Thirty-five years ago, Dr. M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie was published, detailing what the psychiatrist believed was human evil at work in the world – something different from the spiritual evil espoused by religion but nonetheless vile.
Peck described human evil as a “malignant type of self-righteousness”, leading those for whom it applies to “see others as play things or tools to be manipulated for their own uses or entertainment”.
The following traits consistently appear in individuals Peck has classified as evil (via Wikipedia):
Self-deceiving in an effort to avoid guilt and maintain a self-image of perfection;
Deceiving others as a consequence of their own self-deception;
Projecting his or her own evils onto specific targets (scapegoats) while interacting normally with everyone else;
Hates with the pretense of love, in order to deceive both self and others;
Abusing political (emotional) power – imposing one’s will on others using overt or covert coercion;
Maintaining a high degree of respectability, propped up by incessant lying;
Consistent in his or her destructiveness;
Unable to empathize or think from their victim’s point of view;
Unable to tolerate criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.
Peck also argued that evil people are often aware of the evil within but are unable to face the intense pain of introspection, or even admit the truth to themselves.
In this way, he saw evil as a choice, an intentional subversion of the conscience as compared to sociopathy or psychopathy.
Peck’s description of human evil tracks closely with malignant narcissism – and both track closely with Donald Trump.
How many times have Americans wondered collectively if Trump believes his own lies, or how he can accuse others of the very behaviors he engages in every day?
Yet every instance of his own name calling, derogation, lying and abuse are justified and forgiven. The mere hint of criticism will bring about a Twitter-lashing from the president.
Peck's characteristics of evil appear in Trump's hostility toward immigrants, where he calls fellow humans animals and tears children from their parents – and then turns around and blames others for his own policies.
In Trump's “patriotism” is found self-promotion and aggrandizement, couched in concern for the flag, national anthem and troops. His choice to deride NFL players who kneel as “sons of bitches” who “maybe...shouldn’t be in the country” flies in the face of the very patriotism he claims to hold so dear.
Numerous contractors who have worked with Trump claim he stiffed them on payment for services rendered – but the president is currently on a rampage against U.S. trade partners for treating the U.S. “like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing”.
Theft is only righteous when Trump is doing the taking.
As is lying. And name calling. And every other imaginable wrong.
Trump embodies Peck’s human evil, and anyone still hoping he will “pivot” one day has a long wait in store.