From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation
Click to buy a copy of Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths.
Dictators and political strongmen often fit the criteria for psychopathy. Abraham makes an insightful, novel argument based on both a keen clinical eye, and an exhaustive review of the literature, for understanding the historical and genetic roots of this problem, and why we should be aware of the potential dictators all around us.”
—James Fallon, The Psychopath Inside
It’s always easier to turn away from the horrors of history, but Abraham forces us to look, and look carefully. Using wide-ranging research and an unflinching eye for detail, he reminds us that it’s only through the stories of the past that we can understand where we’ve come from, what we’ve become, and how we can even hope to effect change.”
—Candice Millard, New York Times best-selling author of The River of Doubt and the Edgar Award-winning Destiny of the Republic
A detailed and engaging examination of our haunted past and threatening future.”
—John Mack Faragher, Howard R. Lamar Professor Emeritus, Yale University, Daniel Boone; A Great and Noble Scheme; and The American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History
I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was built on insanity?”
—Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test
Xenophobia. Racism. Fascism. Intolerance. Inhumanity. Coercion.
Right wing populists increasingly draw attention from around the globe, but the attention is misdirected. The real problem is not the authoritarian, but the authoritarian personalities who follow him. If we do not blindly submit to the despot and obey him, he is irrelevant.
Why do we attach ourselves to demagogues and mountebanks? Why do we defend even their most obvious hypocrisies and lies?
The answer is found in the history of civilization. Despite our romantic traditions, kings and conquerors were not the wise, virtuous leaders that we have imagined. They were the most vicious criminals in the history of humanity.
And for the past 10,000 years, anyone who disagreed with them faced ruin and death.
Prologue: Fantasy & Horror
War is not gallant heroism, it is horror: it is the sadistic dismembering of soldiers and civilians.
Chapter I: Kings
Kings were gangsters running national protection rackets: they extorted money from their subjects, monopolized high-profit resources, and dealt viciously with any resistance.
Chapter II: Conquerors
Conquerors are serial killers who prey upon nations. They commit murder, theft, and enslavement against millions for fabulous wealth.
Chapter III: Psychopaths
Conquerors meet the diagnostic criteria for the ‘dark tetrad’: criminal psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and sadism. King and conqueror do not need to personally meet the psychiatric criteria for these disorders, because conquest and monarchy do.
Interlude: Genetics, Eugenics, Genocide
Human genetic behavior is ruts, not rails. It is a mistake to categorize people by their genetic characteristics, but ignoring our genetic influences leaves us more vulnerable to them.
Chapter IV: The Breeding Programme
Through rape and polygamy, on one side of our family tree we are all descendants of the conqueror and his armies; on the other side, we are descended from their victims. Throughout civilization, doubt and independent thought risked ruin and death. Survival under king and conqueror required that we not just agree, but believe what we were told.
Chapter V: The Noble Classes
Those atop the noble hierarchy were ‘important’, and the rest of us were unimportant and expendable. Through his lieutenants, the king designed civilization as a rigid caste system of subjugation, subordination, and exclusion.
Chapter VI: Privilege & The Double Standard
‘Privilege’ means ‘private law’, a legal double standard: the king and nobility demand a middle class morality of the commoners, while they pursue a criminal anti-morality of evil.
Chapter VII: The Authoritarian Personality
Millennia of cultural and genetic selection under king and conqueror insure that we are vulnerable to believing any lie or hypocrisy the despot presents. This explains fanaticism and blind adherence to political strongmen, and the resulting cult of personality.
Chapter VIII: The Atrocino
King and conqueror have morphed into modern business and political leaders, where they continue to expend our lives for power, wealth, and narcissism.
Chapter IX: The Modern World
For 10,0000 years under the king, progress was slow and serendipitous. In 1776, once we began removing the oppression of the noble classes, genius and progress emerged spontaneously, and created the modern world.
Chapter X: The Ugly Truth
Without the horrors of the atrox we would still be neolithic hunter-gatherers. That was the cost of civilization.
Progress requires an educated and socially active electorate, and increased citizen participation is critical for protecting us from political and economic strongmen. Without public empowerment and engagement, we will revert to the brutality of the past.
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Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths was published by the University of Louisiana Press September 18, 2018.