“The conscience is a vital organ”

Isn’t it strange how the mind works? I read with approval Dr Leedom’s latest post. In it she manages to be at once hard-nosed, realistic, and still keep positve. There are very real differences in the brains of those with psychopathic traits, she writes, but the brain is plastic and therein lies just a sliver of hope.

For some reason the opening lines of Martin Amis‘ novel House of Meetings came back to me. It is set in the Soviet Union:

Dear Venus
If what they say is true, and my country is dying, then I think I may be able to tell them why. You see, kid, the conscience is a vital organ, and not an extra like the tonsils or the adenoids.

Amis has also written a stunning nonfiction book about Stalinism, Koba the Dread, which has its own staggering opening:

Here is the second sentence in Robert Conquest‘s The Harvest of Sorrow: Collectivization and the Terror-Famine:

    We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter of this book.

That sentence represents 3,020 lives. The book is 411 pages long.

And then I remembered that Amis’ cousin Lucy Partington was murdered by the infamous serial killer Fred West! How could I have forgotten? Amis wrote wrenchingly about it in Experience:

My family cannot understand the extraordinary collision that allowed him to touch our lives, and I have no wish to prolong that contact. But he is here now, in my head; I want him excised. And Frederick West is uncontrollable: he is uncontrollable. For now he will get from me a one-sentence verdict…. West was a sordid inadequate who was trained by his childhood to addict himself to the moment when impotence became prepotence.

Amis clearly knows a thing or two about psychopathy. Consider his compact ‘verdict’:

    a sordid inadequate – this suggests ignoble actions and motives arousing moral distaste and contempt combined with a biological lack

    trained by his childhood – dysfunctional modelling and upbringing by his family and surroundings

    addict himself – this both highlights the central, pleasurable place wickedness played in his life and emphasises the crucial place of will (he didn’t become addicted he addicted himself)

    to the moment when impotence became prepotence – here is the defining characteristic of the psychopath: he lives for the moments when his power or influence over others occur. Deep beneath this is a secret fear/knowledge of his utter unimportance/worthlessness.

Amis, through the imaginative power of the artist, has captured remarkably well the heart of the matter.

He is not an easy read, but it now occurs to me that in a way our theme has been one of his central themes. For example, Lovefraud readers have recently written worried letters about the perpetuation of psychopathy among the young via antisocial social environments and psychopathic genes. Time magazine’s recent cover story is about the phenomenon of youth delinquency in Britain. Amis was ahead of the curve when he wrote about it in his novel Yellow Dog.

His forthcoming book is a collection of essays on 9/11 called The Second Plane. (You can read one essay, ‘The Age of Horrorism’ , here.) The collection has received a lot of negative comment: Amis is a racist, etc. Well I’ve read a lot of Amis’ work and and can’t square with that judgement. (What he says is that Islamofascism produces awful racist feelings in him and he doesn’t know what to do with them.) I wonder whether some of the objections to his book are due to what we at Lovefraud encounter all the time: regular folks’ refusal to believe in human evil. These are the fortunate people who have not fully encountered evil – hope their luck holds out.

Back to Dr. Leedom’s article – she makes it clear that the small candle of hope she holds out is not for the full-blown psychopaths Amis writes about, but for those with psychopathic traits.

Comment on this article

111 Comments on "“The conscience is a vital organ”"

Notify of

Ox – Here’s to life as turtles then!! It beats living with the fear of them returning. OMG as hard as I try ……I can’t fit the 90 inch plasma screen in this shell!!


Well, Heck, girl, you just don’t know how to pack if you can’t get a little ole thing like a 90 inch plasma screen TV into the shell! I’m the QUEEN OF CRAM!!!! Just hang it from the ceiling and you can watch it lying on the floor. Saves all that getting up and down when you want snacks, you just CRAWL to the kitchen to get them.


๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

1 11 12 13

Send this to a friend