"If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire:" In The Guardian, George Monbiot ponders the psychology of why the 1% have been allowed to capture so much of the world's wealth.
Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes....
...In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
I think that Monbiot's remarks about class distinctions as a prerequisite for reaching top positions may still be more true in Britain than in the U.S., where ambition and hard work actually can propel a person toward the top of their field. But his article quotes the work of several psychologist-economists and rings true, to me, in defining the traits that are rewarded in business, and mirrored in society's adulation and envy.
Until recently, we were mesmerised by the bosses' self-attribution. Their acolytes, in academia, the media, thinktanks and government, created an extensive infrastructure of junk economics and flattery to justify their seizure of other people's wealth. So immersed in this nonsense did we become that we seldom challenged its veracity.
I'd like to see this taken a step further, with a psychological exploration of why we - society - build up cults of celebrity around those with wealth and power, even when it is clear that we have nothing whatsoever to gain.
And from Toronto's Globe and Mail, a thoughtful lament about why there will be no Israeli-Palestinian Spring.
Nor is the unholy alliance that supports Israel the kind of allies we hoped a just and humane Israel would attract. To be adopted by American Christian evangelicals whose ultimate goal is either the conversion or annihilation of all Jews; by far-right European political parties of Muslim-haters who only yesterday demonized Jews; by American Republicans who want to roll back the modern world; by Conservatives in Canada who flagrantly exploit and exaggerate anti-Semitism for their own political purposes; by bogus friends everywhere who insist that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism; by the violence-prone Jewish Defence League in Canada, who befriended the English Defence League, a violently anti-Muslim group embraced by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik; by politicians too craven and opportunistic to stand up for the real well-being of Israel, led by the man who used to be Barack Obama. Can such friends really help assure Israel of a secure future?