“Women could change the rules of the game if they really wanted to”

P1030903“I hope you have returned as the bearer of hope as well as coffee as promised” challenged Vanessa.

“Indeed I do, and we are both part of that hope” Replied Roxie.

“In what sense” asked Vanessa?

“Why my dear, because we are both women of course!”

“So you are saying that merely by being women we create hope? Sorry Roxie I’m afraid that you have lost me again.”

“It’s not that simple but let me explain further. Women are far less likely to be sociopaths than men; certain studies that I have seen suggest that for every female sociopath there are seven males. I think I need to explain this a bit more. Dr Robert D.Hare the Canadian psychologist devised a checklist based on the anti-social tendencies and characteristics of psychopaths. The maximum score for the test is forty. In the USA anyone scoring over thirty is considered to be a psychopath. Interestingly in the UK this figure is only twenty-five. The scary conclusion that can be drawn is that American society is so pathological by nature that showing serious levels of psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies is considered to be normal, perhaps even desirable behaviour. You only have to look at the extraordinary inequality in American society and the cynical and callous disregard for the needs of the poor and the vulnerable to understand the truth of this. Sadly our own society is moving in a similar direction and is also becoming increasingly pathological so we have little room for smugness or complacency.”

“So what you are implying is that women are intrinsically less pathological than men?” said Vanessa.

“Exactly.”

“What is the difference between a psychopath and a sociopath” asked Vanessa.

“These terms are often freely interchanged and the difference is rather nuanced. Some schools of thought believe that the vast majority of psychopaths are genetically programmed to turn out as they do and that there is virtually nothing that could be done to fundamentally treat them. Others believe that early environmental influences and experiences may also have shaped the psyche of these individuals and may be more inclined to use the term sociopath. If you happen to be a victim it’s a bit of a moot point!”

“Ok, let’s say that I can go along with you on this,” said Vanessa “although I have met some women in my time who would be definitely score near the top of Dr Hare’s scale. How does this knowledge bring hope?”

“Firstly you have made a very good point. Just because there is a higher tendency in men to develop sociopathic characteristics, the majority of men would score low on the scale and are as appalled by greed, ignorance, lying and cruelty as most women. Also, as you have pointed out, there are some women who are complete sociopaths, as bad as any of their male equivalents. Sadly we also find a disproportionally high percentage of these women holding the levers of power and influence alongside their male counterparts. We must therefore be careful not to make too sweeping a judgement about any one individual based purely on their gender. I do however believe it is quite reasonable to take note of the difference in the propensity to develop psychotic tendencies between the genders.”

“With the exception of a few ancient societies, men have always dominated and controlled the levers of power, usually through control, coercion and the threat of physical violence to supress the rights and aspirations of women. Do you know that it is estimated that there are over one billion women in the world who are living with the physical and psychological scars of violence and abuse? This equates to roughly one in three of all the women on the planet. In the UK it is less than a hundred years since women were even given the opportunity to vote. For the first time in millennia, in democratic developed countries, women are actually starting to get hold of some of the levers of power. Sadly in many other parts of the world, often using religious ideology as an excuse, the physical oppression and control of women by men is actually getting more extreme not less.”

“I have seen some signs of career progression for women in banking circles,” replied Vanessa, “but the number of women getting to the top is still pitifully low. There is a strong underlying patriarchal culture that actively discourages compassion, caring and sensitivity, the very human qualities that you are saying offer a source of potential hope.”

“You have grabbed the problem in a nutshell. The underlying pathology of our greed based culture creates an extremely hostile environment for people whose personalities don’t share these pathological characteristics. The purpose of most large banks and corporations is defined as ‘maximising shareholder value’ although we know in reality this usually equates to maximising the money flowing into the pockets of boardroom directors. There is no social obligation, no requirement for sustainability, no obligation to the needs, concerns and families of employees except when this could impact upon profits.”

“Virtually all the constraints that have been placed on corporations have had to come from state intervention in the face of frenzied lobbying and opposition. The capitalist slave owners insisted that the British Empire would be virtually brought to its knees when William Wilberforce wanted to abolish slavery. There were similar protests when the Government in the Victorian era slowly introduced legislation to stop the worst exploitation of child labour. For decades now this tide of social progress has been stemmed and even reversed through intense corporate lobbying and the collusion of politicians. We have now built a globalised corporate society without obligation or any social conscience. If you put the culture and behaviour of many corporations to the sociopath test they would score very highly indeed. Is it any wonder that many women struggle to thrive in such emotionally and spiritually hostile environments?”

“I’m still struggling on the hope front here Roxie!”

“The hope comes from the statistical fact that in democratic countries women could change the rules of the game if they really wanted to, and had the courage and to do so. There is no reason at all that the individualistic, greed based, pathological model of government and corporations can’t be rejected and a very different set of social priorities adopted. The established culture would scream and threaten and coerce and bully and do everything in their power to stop any such progress. At least they can no longer overtly use direct physical violence and intimidation of women to do this. If women want a viable and sustainable world for their children and their children’s children then they have to take urgent action to create this sustainable future. As we have discussed, the window of opportunity to do this is now very short. In a world dominated by greed and short term self-interest the prevailing social dynamics are nearly all pointing the wrong way.”

“Are there any glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel or is it just a ruddy great locomotive heading our way” said Vanessa.

“Indeed there are” replied Roxie. “Have you ever heard of a book called the Spirit Level written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett?”

“Sorry, no.”

“What the authors discovered is that the wellbeing and happiness of societies, above a certain base level of income, was dependent upon relative equality not the amount people actually earnt. The more unequal a society had become, the more social issues and problems were incurred such as violent crime, number of offenders locked up in prisons, poor health, shorter life expectancy, obesity etc. It is my belief that you can correlate inequality in a society with the degree of greed based pathological characteristics. Not surprisingly the USA and the UK were right up at the unequal end of the table and inequality continues to grow exponentially because there are few social constraints in our society to prevent this. At the other end of the scale are societies that are far more equal and where wealth and opportunity are better shared amongst the population. These are the Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.”

“How do women fit into this picture?” asked Vanessa.

“Well in the Scandinavian countries roughly forty to fifty percent of the politicians are women. In the UK it is a paltry 22.6 percent, heavily biased towards the left wing and the marginally less pathological parties, and in the USA it is a miserly seventeen percent. The underlying culture in Scandinavian countries is based far more on collective responsibility and mutual obligation than the highly individualistic cultures you find in the USA and UK and other similar countries.”

“Is there is a chicken and egg situation here?” observed Vanessa. “Are there more women in politics in these countries because they have more equal and caring societies and women can thrive, or do they have better societies because there are more women in their political establishments?”

“I think a shift in culture has to be established before a significant number of women would be able to tolerate the political establishment” reflected Roxie. “Another useful example of just how different the respective cultures of these societies are is to look at their prison populations. Let’s take a figure of how many people are locked up in prison per 100,000 of the population? In Norway and Sweden when I last looked at the figures it was sixty-six and eighty-two respectively. In the UK it was about 145 and growing. In the greed and self-interest capital of the world where inequality is worshiped as ‘the American way’ it is a whopping 700 plus or ten times what you would typically find in a Scandinavian country. There can be no greater indictment of just how pathological the USA has become as a country. There is a close correlation between the increase in inequality in the USA and the increase in the number of people that are being excluded from society and locked away.”

“So the glimmer of hope you offer is that the women of the world, the ones that are not still directly repressed and intimidated through physical violence, could exercise their democratic mandate and could therefore choose to change the nature of our society?” said Vanessa.

“It is merely a glimmer I’m afraid, don’t forget that the established patriarchal culture and the plutocrat owned media will use every tool in their possession to prevent this. The most effective tool usually used against women is the fear that the prospects for their own children could be worse if things changed. The opposite is actually true as the current momentum of a greed dominated global society is leading us to a point that, for the vast majority of women, the future prospects for their children are simply appalling. The levers of power in our current world are in the hands of remarkably few people who are pathologically addicted to their individual wealth and the power it can buy. These people have no intention of changing this dynamic any time soon, even if it costs humanity the very ecology of the Earth upon which all life is dependent.”