Monsters, LLP

Paco Nathan
Sep 5, 2016 · 9 min read

Many thanks to people for kind words about the Hylburt-Speys short story about AI, blockchain, and personality disorders. Thanks, too, for comments about the related article which preceded, “Rage in the Workplace, Should We Fear It?

Following those two pieces, I was astonished and in some cases horrified by the temerity in heartfelt personal accounts that surfaced. As a result, I’m beginning to curate a list here about cases where someone who appears to have a serious personality disorder commits a felony then gets away with relatively sparse legal consequences. The point, to paraphrase a close friend, is to recognize “how violence in action and speech have become considered a moral good in the corporatist workplace.”

Much of 2016 has been a difficult time. To some extent I’ve consciously pulled back from social media — as have many of my close friends— due to the inescapable intensity of political “rightness” and “wrongness”, the monotony of politics and violence, the utter polarity with which people are experiencing the US presidential race and related issues, etc. And ranting about it. Oddly enough, this came into focus last night while watching a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan. Something clicked.

Some have noticed (or not) that — while some of my political leanings are quite apparent— I make a point not to discuss politics or religion in the workplace. Those topics are both too important to sully via a bully pulpit. However, if you want a lens into what morals I consider important, read more about this issue here. Maybe one or two others, we’ll cover those in due time.

Fiction provides an entirely appropriate venue to consider matters that do not arrive neatly wrapped with simple answers. It prompt more thought and discussion than a Facebook wall. In other words, this is about a basis for real politics, even if story is the vector.

Granted, there are arguably worse things in the world. Homelessness in the US, violence against women, racism, wage disparity, etc. However, while this kind of monstrous behavior goes largely unchecked — in fact, gets systematically rewarded — I question whether civility is to be expected? How far does this go before we reach a breaking point? Or has that limit already been exceeded, which we’re just realizing now?

The point is to recognize “how violence in action and speech have become considered a moral good in the corporatist workplace.”

I use a somewhat different name for these. Anyone who has an untreated personality disorder or is their enabler, acting out in a corporatist environment … though I loath using the word, these people represent enemies. Three of the principals listed below attended Stanford University, my alma mater. Thus the tie-in to workplace violence, as the Anointed to become respected professionals, industry leadership, lifetime success stories.

Weigh the evidence, hear their voices. Decide for yourself.

Jill Easter

Lawyers in love

Brock Turner

Igniting a tiny fire

Andrea Mears

An arresting cry

Elizabeth Holmes

One tiny drop changes everything

Ethan Ralph

After refusing to follow instructions

One glaring insight

Fifty-plus years grappling with the question of other humans, and one glaring insight stands out. Each of these stories shares one particular point: escalation.

Throw a snit. What does it matter? Some people find it entertaining. Others gain from it. While others are merely frightened into submission. Kick it up a few more notches, the consequences don’t really amount to much.

Escalation is a civilian luxury, a decadence. For those who’ve carried a rifle as their job, an escalation implies entirely different consequences. People you care about will get hurt or killed. Rather soon. For those who’ve held command roles, responsible for people carrying rifles for a living, an escalation implies other dimensions. You’re forced to make decisions about who gets hurt or killed. Rather soon.

Lesson learned, not long past being a teen, one fine summer evening out in the woods. Responsible for a unit of about a dozen people, each of whom were armed. Each of whom were exhausted, starved, sleep-deprived. Fed up with getting ambushed and tear-gassed for days on end, they’d reached their limits. As intended, in a situation expertly crafted by the 82nd Airborne Division. My closest friend no longer had a gas mask, so we were sharing. Just had to keep it together, keep us all moving toward goal.

A quite large young man, formerly captain of his football team, was the first to snap. My job was to get him back down to Earth, while avoiding problems for others in the unit, leading them to finish our mission. I made a conscious choice to talk the guy down — recognizing other alternatives. If our unit had been under fire, I would’ve used other means to resolve his escalation.

A huge problem circa 2016 is that rate of escalation tears apart our social fabric. With little or no pertinent legal statutes, alternatives don’t really work. Imagine the words of an arresting officer: “Oh, you’ve escalated at a rate of 0.40 when 0.23 is the legal limit. Therefore you have the right to remain silent, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you…”

Perhaps we need such laws, post haste. If you know of examples, please let me know. There are worse matters, e.g., homelessness, systemic violence against women, rampant racism, militarized police, etc. Even so, the monsters and their enablers in the stories above chose to become combatants, the actual face of domestic terrorism. Arguably, no longer civilians. Perhaps civilian law should no longer apply? Doubtful that we’ll get DHS out of the donut shops and golf course cocktail lounges long enough to do anything useful about that.

Their formula is simple

A particular dynamic tends to surround people in power who have this kind of problem. Interestingly, a consistent pattern for that dynamic holds throughout the stories above. Their formula is simple and relies on four components:

  1. someone who has a serious personality disorder, in a position of power
  2. someone else in a relatively higher position of power who serves as their enabler
  3. privilege (for both of the above)
  4. our cultural acceptance of their actions

Upset one or more of these components and you will have disabled this dynamic.

However, anyone who calls into question the actions of either the monster or the enabler — i.e., confronting them directly — will suffer the wrath of both. That’s their modus, and by definition a successful one.

Doubtful that we could change the “privilege” component any time soon. We can recognize the “monsters” —the point here. Through that we can help people learn to recognize their dynamics, understand alternatives to behavioral responses, and consider changes to available legal remedies.

The “enablers” present a challenge, pointing toward inherent failings in our legal system. Consider the trajectory of hate speech and increasingly stronger statutes against Internet trolls. This overlaps with something so commonplace as schoolyard bullying, a practiced dissembling of which is probably core to how “enablers” get formed. That’s not inconsistent with the fact that 20–25% of women who attend college in US will be sexually assaulted. It may be that “enablers” must be considered as a special case for prosecution, something akin to how we attempt to dismantle hate speech. Albeit more dire.

What prospects, Civility?

Otherwise, accept leadership by sociopaths. Ignore the mounting dread, avoid the “monotony of politics and violence” that surrounds. Bury the notion of Civility and pronounce its rites.


"In the loop…"

Paco Nathan

Written by

evil mad scientist ; co-chair ; lives on a tiny orchard in Ecotopia



"In the loop…"

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