Paul J. Balles considers the psychopathic phenomenon of the "superiority complex" as an explanation of dysfunctional behaviour among individuals and states, such as Israel and the US.
When I was living in Kuwait, I found it disturbing that a number of Kuwaiti drivers behaved arrogantly. These drivers ruled the roads. Everyone else was a paltry nuisance.
They flashed lights behind you when it was impossible to get out of their way. They cut in front of you with total disregard for safety or the driver they offended. They ignored right-of-way rules. They literally stole spaces you were manoeuvring to park in, and they double parked blocking you from leaving when it suited them.
What made matters worse: they became irritated when you complained about any of this behaviour. I don't want to generalize as only a minority acted as I've described; but they amounted to enough to irritate many others.
What these arrogant drivers displayed certainly seemed like they felt superior to others. I thought that their actions might have resulted from a superiority complex. To understand the behaviour, I decided to do some research.
I discovered that a "superiority complex refers to a subconscious neurotic mechanism of compensation developed by the individual as a result of feelings of inferiority". That definition, by psychologist Alfred Adler, made sense since the offenders had no good reason to feel superior.
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They held what Adler described as an "exaggeratedly positive opinion of their worth and abilities, unrealistically high expectations in goals and achievements, vanity and a tendency to discredit others' opinions, forcefulness aimed at dominating those considered as weaker or less important".
As I travelled the world, I discovered examples of the same kinds of pathological behaviour almost everywhere I went, though not only among drivers, and expressed in different ways. Enforced traffic laws often inhibited arrogant driving.
Currently, I see evidence of that same "subconscious neurotic mechanism" when I read the news. The US administration exhibited many of the symptoms when deciding that American democracy would be better for Iraq than anything the Iraqis might establish on their own.
Israelis have clearly demonstrated that they have an "exaggeratedly positive opinion of their worth and abilities" over their apartheid Arab subjects. What other explanation could fit their unconscionable treatment of the Palestinians?
A couple of members of the US Congress were reported demeaning President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in retaliation for his remarks about President George W. Bush at the UN recently.
House speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi called Chavez "a thug" because Chavez had called Bush "a devil" - both revealing their deeper sense of inferiority. Representative Tom Lantos was refused entry into Venezuela because of an earlier attempt to interfere in Venezuelan politics.
In Holland, the Dutch cabinet has just backed a proposal to ban the wearing of burqas in public, saying that "burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety". Several European countries have disallowed the hijab or veils in schools. They obviously consider their own ways superior.
Does this mean that Americans, Israelis and several European countries have demonstrated a superiority complex indicating that they really feel inferior? It does if Adler and other psychologists who have studied the complex were right.
The whole business has a sickening echo of the attitudes held during the heyday of the Aryan Third Reich or of those held in America by whites before the civil rights movement, or those demonstrated worldwide by misogynistic men toward women.
When are we going to grow up enough to recant against these exaggerated estimates of our own value and importance? The best way to overcome the deeper feelings of inferiority might be to better ourselves rather than demeaning others.
It's also time to call a halt to the psychopathic behaviour of our leaders. Look for the reasons why in a relevant case history of murder at Columbine High School seven and a half years ago in the US.
According to the psychiatrists who studied those who murdered students and teachers at Columbine, the leader of the two killers was really expressing contempt. Does that ring any bells? Think of the torturers in places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the prisons in a number of countries.
Psychopath Harris was "disgusted by the morons around him". The psychiatrist called that "rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority".
Can anyone honestly tell me that Americans and Britons don't feel that Afghans and Iraqis are punishable inferiors? Tell me that Arabs aren't appallingly inferior to Israelis. Tell me that syndrome isn't what shocked the Israelis by the drubbing they took in Lebanon.
Tell me, too, that the American neo-conservatives and the Israelis (including all of their supporters in the US government and American media) aren't mentally - psychopathically - prepared to punish the entire human race for the appalling inferiority of the Iranians who booted their puppet Shah and his American supporters out of the country years ago.
A second confirmation of the diagnosis was one of the Columbine murderers' perpetual deceitfulness. "I lie a lot," Eric wrote to his journal. "Almost constantly, and to everybody, just to keep my own ass out of the water." Tell me that doesn't reverberate with the realization by the voters in the 2006 elections in the US of the Bush administration.
Harris claimed to lie to protect himself, but that appears to be something of a lie as well. He lied for pleasure, psychiatrist Fuselier says. "Duping delight" - psychologist Paul Ekman's term - represents a key characteristic of the psychopathic profile. Notice the smirk on Bush's face when he tells a lie at the podium.
The Kuwaitis that I first noticed suffering from this syndrome were simply more obvious because their behaviour immediately conflicted with others in ways that made them look like they believed they were superior.
Too much of the world's bad behaviour - and there's plenty of it - seems to emanate from this psychopathic disease of believing that our tribe, our country, our way, our selves are better than others.
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