On the Creation of Evil

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The overwhelming majority of criminal conduct which with I dealt, was associated with antisocial or borderline personality disorders, often in combination with alcohol. Offenders with major psychiatric disorders were in the minority, and of those, say with schizophrenia, command hallucinations and paranoid delusions were predominant features.

Personality disorders are not illnesses as such, but rather maladaptive behaviour patterns conditioned by negative childhood experiences.  This is likely why, in the recent decision of the Luke Magnotta trial, the jury concluded that he was not suffering from a disease of the mind in the legal sense, and therefore  knew right from wrong. He just didn’t give a damn, and sought only to act out his impulses and bizarre fantasies. Needless to say, he did not have a warm fuzzy childhood and very likely had borderline pathology. He is basically a fragmented, deviant and incomplete human being.  

Furthermore, I have never been impressed that treatment did much of anything for the so called type B disorders (antisocial-narcissistic-borderline), beyond perhaps crisis management. Personality reconstruction is elusive, though long term therapy has induced modest change in the less severely antisocial types. Nor can criminal acts committed by them be deterred since the forces driving their antisocial conduct are stronger than moral controls assuming there are any at all. What creates these individuals and makes them hard to rehabilitate can be found by studying them in evolution.

This brings me to my 7 year stint as medical director of the St Francis Academy in Salina, Kansas. The majority of the youth treated there had the junior version of the Type B spectrum. The age range was 11 to 18. Studying and attempting to treat these boys was an education in understanding how evil is created. Their crimes were mostly sexual offences and the victims ranged from barnyard animals to infants. Almost without exception the parents were physically and/or sexually abusive, neglectful, alcoholics or meth heads. Compounding this was the use of substances during pregnancy, which are proven to lead to various degrees of brain damage, intellectual impairment, or impulse control problems.

The Episcopal based program philosophy was therapy in Christ and the patients were “children of God” though I thought that the devil had a larger contribution. Doesn’t hurt to have theology on board when dealing with these junior criminals.  The entire process of treatment which averaged 2 or more years could be distilled down to re parenting. Medications were used only for ADD therapy or severe impulse control issues: behaviour modification, boot camp, counseling and mandatory church attendance formed the bulk of the approach.  The success rate was 70% over 5 years. Catch them when young I suppose.

I read an obscure text back in the day, filled with psychoanalytic jargon entitled “Hitler’s Psychopathology”. In brief, he was thought to have a borderline personality disorder complete with sexual deviations (he enjoyed water sports).

As the name implies borderlines walk the tightrope between neurosis and psychosis and this creates diagnostic havoc and legal complexity, around guilt and responsibility. To create these individuals, you take an emotionally unavailable, violent and boozy father and combine that with a passive, ineffectual abandoning<-> overbearing or child abusing mother and you make a Hitler a Stalin or a Magnotta.

You need special credentials to drive a car, take out a book and get a credit card, but as long as there are no prerequisites to raise a child there will be more borderlines.

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One Response to “On the Creation of Evil”

  1. PapiT says:

    “Re-parenting with religion”…not something the atheists, now on a tear, would condone. Nor for that matter the Government which has gone to great lengths to remove religion from the classroom. Religion serves a good (Godly) purpose absent a strong set of moral guidelines. Unfortunately, it has almost always been religion that provided those moral codes.

    “If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.” ― George Carlin

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