colin Powell are actually better at it. But from all that I’ve read about Kissinger his overall strategy was actually very logical and designed to protect Americas interests. He’s a nationalist and a utilitarian, but not a monster because I don’t think he is as corrupt as a lot of the politicians today. I think Kissinger actually believed in what he was doing and happened to make some mistakes.

    Many innocent people died during the cold war to prevent an all out nuclear war with the Soviets. A calculation was made that proxy wars would cost less innocent lives than nuclear war, or even another world war. I believe Kissinger delayed world war 3 as best he could, thats what he was trying to do. The USA did not give Kissinger the option not to contest the Soviets and communism, the USA had super power status and was therefore the leader of the capitalist world order. I think in the end we will learn that Kissinger did more good for our country than harm, and thats how we should judge men like him. I think he did his job to protect US national security.

  27. Someone mentioned Henry Kissinger, I consider Henry Kissinger to be one of the good guys. He used some “bad” tactics to accomplish good ends. If the good guys don’t use bad tactics, then the good guys lose and good ends don’t get accomplished. Very much like how good guys will have some informants who are very bad guys, but these very bad guys are taking down guys who are much much worse.

    It’s a dangerous nasty world, and we need people like Henry Kissinger to defend human rights, the constitution(not saying Henry Kissinger is a consistent defender), to protect the world for future generations.

  28. “Still, these aren’t “evil” people, they just do a lot of evil stuff”

    As a “good” person it’s your job to figure out how to modify the behavior of all people so that they do “good” stuff. The problem I see from many “good” people is that they refuse to use manipulation themselves. Manipulation is not bad, it’s how we get stuff done whether good or evil.

    Consider this example, you can have a kid who hates the world, who wants to do “bad” stuff, but due to your manipulation this kids energy can be channeled to accomplish good ends. Very much like how a con artist can manipulate people who have good intentions and convince them to give money into a fake charity, the same can be and has been done to people who have bad intentions. This is the real reason why we cannot just look at a person and declare them good or bad.

    I think this knowledge of how the brain works should move us to a more utilitarian morality than the current good and evil narrow linear binary logic which does not really apply to solving real world problems. Whether your goal is to defend human rights, or just to protect the constitution, concepts like intentions don’t matter as much. It doesn’t matter if the hero saved the world out of greed, hatred, fear, lust, love, jealousy, all that matters is that somebody somewhere convinced them to do the right thing.

    I would hope that this knowledge that not all brains are wired alike, would provide for a revolution in how we educate the youth. If we know a certain percentage of the youth will not be swayed by appeals to emotions they simply do not have, then as educators we must appeal to the emotions they do have and this is very personalized. Narcissists tend to be very selfish, this is not to say that they are bad people, it depends entirely on how and where their energy is directed. The same goes for any emotion.

    Rachel if you’d like to discuss this more with me, I can email you.

  29. Even if Oakley is not hereself in pursuit of a hidden political agenda, the line of arguments that she is advancing defintely have political applications. My mind runs across what she is saying in this regard because I am about 90% completed on a paper I am writing on the prison system and the social deviation arguments cut across some of the stuff Oakley is into. Yeah! sorry for equating Bush with intelligence – goes to display my own mental shortcomings ….huh?

    P.S. Will be finised my work in early April, and am willing to share ( via email if you are interested). All the best.

  30. Courtenay: My first reaction: Bush certainly proves the idea wrong that a sociopath is intelligent…

    Aside from that, I think you bring up a few interesting questions:
    * How much of Oakley’s work is truly scientific? Maybe it is more influenced by political considerations. (I have recently discovered an interesting challenge to psychology’s claim that it is a science. I think much of that challenge is applicable here, too, especially since categorizing actions into good and evil involve value judgments that cannot be supported by science.
    * What obligations do we – as citizens of the world – have to bring leaders to justice who have so clearly violated existing laws?

  31. I remember as a student in the 1970s at a public lecture putting a challenge to Professor Hans Eysenck. He had been a controversial advocate of IQ tests, and found himself being linked with the likes of Herrenstein and Jensen across the Atlantic in the US at the time. He also was found to be discovering defects in the brains of IRA inmates incarcerated in Northern Ireland by the British, who were then engaged in a war against the Irish Republican army. There is a sort of background to Dr. Oakley’s approach going back to the nineteenth century when ‘scientific discovery’ was made about phenotypes of criminals. The difficulty with Dr. Oakley’s approach, to cut a long story short is that she can very well ‘scientifically’ typecast the Hitlers of this world, but in her construct – how does she exclude the Bush’s and Blair’s leaving the world with equivalent and equally horrendous consequences of their sociopathic actions. Does the willful starting of a war in Iraq in 2003 based on Blair’s “Downing Street Memorandum” and Bush’s attack contrary to Article 2 of the UN Charter not undeniably amount to illegal action – which maybe doctor Oakley could usefully examine. Maybe, since the world’s political architecture will not permit these two leaders being brought to justice, then maybe in the interest of the advancement of ‘science’ she could helpfully persuade each of them to subject themselves to brain scans.

  32. All of us have a tendency now and then to do a little gaslighting as a method of coping with unpleasant situations..this is the denying of the truth and changing what really happened. No matter how smart one thinks one is, no one is smarter than reality. I guess blaming others is also a trait of mental operational adjustment to things we wish we have done or a rational way to deal with fear. Shakspeare also dealt with this when he stated Blind fear seeing reason is more sure-footed than blind reason without fear. To fear the worse is oft cures the worst we can imagine happening. Trolius & Cressida.

    Cheers Errol D. Alexander

  33. Um…whew, don’t everybody kill me at once, ok?

    Here I go: while I accept that behavior and personality are influenced from both inside and out, I feel that this book may blur the distinction between what behavior is environmentally influenced and that which might be genetically influenced. Furthermore, her use of dictators such as Adolph Hitler, Moussellini, and others as examples, and assigning personality disorder labels to them, was a touch inappropriate, due to the fact that in spite of their actions, there’s no true evidence they had anything wrong with them in the form of a disorder. Ted Bundy’s brain and John Wayne Gacy’s brains were preserved and analyzed and found to have no abnormalities, yet their behavior was grossly abnormal.

    Narcissism! She does not feel that the construct of malignant narcissism is valid because tests have failed to support it, yet she felt the ”sadistic personality” construct was valid, despite the fact that the APA dropped it after it was found to be unsupported in the same way (interestingly, it overlaps considerably with malignant narcissism in that the aggressive or abusive behavior is used to reinforce the ego of the aggressor).

    I additionally felt the ”Borderpath” idea was over the top, largely due to the evidence for it being anemic, in my opinion. BPD and psychopathy (APD is thought by some to be synonymous with psychopathy) have far more differences, emotions being a prime example. Persons with BPD have unusually intense emotions, the reactions of which are extreme even when they should be only mild, they don’t get ”a little annoyed” or fairly happy,” instead they become enraged or euphorically happy. They can’t control the intensity of their emotions. Psychopaths, on the other hand, have a narrower range of emotion, and one often gets the sense that the emotions they display are insincere. They also appear to have difficulty understanding their own feelings, as well as those of others ( psychiatrists may even finding themselves having to explain to the psychopath how he or she feels). They also intellectualize right and wrong rather than feel it. I don’t feel she provides sufficient evidence of a ”confluence” as opposed to the fact that impulsivity and irresponsible behavior are common to both disorders individually.

    ”People with borderline personality disorder have an “impaired emotional toolkit” and “can do nasty stuff.” However, they often regret their troubled, hurtful behavior later. Some of the behavior characteristics Oakley mentioned:

    “Gaslighting:” Denying reality repeatedly until others start doubting themselves
    Projection and blame shifting: They “can’t accept they’ve done anything wrong,” so they blame someone or something else.
    It’s all about ME (narcissism): The “sense-of-self circuit is turned way up.” Narcissistic people see themselves as their “good cause,” and thus their selfish behavior “is really for a good cause.”
    Chameleon like behavior: They change their behavior depending on whom they are with.”

    These characteristics are common to virtually all cluster B personality disorders, yet they are common in people without them as well. It’s easier to shift blame than accept responsibility. Do you LIKE admitting when you’re wrong? No, but it’s the right thing to do and it feels that way (most of the time). In personality disorder terminology, this is referred to as lack of insight.

    In pathological narcissism, lack of empathy, grandiosity, extreme sense of entitlement, and the very ironic tendency to be envious of others yet believe that others envy the narcissist define the condition of NPD, and narcissism in general. In BPD, there is this tendency to label the world as ”all good or ”all bad” and they can very easily project this onto themselves (the opposite of a narcissist) in the form of self-harm and even suicide. They have an unstable self image. Narcissists always think they’re perfect. Very stable.

    Almost everyone, myself included, act differently around certain people. I behave differently around my close friends than around my co-workers or people whom I do not know.

    I’d like to take another moment with the malignant narcissism issue. I believe that the reason it has not gained wide acceptance is because of the failure to accurately seperate it from psychopathic behavior. As Otto Kernberg, an early narcissism researcher and huge Freud fan, pointed out, several things differentiate them. Psychopaths are resistent to external influence; they do not internalize the values of others, yet people who would be described as malignant narcissists do. These people readily identify with figures they consider to be powerful. Unlike psychopaths, these individuals crave narcissistic supply, which unfortunately, often occurs through aggressive behavior. One could surmise that Dennis Rader, the infamous BTK killer, was a malignant narcissist, since he constantly sought narcissistic supply and his crimes were often motivated by power-reassurance. Psychopaths, on the other hand, take what they want and give it no more thought (Hare, 1991).

    Aside from these minor issues that I took, the book was a very compelling and often thought provoking read, and I highly recommend it to those looking to understand human behavior.

  34. I began reading this book this evening and from the start the author has an axe to grind. I think that she is preoccupied with her sister’s behavior where she took away here mother’s boyfriend and they went off to Paris together. He subsequently died and so did she for that matter and I would presume they can not defend themsleves or their actions. I think that a scientific premise or paradigm for explaining behavior
    misses the mark and it is no jusification for explaining away the behavior of humans or animals for that matter. If its all in the wiring of the brain or the genes that is a good metaphor for a basis to explain exactly why people do bad things or good things. I think the emphasis here is on the evil doing and the ones who are purported evil since they have a propensity to do so as the genes dictate how they are going to behave and react. There may be a scientfic basis for this with the brain scans and the so called neurological imaging that says nothing about the human condition. Its a bio medical paradigm that is desgined to treat people as if they were a machine that can be fixed by drugs or some form of therapy that may or may not change the brain. They say that the brain has plasticity and one could believe that to some extent that may be true., but who is to say who is good or evil. Its as if we have discovered something new because it can be backed up with brain science and charts. If that is the case then they should catch it early and find the ones who are vulnerable for committing atrocities, lying,
    paranoid and get their brains analyzed to see if they have that deadly chemistry within that makes them
    commit the damndest things. Just remember that Machiavelli was a philosopher and had an astute
    political mind and we all know according to Mrs. Oakley that he had us all duped because he had those genes that made him lie and manipulate others or was he giving advice on how to be a politician and play the game to win no matter what it took. I think the gene theory can take us along to the day when
    we can maniputate people by fixing their brains and make sure everything works for the good. I think
    what she is saying is absurd and the scientific basis to explain it all away is what she is trying to do.
    its already happening in the field of psychiatry where the only recourse is to use the drug approach to tweak the brain into behaving in a more salutary manner and mental illness will vanish and all the evil in world along with it. Hasn’t anyone read Huxley’s Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited?
    I think that we need to get out
    DR. Jung and read about the soul and maybe some existential philosophers as well and that reading list might include “Beyond Good and Evil”. I wonder if I will finish her book.

  35. I saw Oakley on C-Span and I have to buy into Oakley’s theme, and research. If we accept that some people are worthy of being classified as saints because of their behavior or others are mad because of their lack of empathy, then we should accept that some people are born that way. I believe some people are born to be leaders as well as some are motivated by the inner drive of being superior to others. And some people like doing things to and for other people based on how they are wired..

  36. MC wrote: “they see someone like my mom and go oh she didn’t mean to hurt you she’s sick.” That is one fear I have about Oakley’s approach: It could be used as an excuse for abuse, as you pointed out MC. I don’t think Oakley means it that way but given that alcohol abuse is often characterized as a disease, maybe emotional/verbal abuse will be categorized that way, too. (Only very few alcoholics are actually physically addicted to alcohol. Most have emotional addictions…). There’s just absolutely NO excuse for violence!

    In general, though, I think emotional abuse is often not recognized as such. That is probably in part because it only becomes obvious after spending some time with the abuser but also because it’s less visible. A bruise is harder to talk away than undermined self-worth!

  37. Thank you Katheryn, well put, I however I think the lower functioning BPD’s are just as hard to treat. I would classify mine as a lower functioning BPD, she’s in need of constant medication/therapy, however she has her therapists believing everyone else is the problem and screwing up her life. Now she’s at the point where there is nobody left to blame without sounding insane. The last few things I heard that she was blaming me for anyone would hear it and laugh and realize it was completely out of line. I also agree that you have to spend a lot of time with these individuals to see the pathology going on. With my mother, sometimes it took letting someone get ‘bit’ by her for them to understand how she treats people, despite my warning they would go in, then call me back and say see what you mean you weren’t kidding. I think as a society though the sooner we figure out how to deal with this illness the better off we will be since this is a disease affecting relationships, the sooner people know and realize this the better it will be for us normal people who just got stuck with one of these borderline relatives. In other words don’t give this mental illness the equivilence of a license to be verbally and emotionally abusive. That’s where I feel society is at the moment they see someone like my mom and go oh she didn’t mean to hurt you she’s sick. I’m sorry that’s no reason to disrespect your daughter and treat her like trash. I just say sorry you wouldn’t tell a woman to go back to an physically abusive husband so why does society allow for the emotional abuse of these people to continue.

  38. It seems like some early posts are simply attacking some statements made by the author. I have a mother with Borderline Personlaity Disorder. This disorder is so ingrained into her personality she believes that there is nothing wrong with her, it is anyone who does not believe and support her who have the problem. Having a mother with such a manipulative personality disorder has caused her victims to question themselves as to what has actually transpired in certain situations. The extent that a borderline patient will hurt those around them in really hard to believe until you live it for 30 years. The author’s sister may have a high-functioning personality disorder. These high-functioning borderlines are very difficult to treat and diagnose because they know how to change their behavior when it is required. A borderline patient may only attack a small group of immediate family member and act fine in social situations. I don’t think we can really understand the author’s sisters bpd, until you spend large amounts of time with this individual to see the pathology she has.

  39. MC – Also having lived with someone who has BPD or NPD certainly prompted me to learn about these disorders. So, I can relate to Oakley’s wish to find out more after her sister’s theft of her mother’s boyfriend.

  40. I think Oakley may not have expressed some things clearly enough for someone who has never dealt with someone with BPD/NPD, reading her comment having read Stop Walking on Eggshells and recovering from a bad relationship with a BPD mother I agree with her comments completely. If you all lived in my house growing up you would have clearly seen the gaslighting and the placing the blame on everyone else, the manipulation of everyone including counselors and the everything is about me routine. I can believe there are differences in brain scans because it would make sense that a normal person who can control their emotional responses to things and take the blame upon themselves are goign to have different brain responses than those who set it all on someone else.

  41. dkb – I am not sure what your basis is for evaluating Barbara Oakley’s talk. What are the things that Oakley “makes up about” borderline personality? As far as I know, Oakley has reviewed much of the research from the field of mental illness and did this not “in a few short weeks.” In her talk, she was summarizing what she found, more like a science journalist than anything else.

    She did not say that “an incredible memory is a tool for doing evil things.” She pointed out – at least in the talk I attended – that a good memory is one of the characteristic of BPD. However, it is not in and of itself evil – just like there are no evil genes. She gives Clinton and Roosevelt as examples of people with good memories who used that memory for good to make the point that an excellent memory per se is not evil.

    In the talk, she had a very specific set of traits that characterizes BPD – gleaned from her review of the scientific literature. I have included a partial list in my post above.

    Oakley also did not say in the talk that “if you are really mentally ill, you don’t know it.” No, she said that one of the characteristics of narcissism is that you tend to deny what you have a problem. This is widely known in the field of mental illness and one reason why counselors have a hard time working with narcissists.

    I do agree with you that she does seem to disparage her sister. I believe that she started studying this because she wanted to know why her sister behaved the way she did. However, the main point I took away from her talk: People with borderpaths are not evil monsters; their brains are wired differently and therefore they react differently from most of us. It left me with a lot more compassion toward borderpaths – even though their actions might be horrible, and should be stopped, they are driven by aspects of their brains that are wired differently.

    If you would like to continue this discussion, I would appreciate if you could be more specific about your criticism. (Like: What does she make up? Why does her discussion of schizophrenia not make sense? Where on cspan?)

  42. Something is very very wrong with this presentation, it is on c-span right now. Barbara Oakley appears to know very little about mental illness. She says things that people said many years ago about it, such as, “if you are really mentally ill, you do not know it.” It just depends on what your illness is, not the degree to which you have it. For example, you can have depression really really badly and you will probably know it. She really seems to make up anything she wants borderline personality to be; she seems to make up what this mental illness is as she talks. Borderline personality has a specific set of behaviours, yet she attaches to it any trait that she feels is “bad.”

    How does she portray her sister, so publicly, as being so sick and evil? What an incredible thing to do to her sister. It looks as if she is carrying out a vandetta with her sister in writing this book. Her sister’s behaviour, as described in her talk, (I have not read the book) does not sound like borderline personality. She did not mention drinking, but I wonder if the problem is drinking; hmmmm….either Barbara or her sister. Barbara seems to have a black and white viewpoint on life. She adds that having an incredible memory is a tool for doing evil things; such as Hitler and Mousillini (sp.) and then she points out that Bill Clinton and Roosevelt have/had great memories.

    She seems to know nothing about what borderline personality is. She clearly seems to make things up about it as she talks and THEN she discusses it in the “we” sense as if SHE were a scientist in the mental illness field. She discusses schizophrenia and does not make sense as to what this illness truly is. Again, I do not believe that she has an understanding of what these illnesses are. A person cannot become an authority on the issue in a few short weeks, it takes time to work in the field, meet people with the illness….it takes STUDY.

    Barbara Oakley does not know what she is talking about when she discusses mental illness. I suppose that she does not know that it is a science as studied and true as her field. If I were her sister, I would sue her butt!! She is doing an incredibly bad service towards her.

  43. Hi, Philip,

    Your criticism is pretty broad, so I am not sure how to respond. You do raise a good point, though, regarding categorizing people: I agree that we need to be careful about doing that. Although, if I understood Oakley correctly, her argument is that people do behave in certain ways based on their brain wiring. Still, these aren’t “evil” people, they just do a lot of evil stuff…


  44. Hi there

    I was at the CFI talk as well. I thought her talk was terrible – there are many problems with her arguments, and she ended up making meaningless statements, like some people have more free will than others. It seems like she does not understand the concept of free will – either you have it or you don’t. I’m not sure how its quantifiable.

    She runs into trouble by making people categorical – that is, either normal or pathological, good or bad. As many have pointed out, humans seem to be a complicated mix of good and evil. Also, her use of images from brain scans is deeply problematic. These scans are not like photographs – like are complex amalgamations of many repreated scans, with discrepancies flattened out. They are not simple representations of brain or mind states.

    Anyways, what did you think?


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