When and why mandatory and psychological training/counselling doesn’t work and what we should be doing at an organisational, institutional and societal level. Individual psychological interventions without sociological approaches are likely to be ineffective and a waste of time.
Andrew Laming, Christian Porter, Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce, Michael Johnsen and no doubt many others, like their leaders are or behave like ‘entitled narcissists’ as many Liberals and Nationals in government who do not have empathy but for their own selfish oppressive class and kind. Arrogant, blokey, misogynist, racist, abusive and delusional in nature, they will not be capable of learning it from a single involuntary program of psychological intervention/s – totally fanciful and supremely convenient for Morrison (and Berejiklian) to defend or deny no matter how disgusted they scowl, preach and caper before the camera, and little wonder they band together. And it is not limited just to men, the perpetrators, nor a single class, political or religious persuasion. If you haven’t got empathy by the time you are a mature adult, you missed all the normal developmental and social cues, you are not fit to be elected let alone govern (man or woman), you are not fit to be in a position of power and authority over others, probably not ever.
Whether (and particularly if) you are a politician, religious leader or minister, CEO, general manager, barrister, celebrity, company boss or director, come from an elite and privileged background or risen from ordinary obscurity, if you have no empathy and capacity to act upon human compassion and kindness, you are not going to learn it through an individual psychological or mandatory training program whatever your IQ; it will merely reinforce your own human maladjustment, inhumanity and prejudice, apart from the occasional random individual success; not unlike the politicised cruisy concept of random acts of kindness coveted, ordained and prescribed in our healthcare system and institutionally elsewhere.
In the biblical context we have that famous New Testament quote from Matthew 9:24 – “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” It also appears in different form in the Quran 7:40 – “The gates of heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter paradise as a camel enters through the eye of a needle.” Whether you believe in the religious message or not, we have this potent metaphor for life here on earth and human nature. We are fighting against the very problem that governs us as that which created it, just as those we allow to govern are blind, unwilling and incapable of changing their own self-perpetuating destructive demeanour. Some call it the battle between good and evil or for us ordinary folk right and wrong, light and darkness.
The good news is you can’t snuff out human and humanitarian nature either, the good traits and virtues are just as resilient, as history has taught us on both sides of purgatory, from Roman occupation and empire to the Third Reich, British or American imperialism to Putin’s plutocratic Russia, Chinese communism and re-education camps to the brutal dictatorships of Khmer Rouge, North Korea and Myanmar. While ever we let such individuals rise so too will the regimes manifest and fester which create and promote them – How will a mandatory psychological education program or camp ever change this? Some people simply must not be allowed to return to positions of authority or rise in the first place.
Society (civilisation) has been rewarding people without these traits and virtues since time immemorial, they have been rising to the highest positions in our society like kings, queens and emperors, and as such it may even now be in our genes as part of natural selection and inheritance, not just nurture or an individual psychological developmental problem. The problem is escalated by the fact we keep rewarding people politically and economically to practice their narcissism, we appoint them and re-elect them. This position of authority and power also reinforces their perceived success, ego, entitlement and defence with every ploy, manipulation and deception; love of offspring and lust for power becomes the right and privilege of inheritance.
There is no psychological vaccine for this social disorder, you can only adjust the socioeconomic cultural system to accommodate, minimise harm and prevent the future development, maintenance and spread of this social disease and its variants – the solution must be sociological and reconfigured at every level of society. While ever we continue to brush it under the carpet, normalise and reward it, we have to live with it, we foster it, the fall out just gets worse, till society itself eventually breaks apart and we are faced with the destructive force of man’s man-made all-consuming social pandemic and all its consequences.
Just as you treat a virus with social distancing, hygiene, PPE and vaccination, you do not put the source, this ‘social pox’ in the middle of a crowd to control, rule or govern it; nor indeed do you pander to the ineffectiveness or manipulative excuses, justice, prescriptions and interventions of individual remedial psychology.
Both science and history tell us otherwise, as do our reason, minds and hearts. This is far more a sociological phenomenon than a psychological one, and for this we need a sociological perspective and progressive societal humanitarian reform.
Call it political if you like, but political is at the core of our human problem.
Reference: “Andrew Laming: Why empathy training is unlikely to work,” by Sue Williamson, The Conversation, 29 March 2021.
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