People punish antisocial behavior. This tendency even appears to be observed in infants. This tendency is the root of our sense of fairness and considered to be the appropriate response to injustice or unfairness. I’m often stuck in antisocial behavioral loops. This has led me to discover certain elements of these social dynamics in my desperate attempt to understand myself and others. I believe that these antisocial loops are essentially reasonable and stem from our evolved tendency to punish antisocial behavior. Differences in belief are core to the development of these antisocial dynamics.
Schisms in fairness dynamics result in subjectively justified antisocial behavior. To give an example, recently I mentioned that there are billions of animals dying each year and one individual responded by saying it made them hungry for the animals’ flesh. In my eyes, their reaction is antisocial toward me. They are being callous for amusement or at best they are simply unaware of how that could offend me in this context. I called them out for being unempathetic toward me. Bystanders will view this situation differently based on their beliefs about whether eating factory farmed meat is right or wrong, or more specifically, whether they think my pain response is valid, which is dependent on whether they think factory farming is a legitimate concern. If my pain is seen as invalid, then the calling out of the person is seen as unjust and unfair. As my calling out is called out, there is a further sense that the group is unfair to me. Our beliefs determine how fairness is calculated.
If I am aware of my beliefs being in conflict with others, there are now incentives to develop skills in deception or accept a fate of rejection or conform to the belief norms. Changing my beliefs for the sole purpose of reducing conflict seems untenable. This leaves me with either hiding my beliefs to engineer social interactions devoid of perceived conflicts or embrace conflicts and fight to the death. These two options are very antisocial in nature: chronic lying to generate a charming facade or antagonism.
It isn’t much different than the way we hide our beliefs, politics, and religions at the family dinner table in order to preserve the peace. Some of us have normalized such behaviors in contexts beyond family dinners. Some of us don’t have close friendships where we can discuss our personal truths. I think that these are the ones that eventually become psychopaths. The schisms of fairness can be so dysregulated that eventually the accumulation of karmic revenge urges build up and make something like a mass shooting seem justified and fair. This is essentially what the movie Joker depicts.
Alas, the collective dinner table has fallen apart with the rise of the internet. We have disclosed our beliefs and thus conflicts have accumulated to levels that seem beyond repair. In America, some believe a civil war is imminent. What is civil war but the viral spreading of the intention to engage in mass shootings with the perceived enemy? We eventually grow to feel that becoming a serial killer is justified or even in our best interest or the interest of our supposed people.
The internet merely provided a space that was not yet filled with norms, leading to a competition of ideas to establish colonial power over the rule of the new world. It is akin to the concept of the adaptive radiation in evolutionary theory. The idea is that the sudden destruction of occupied niches gives way to the rapid evolution of new species that will fill the niche void. The most legendary example is when the dinosaurs died out, the mammals took reign over the world. In the context of human culture, the internet provided a medium for which niches of belief norms were not blocking the rise of power of new beliefs. The internet was a canvas for niche ideas to rise to power unchecked by traditionalism. This allowed for rapid cultural evolution of ideas like atheism, feminism, veganism, post-modernism, and even conspiracy theories.
This cultural change has leaked into the rest of social reality, breaking down the traditional systems that maintained the status quo. Now we will observe the death and rebirth of society, like that of the phoenix. Our beliefs are no longer synchronized or even giving the illusion of synchrony. Now, we are faced with the horrifying truth that we are surrounded by “the enemy”.
We are all circumstantially psychopathic.
The degree of our empathy is dependent on whether it is believed to be deserved or not.
In many cases, it seems that labeling someone a psychopath is to imply that their sense of justified reality is incorrect, which would result from differences in belief. All of us are occasionally psychopathic, like with our tendency to charm and manipulate our family into believing in a reality without conflict at the dinner table. We even want to be manipulated by psychopaths because the alternative is to be confronted with the unpleasant truth of interpersonal war. Some of us can never escape that dinner table. Some of us are trapped in the passage of fate, destined to live within the prisons of circumstance. Our desire for fairness can lead us to believe that violence is just. Some scenarios simply have feedback loops that cause unfairness to accumulate, ultimately expanding the window of the kinds of behavior that are considered justified. Those who have lived the most unfair lives will see the most horrendous actions as fair and justified.
Someone who’s spouse is murdered in cold blood will find murder of the perpetrator reasonable. Someone who’s soul was tormented by society will find the death of society reasonable. Once we see others as evil, we become evil ourselves. If we are failing to understand the circumstances of others, then this mistake makes us exceedingly evil. This is why empathy is so important. We cannot let our empathy fade. If our empathy is contingent on the notion that it is deserved, then we will become psychopaths ourselves. Believing in evil is the path to becoming a monster. Once we see society as irreparably corrupt, we allow ourselves to navigate through its people with callous to seek our desires to their ends.
This is one reason I actually think fairness is flawed. Jailing criminals seems fair, but I’d posit that jail is a torture chamber and that placing people in cells is psychopathic. This becomes more apparent if we remove fairness from the equation. Imagine a psychopath breaking into someone’s house, kidnapping them, and then locking them in a dungeon for decades. We believe it is fair to treat antisocial people antisocially. This is likely an evolved mechanism to regulate social communities. We must observe when our social regulations actually produce criminality. Recently, cultural movements against the police have become active. Rebellion becomes reasonable. Antisociality becomes reasonable. I have faith that another possible reality exists: one in which we do not rely on the threat of torture to control people’s behavior.
Labeling people as psychopaths is akin to claiming that they are possessed by demons. The psychopathy label tags them as a villain so that we know it is fair to act villainous toward them. We feel that we are righteous if we withhold empathy or prosociality from the psychopath. The psychopath is defined by their tendency to withhold empathy or prosociality. Withholding empathy and prosociality will cause others to withhold their empathy and prosociality. The psychopath engineers their world such that everyone around them is psychopathic toward them. Everyone around the psychopath simultaneously engineers the psychopaths to withhold empathy and prosociality. This is likely why trauma is sometimes associated to the development of antisociality. It is a feedback loop. Two mirrors facing each other in an endless battle for truth. It is symmetrical and fair.
The schisms of our beliefs propagate hate.
Fairness is a root of evil. We use retribution and systems of revenge to deter evil but yet, it is an application of evil. Fairness is how we persuade people to become Nazis. It is how we make cruelty appear reasonable. The sanity of cruelty is that we fear such violence and that fear controls our behavior. By creating systems of revenge and violence, we deter evil with evil. These systems of fairness are protectors of belief systems that hold power. But what other way is there for things to be?
Inevitably, in this new world, we must seek a future in which we either share our beliefs or learn how to behave in the condition that we disagree with others. When someone has decided that others are not worthy of empathy, we must wonder why. To not do so, is to not have empathy. It is to become them.
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole word blind” -Ghandi.
As a final caveat, I do not think that fairness is the only factor in the development of antisociality. Though, we must consider how it may be possible that genetic components or even brain damage may play into these fairness dynamics. These physiological factors may alter our values and skew our beliefs. They may also contribute to social conflicts that spiral out into antisocial dynamics.
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Check out the book I just finished, The Psychonet. It explores many ideas from this blog and is designed to make you feel alive, emotional, and maybe terrified. It uses AI art and depicts a story about AI.