Monday, April 05, 2010

The devil made me do it...

So, thanks to the media crossing the Tiger & Jessie streams, I've been bombarded with all manner of crap about cheating on CNN. The newest blurbs have really caught my eye, however:

Notice what all this has in common? It's all painted as somehow involuntary. "Are you going to cheat? Check your fingers!" Not your conscience or your commitment or your intellect, but your genes are entirely at fault, here, apparently. The devil made me do it!

Hey, the heart's an involuntary muscle, but your fingers and hands are under purely conscious control. I have never spontaneously dropped trou because my digits accidentally unbuckled my belt of their own volition. It seems like taking responsibility for one's actions is terribly out of vogue these days.

This ties in interestingly with the book I just finished reading, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass. In it, the author recounts numerous cases of the incredible lack of blame attached to wrongdoing among his patients. Here's a snippet from a conversation with a patient who had OD'ed after her boyfriend roughed her up:
"He doesn't do it all the time, doctor." This is the universal extenuation offered.

"And, of course, he apologizes afterward and tells you it won't happen again. And you believe him."

"Yes. I think he really needs help, doctor."

"Why do you say that?"

"Well, when he does it, he changes completely; he becomes another person; his eyes stare; it's like he has a fit. I really think he can't help it; he's got no control over it."

"Would he do it in front of me, here, now, in this room?"

"No, of course not."

"Then he can help it, can't he?"

The devil made me do it.

It's self-gratification with no thought of consequences until you get caught, and then sympathy-seeking and attention-craving when you eventually are.

The devil made me do it.

I'm addicted. It's society's fault. It's my genes. I can't help it. Give me a pill to make me better. Feel sorry for me. I'm the victim here. Me and my problem. Pay attention to me.

Society is suffering from Munchausen's-by-Proxy.


alath said...

One of my favorite quotes along these lines was from an interview with Bill Clinton about 1.5-2 years ago. He was talking about his affairs and said, "Adultery is something that happens to people every day."

Like getting rained on, or catching a cold, I guess. There's really nothing you can do about it. If adultery happens to you, then you're going to do it.

Anonymous said...

-there's an in$idious method to this 'it's-not-my-fault,it's-my-genes' madness:
'What happens when corporations,
for example, wish to start collecting royalties on the human genes that you are copying when you reproduce by having children?
The mere act of conceiving a child makes you a patent law violator... a criminal engaged in genetic piracy under U.S. law...If they own your genes, your food crops and your medicines, they effectively control virtually everything you depend on to stay alive.'
--Mike Adams

Judge strikes fear into [multibillion-dollar] biotech industry
with nullification of patents on human genes BRCA1

Brian J said...

There's a reason you're not using the pseudonym of Epi Phenomenalist, then?

Sabot said...

I have to get that book. Sounds rational.

As someone addicted to Dr. Pepper I know it isn't my fault. It be da genes.

Midwest Chick said...

It's the same syndrome as when that Columbia professor sucker-punched a co-worker. He spoke completely in the third person--“It was a very unfortunate event,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t mean for it to explode the way it did.” It's totally pervasive--just another class of victim.

skidmark said...

No, it's not really "their" fault. Go read Samenow & Yokelson's The Criminal Personality to find out why.

"They" do not think the same way "We" do. "They" really cannot help it - "their" brains just cannot perform the same cognitive gymnastics "ours" do - and thus "they" live in a completely different universe that, unfortunately for both sides, tends to create living Venn disgrams where the two worlds overlap.

The best yu can do is learn a bit about how "they" think and see the world so that you can know how to craft your armor.

stay safe.

wv = "coode" - the rules from "their" side.

staghounds said...

Skidmark is right, it is an entirely different process of thought, or rather of emotion.

Funny how this "involuntariness" only applies to bad things, doesn't it?

I doubt that President Clinton ever said that "Rhodes Scholarships happen to people all the time".

Ambulance Driver said...

"Hey, the heart's an involuntary muscle, but your fingers and hands are under purely conscious control. I have never spontaneously dropped trou because my digits accidentally unbuckled my belt of their own volition."

[Note to self: the effectiveness of my Jedi mind tricks are evidently weakened with distance. Must move in closer proximity to Tam and try again.]

Tam said...

"Skidmark is right, it is an entirely different process of thought, or rather of emotion."

Yes, it is, but Skidmark's hypothesis should logically lead to genocide. After all, if it is genetic, and there is something bizarrely identical in the brains and genes of a white English soccer yob and an Oakland Crip and an MS-13 cholo, that causes them to have no conscious volition when it comes to antisocial behavior, then we should test for it and kill anyone that tests positive for their own and society's good.

Otherwise we'd have to admit that not all cultural values are equal and that we're ruining perfectly useful humans by pretending that they are.

Borepatch said...

For the longest time there was an add on your blog: "Is your husband gay?" I'd tease the Mrs. to click it, but she'd just roll her eyes.

Bet it was something about fingers ....

Moriarty said...

Society is suffering from Munchausen's-by-Proxy.

Indeed. I see this every day and it's a revolting development. Worse, it seems to be accelerating.

Couple a cultural denial of individual responsibility with increasingly constrained resources and watch what happens when the mess boils over.

Brad K. said...

If you are actually interested in cheating, NML has been helping women for 4-5 years now, and her new online community at Baggage Reclaim focuses on emotional unavailablility - not wanting or able to really invest emotionally into a relationship, then picking a "safe" partner that won't want a real relationship either. Self image and bad habits are explored, the paths to healing, the traps society just accepts - lots and lots of guidance and explanation.

I take a bit different approach at You start by picking a partner-prospect that is honest, has healthy emotional bonds to friends, family, and co-workers, and that small animals and children flourish in his/her care. Honesty and respect are essentials and deal-breakers (boundary issues). Discipline in all its forms, including anger management. Avoiding the unsavory non-communication crap like sulking and passive aggressive resistance.

My theory is that cheaters picked their current partner for the fling of it. By the time they get "tied down" (as opposed to choosing to make a home and shared life with a trusted and respected, cherished partner), they have developed a life-skill of winning new bed partners. And that "skill" will never really go away. They will continue to seek new partners - cheat.

Dating anymore is seen as social recreation, rather than the historical "courting" behavior - make a responsible choice of a partner-prospect, and proceed to confirm/reject that prospect. Start out as if you are planning to share a life, and your odds are way better than if you set out to "get lucky" with this one - or with just anyone available.

Communities and families need families and children to grow and thrive, so they tend to pressure all into coupling up. There needs to be more effort put into making sure those that aren't suited to family life aren't stuck into ready-made families.

Joanna said...

I quit reading Post Secret for precisely the reasons you just outlined: "Me and my problem."

Ken said...

I think the "all in the genes" meme is an outgrowth of the attempt (exemplified by the work of BF Skinner, to drop a name) to "prove" that free will is an illusion. If there is no free will, all that remains is a competition to decide who gets to pull the marionette's strings.

I think it was Claes Fornell -- whom I'd like to meet, and not just for his work in structural equation modeling -- who wrote (paraphrasing to the best of my memory): "Free will lies in the variance not explained by the model."

I am beginning to suspect that "behavioral economics" is an alternative approach: "Okay, there's free will but people can't reason for beans, so us smartest people in the room have to substitute a benign false consciousness for the malign one imposed by marketers." However, the preceding may not be fair; I've read Ariely, but not enough of his work. I reserve the right to revise my remarks after further study. :-)

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the book is when the doctor is talking to the "victims" of domestic battery and asking if he would be able to tell if their boyfriends were likely to beat them. Would the tats, shaved head, lack of job, criminal history give any warning?

The women all answered "yes" but claimed to have no idea that THIS guy would do it, just everyone else that looked like that.

Great read and very important to understanding the underclass today.

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

As well, the doctor's description of the underclass using the passive voice is spot on.

"The knife went in."

"I caught a case", as if it were a flu bug.

Shootin' Buddy

alath said...

Ken, I don't read Ariely as saying that free will is an illusion or that we aren't responsible for our choices. Rather, he's saying something like "human decision making processes are a little buggy, so take that into account when you're making decisions or setting up decision algorithms."

SB, domestic battery and other manifestations of absent self-mastery don't only occur in the lower classes. The same crap happens in the nice neighborhoods; they're just better at covering their tracks.

Tam said...


That is, in a way, covered by Dalrymple. The whole thing is a cultural feedback loop. Get a copy or borrow mine; I can't recommend the book highly enough.

Ken said...

I agree, alath -- I don't read Ariely (or the other behavioral economists, for that matter) as saying free will is an illusion. Rather, it's more as you pointed out: "human decision making processes are a little buggy, so take that into account when you're making decisions or setting up decision algorithms."

Upon reflection, it's not behavioral economics that is the mischief, but rather those (if any) who take "human decision making processes are a little buggy" and say "See? People can't decide for themselves!" (See also: "vulnerable populations," in consumer behavior and other social-science disciplines.)

Further study is required, and forgive me for not expressing myself clearly the first time around.

LabRat said...

The human mind likes dichotomies and clear categories, which can rather obfuscate the degree to which they exist in nature- or rather, the slim degree in which they do.

Most all of the diversity of life is profoundly dependent on developmental factors- and I don't mean "your genetic program for physical development" (which in itself isn't nearly as much of a program as it looks, it just helps us to think of it that way), I mean all ongoing series of interactions between environment and behavior. If you could somehow raise the next generation by meeting all physical needs but ceasing to provide any kind of parental guidance and development, leaving all to genes and inborn instinct, the species would stop at that generation- and that describes many vertebrate species, not just us.

Nature/nurture is non-existent dichotomy, just not one we can easily resist creating.

(And I adore Dalrymple, especially that one.)

Matt G said...

It goes hand in hand with the criminal saying that he "made a mistake," when he finally opens up to "that thing that happened."

And, yes, I certainly am pointing to this refusal to take personal responsibility as being associated with, if not responsible for, criminal behavior.

TW said...

What a great discussion! Thank you, Tam and contributors, for a very timely and eye-opening avenue of study.

I have been trying to work with a couple who could best be described as "underclass", trying to trade their nonworking 30 year old generator for my old but still perfectly good laptop. My thought process is that their funds would basically never allow them to buy a laptop, so here's an opportunity for them to get one while giving up something that's useless to them. You would think these folks would jump at it, but everything else is more important. I even offered to help print out business cards for the husband and help them advertise their services to build goodwill. Nope, too busy hanging out with friends.

Having little more than the clothes on their back and an old RV that could best be described as "scuzzy", my expectation was that they would jump at the opportunity and the free resources. With the new insights gained from Tam's discussion, I can see the point that "they" live in a whole different world from me. If their lot in life is not their fault, then there would be no value assigned to the resources and tools which would raise their socioeconomic standing.

If someone would come up to me and say "Hey, just for the hell of it I'll show you how to use a lathe", I would kiss their a$$ in the middle of Main Street and give them an hour to draw a crowd. Same scenario with these folks, and the response would be "No, we're watching American Idol in half and hour."

I learned a while ago that some people simply cannot be helped. This discussion is helping me understand why. Thank you, everyone!

og said...

TW, if you lived in the area I'd be tickled to show you how to use a lathe, but the ass kissing is definitely out.

That wouldn't be good for either of us, trust me.

reflectoscope said...

I have never spontaneously dropped trou because my digits accidentally unbuckled my belt of their own volition.

...But you have for other reasons?

Seriously though, your post and the comments have been informative, and I should find a copy that (and a million other) books.


alath said...

OK, Tam, I looked up Dalrymple and the dude has written a number of interesting-looking books. Which one did you have in mind?

Firehand said...

Life At The Bottom is a good read, and scary as hell.

Think about the relatively short time it too for Britain to become what it is today, and then think about the people trying hard to turn us into the same damned mess.

Dave said...

Just reread "The Sociopath Next Door" today. It touches on some of these points, with the main thrust being "some people have no conscience, and here is the result."

Tam said...


The one to which I linked in my initial post is the only one I've read thus far...