Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Madoff Enough For Ya?

Lately, I've seen a lot of articles about Bernard Madoff crop up where Madoff is compared in appearance to George Washington, or if you look like Madoff, you can't hail a cab. Many people are calling Madoff a "Shylock," which I don't like at all. For starters, Shylock was this Jewish character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice that was a cliché of the moneylender as "penny for a pound," where Shylock literally weighs your overdraft flesh to take. For the longest time, he was always portrayed with a large, hooked nose, rubbing his greedy fingers and speaking with an English-Yiddish accent. A bit of anti-Semitism from The Bard.

"Will You Be My Special Friend?"

Oddly, it’s not Madoff's thievery among best friends that interests me the most, but rather his character. It’s what he did to alleged "friends," even until the last moments of exposure and arrest. Words like "pathological," and "sociopath," come to mind, and don’t mistake those words to mean "serial killer." It involves missing parts of self like "the ability to feel emotion," "empathy," but also to perhaps possess personality traits most of us wouldn’t want landed on our brow: being evaluated a "Narcissistic Sadist." Endulge me in my posting this. I found it on Goggle by the search query: "narcissistic sadist." It is a diagnostic evaluation. You can get back many, many articles on this, all more or less using the exact same language:

"The narcissist simply discards people when he becomes convinced that they can no longer provide him with narcissistic needs. This is an evaluation, subjective and highly emotionally charged. It does not have to be grounded in reality. Suddenly - because of boredom, disagreement, disillusion, a fight, an act, inaction, or a mood - the narcissist wildly swings from idealization to devaluation. He then "disconnects" immediately. He needs all the energy that he can muster to obtain new Sources of Narcissistic Supply and would rather not spend these scarce and expensive resources over what he regards as human refuse, the waste left by the process of extraction of Narcissistic Supply.That the victims of his sadism are still his only or major sources of Narcissistic supply, but are perceived by him to be intentionally frustrating and withholding it.

Sadistic acts are his way of punishing them for not being docile, obedient, admiring and adoring as he expects them to be in view of his uniqueness, cosmic significance and special entitlement.The narcissist is not a sadist or a paranoiac, per se. He does not enjoy the application of pain to his victims. He does not believe firmly that he is the focal point of persecution and the target of conspiracy. But he does enjoy punishing himself - it provides him with a sense of relief, exoneration and validation. In this restricted sense he is a masochist. Because of his lack of empathy and his rigid personality he often inflicts great (physical or mental) pain on meaningful others in his life - and he enjoys their writhing and suffering. In this restricted sense he is a sadist. The narcissist is an artist of pain as much as any sadist. The difference is motivation.

The narcissist tortures and abuses as a means to punish and to reassert superiority and grandiosity. The sadist does so for pure enjoyment. But both are adept at finding the chinks in people’s armors. Both are ruthless and venomous in the pursuit of their prey. Both are unable to empathize with their victims, being, self-centered, and rigid.He acts the guru to her need of guidance, the avuncular or father figure, the teacher, the only true friend, the old and the experienced. All this in order to weaken defenses and to lay siege. So subtle and poisonous is the narcissistic variant of sadism that it might well be regarded as the most dangerous of all.Luckily, the narcissist’s attention span is short and his resources and energy limited. In constant, effort consuming and attention diverting pursuit of Narcissistic Supply, the narcissist lets his victim go, usually before an irreversible damage occurs. (I would add, or get caught.)

The victim is then free to rebuild their life from ruins. The sadistic narcissist perceives himself as Godlike, ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and non-sexual, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present, a plague, devastation, an inescapable verdict. He nurtures his ill-repute, stoking it and fanning the flames of gossip. It is an enduring asset. Hate and fear are sure generators of attention. It is all about narcissistic supply, of course - the drug which narcissists consume and which consumes them in return.Deep inside, it is the horrid future and inescapable punishment that await the narcissist that are irresistibly appealing. Sadists are often also masochists. In sadistic narcissists, there is, actually, a burning desire - nay, NEED - to be punished. In the grotesque mind of the narcissist, his punishment is equally his vindication. By being permanently on trial, the narcissist claims the high moral ground and the position of the martyr: misunderstood, discriminated against, unjustly roughed, outcast due to his very towering genius or other outstanding qualities. To conform to the cultural stereotype of the "tormented artist" - the narcissist provokes his own suffering. He is thus validated.

His grandiose fantasies acquire a modicum of substance. "If I were not so special - they wouldn’t have persecuted me so". The persecution of the narcissist IS his uniqueness. He must be different, for better or worse. The streak of paranoia embedded in him, makes this outcome inevitable. The Narcissist is in constant conflict with lesser beings: his spouse, his shrink, his boss, and his colleagues. Forced to stoop to their intellectual level, the narcissist feels like Gulliver: a giant strapped by Lilliputians. His life is a constant struggle against the self-contented mediocrity of his surroundings. This is his fate which he accepts, though never stoically. It is a calling, a mission and a recurrence in his stormy life."

This was quite a lot to dump out, and I edited it down, but all of the studies say more or less the same. Sound like anyone you’ve ever known or heard about? I have to admit I've known a few.

There was a good reporting about Madoff in the recent issue of Vanity Fair. One recurring theme kept popping up. The need of his friends to be let into the exclusive "club" of his earning genius, and since he only allowed "friends," in: also being considered a friend (and all that it encompassed.) One individual negatively affected by this man said, "He did these things to me, knowing he was about to be charged. How could he?" How, indeed.


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Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Wow. I said recently that no one would ever be able to explain this guy to me in a way I could understand, but I was wrong.

I've known people just like this who didn't have the power and money to cause so much trouble.

You've helped me connect a whole bunch of dots, Cube. Thank you!

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Twinkie said...

WOW! This is an powerful post. Not so much because you've explained Madoff and how he refuses to say I'm sorry (that's just weird) but mostly because you've explained people I've had come in and out of my life that were the same exact way and now it all makes sense.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Reya: We've both connected dots and joined in the center today, didn't we?

Twinkie: Sadly, I learned about these people from years of heartache. One day, a professional told me what it was called and then I knew. I would also add...I have read many books on the subject of sociopathic behavior, tying to understand it better. The best few lines I ever read were that most humans can't grasp it....at all....because we DO love and we CAN feel. Sociopaths cannot. As feeling humans, it's beyond our comprehension (and our minds refuses to accept it) that there are people like this in the world. That is the great sadness of sociopaths. They are often charming, intelligent people. They know enough to try and mimic being humans, but if you "listen" it's not a true response, more like a parroting. Over time, they get better at it, but something never rings quite true. And I would add...after you've been involved with a pyschopath? Or a sociopath? Alarms go off. Once you've been around it, then study it, you can start to spot it. There is a higher preponderance of these people in society than we credit....because individuals may not have all of the charactersitics, and that can throw you. I would say in closing, these people do not all become serial killers. But every serial killer does have these qualities.


If you see a lot of this, Twinks? WALK AWAY FROM IT. Don't try to save it.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Twinkie said...

I wasn't even thinking of the serial killer aspect of it. That just adds an extra chill factor. eek!

2:18 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...


Go look for this Twinkie:

It's by a group called...wait for it...The Twinkeyz and the song is called "There's Aliens in Our Midst." Scroll down a bit for the mp3 playable. Then get up and dance.

I'd say that brings our day full circle. ;) Cue to Twilight Zone music.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Hammer said...

There are indeed aliens in our midst. They came out of the sky long ago, and you know what they look like? They look like Elvis.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I don't know anyone like this.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Phil: Oh puh-leeze. You always know someone like this.

9:02 AM  

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