[Cross-posted at Hitcoffee: please view that link for any updates.]
Dr. X, a friend of Hitcoffee, has warned against what some mental health professionals call the Dark Triad.
This triad is, to quote Dr. X, a "personality organization that
comprises three psychological traits: psychopathy, narcissism and
Machiavellianism." People with that personality organization are
dangerous. They are a problem that needs to be dealt with, especially if
they are a coworker or in a position of responsibility.
we do with such people? In the comment thread to that post, Dr. X
suggests that we fire them. To me, the obligation to fire implies that
we shouldn't hire in the first place. If the dark triadic person is not
independently wealthy and yet can't or shouldn't be hired, how should he
or she fend for themselves? Perhaps once properly identified--either
through that person's actions or through some sort of deep
analysis--then we ought to consider civil commitment, or prison if
justified. Or you can do the Philip K. Dick option: hunt down the androids and
eliminate them. I reject that "solution" as does Dr. X and most (all?)
others I"ve heard speak on it. But the terms of the discussion are
consistent with certain conclusions.
Absent in the
discussion on that thread and in the material Dr. X cites (or at least
in the quoted portions of that material...I didn't read the linked-to
articles), is a discussion of whether this personality organization is
just how or what someone is, or if it has a (personal) history. If
people develop into that organization or develop out of it. Not to call
this an illness--it's not clear to me that the language of "personality
organization" is a language about illness--but...is there a cure? Or are
people just like that?
I'm obviously uncomfortable with the idea.
Maybe it's naivete or wishful thinking. If such people exist, then they
exist whether I like it or not. If almost by definition such people
don't seek to change or improve or grow, then they don't. Sometimes
survival and defense of the common good are important. My wish that such
people who would imperil either don't exist doesn't mean that they
These discussions remind me of the "mark of Cain" from
Genesis. I thought it would be cool to incorporate an allusion to that
story when talking about such people. But then I actually read the
story, probably for the first time since I was a child. The story starts out as I remember. Cain kills Abel out of jealousy or envy or whatever. The Lord punishes him: "When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth"
But it doesn't end there. Cain complains that it "will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me." To that the Lord commands that "whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And he sets a "mark" on Cain to warn people not to harm him.
no expert in Biblical interpretations, and I imagine that that passage
has been interpreted and reinterpreted through the ages. There's also a
point of unclarity. The referent "him" on whom vengeance is to be meted
sevenfold strikes me as amphibolous, at least in the version I'm
quoting: I assume the vengeance is to be meted against the one who would
harm Cain, but perhaps Cain is the recipient of the vengeance?
the "mark" of Cain seems on my uninformed reading to be the opposite of
what I had thought. It strikes me as a mark of mercy, or perhaps mercy
tempered by a warning. People are not expressly forbidden to be wary of
him or to stop him from further crimes, but they are forbidden to harm
Again, there may be other ways to interpret that story, and one might
legitimately question whether that story ought to be a guide to
anything. But that story exists and I can't shake it, just like I can't
shake the possibility that dark triadic persons exist.