“The Writer and the Psychopath,” Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
I just read this essay on Bookslut about, among other things, trendy disorders. Psychopathy is trendy right now, Marzano-Lesnevich argues, and Aspergers used to be trendy until people realized that there were sexier problems than unrelenting social awkwardness.
This argument is weird to me, though. It’s basically an argument that empathy is getting uncool:
[S]ince the [psychopath] diagnosis correlates with power, charm, and manipulation of others, it offers bragging rights in certain circles. The website Experience Project features an “I am a Psychpath” forum and message board, with topic posts like, “When did you figure out you were a psychopath?” and “What do you like best about being a psycho?” Elsewhere on the Internet, posters offer up their self-calculated scores on Hare’s checklist, seeming pleased by the way the score confirms for them that yes, they are charming, and yes, they are uniquely skilled at taking advantage of others without remorse. (Could there be a more appealing and reassuring diagnosis to the teenage boy alone in his room?)
Who is excited or reassured by not being able to feel empathy? Empathy is the shit! Empathy is the only reason you have any friends! (Unless you have a nice car, then there are two reasons.) There is no way to hate on it. David Brooks tried in an article about empathy’s limitations, and it ended up (I thought) dumb. Every good thing has SOME limitations, and listing them doesn’t really constitute a hard-hitting critique. That’s like writing an anti-scarf op-ed about how scarves keep your neck warm, but they don’t keep your feet warm.