Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Just turn on with me and you're not alone

According to Maria Konnikova, these sort of circumstances make people vulnerable to con artists:
...what happens when you’re down, when you’re vulnerable, there’s change going on, and your world no longer makes sense the way that it used to, so you’re particularly vulnerable to people who make sense of it for you. You want that meaning. You want that sense of connection and con artists are very happy to supply it for you
And these are the characteristics of the hucksters who take advantage of people who feel that way:
The dark triad is three things, obviously: Psychopathy, the inability to feel emotion in the way that normal people do. It’s kind of a lack of empathy. Your brain is actually different, you process emotional stimuli differently. To you, they don’t mean that much. It’s very difficult for a non-psychopath to understand, but basically everything that would really make you emotionally engaged would leave you cold as a psychopath, so that’s one part of it.

The second part is narcissism, this overblown ego where you not only think you’re just the best thing that’s ever happened to anyone, but you also think you deserve a lot. You deserve basically everyone to bow down to you. And you have it coming to you, all these good things...

...Finally, it's Machiavellianism, or the ability to manipulate people into doing what you want. Kind of like Machiavelli’s Ideal Prince, you have your own ends and you use whatever means you want to get there. And you’re very good at tricking those people and getting them to do what you want.

The reason those traits are so important to con artists is that you are taking advantage of people, and in order to do it well, you can’t think that you’re taking advantage of people, because the moment you do, you start feeling bad for them. What this triad allows you to do is not have to deal with that, you don’t feel bad for people, because you don’t feel empathy. And you don’t think you’re doing anything wrong, because you deserve it.
It's not very much of a stretch to see a political dimension in these personal tales of hustlers and their marks. Massive economic dislocation leading to change, insecurity and vulnerability for millions - no wonder the global kakistocracts all believe that tomorrow belongs to them.

Which, in a roundabout way, is another reason to mourn the passing of Bowie - when you're feeling vulnerable, confused and overwhelmed by life's ch-ch-changes, it surely makes more sense to retreat to your bedroom and play Rock n' Roll Suicide very loudly, until you realise that you're probably not alone, than to fall victim to some loud-mouthed  charlatan who promises that all your complex problems can be solved by simply being a bit more horrible and vindictive towards people with even less power than you.

Teenagers get a lot of stick, but it would be more far dignified and humane for vulnerable people of any age to behave like misunderstood teenagers than to join Ukip's/Putin's/Trump's/Erdo─čan's braying mobs. Like the man said:
Don't let the sun blast your shadow
Don't let the milk-float ride your mind
They're so natural - religiously unkind.