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On everyday sadism

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Edited by Betshy P Sanchez Marrugo, Wednesday, 21 Apr 2021, 00:39

Sadism can be described as the psychological need to inflict harm on another human being, and it often manifests in the form of cruel actions. It is a subclinical form of malignant narcissism (Buckels et al., 2013). Many people have sadistic thoughts, and indeed, anger can at times elicit such thoughts; yet, sadists are not satisfied with having fantasies or thoughts where they indulge in the idea of harming others, they actually take actions where they consciously inflict such harm on other human beings. Now, one might wonder: ‘Well, is sadism de facto or is it de jure’? That is, does sadism encompass actions which violate the law of a jurisdiction (de facto), or does it also involve actions that are perfectly legal (de jure)? The answer is: both. Do people in general struggle to understand sadism because of the same reasons they struggle to understand the definition of what constitutes torture? Nowadays, someone can correctly feel like they are being tortured, but de facto sadists will argue “Oh, it is not torture!”. Well, if it involves the infliction of mental, emotional, psychological, or physical harm on another human being; then yes, it is legally correct to say that it is torture. Moreover, psychologically speaking, it is also correct to say that if someone consciously and deliberately inflicts harm on another human being, then indeed it is sadistic cruelty. Whether consciously or unconsciously, intentional or unintentional, everyday sadism can harm anyone, so it is important to have awareness about how to protect yourself in these unprecedented times. 

But how can we clarify intent? Well, de jure sadism occurs when the state creates regulations which are harmful to people and does not fulfil its substantive and procedural obligations to prevent harm. For instance, people who suffer from pituitary brain tumours often develop a very low stress tolerance (i.e. a high propensity for adrenal fatigue). If the jurisdiction creates and designs institutional mechanisms which are based on the induction of stress contingencies, then it can be said that the jurisdiction has indeed created a sadistic environment that induces medico-legal injury on these people. This happens with many different types of minority groups. The point that is most concerning about all this is that the institutional bias of “some people need to be stressed out in order to develop X or Y ability” is ultimately where the sadistic factor is really found. I always think: “Do women need rape?” The answer of course, quickly becomes: “No, women do not need rape!”; so the next question is: “Do people need obstacles, adrenal fatigue, degradation, and all other forms of inhumane treatment in order to learn?”, the answer should equally be: “No, because that is a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is sadistically cruel”. But, why is it so difficult for de jure decision-makers to understand this basic principle? De jure sadism also occurs when de facto sadism is not investigated adequately, nor processed through the legal system, or when there are no substantive and procedural mechanisms for its prevention.

No wonder there is a lot of de facto sadism. If a human being’s conscience is in a way partially constructed by the social and legislative norms of the world around them, and if such a status quo has sadistic protocols; then it can be expected that people in general will also develop attitudes, and show manifestations of such sadistic tendencies which are of course internalised and culturally inherited. Now, the worst type of experienced sadism is when someone has both, de jure and de facto sadists around them and against them. This happens to minority groups of all types, not just to people with pituitary adenomas. The Hostile Environment Policies were a great example of state-led cultural and attitudinal sadism. It’s like: 'okay UK, you hate immigrants; but in the legal industry you and I both know that justice is not about liking or not liking someone. It is about what is correct or incorrect according to the principles which guide morals, behaviours, and so on'. So it is clear that the UK does not want uninvited visitors. It is clear that the world is filled with inequalities which create all types of problems forcing people to escape their homes and visit their international neighbours asking for first aid. So what can be done in order to balance all this? Abusing, torturing, and humiliating the disadvantaged is not the answer though. Furthermore, having our prime minister incorrectly call the legal human right of claiming asylum ‘illegal’ (Grierson and Sabbagh, 2020) is an attack against truth, and an offence against the international community. There is no such a thing as an illegal asylum seeker. I suppose, the UK might have to create an asylum office in every country so people can apply for asylum without having to risk their lives crossing the channels. That would be a procedural solution to the concern of the contingencies of asylum travel. An asylum embassy, consulate, or something of the sort. Does it exist? No, because visas—  like democracy—  are business.  Asylum, however,  is the state of the global human condition; so what, Elon Musk can’t invade Mars fast enough?  


Buckels, E. E., Jones, D. N. and Paulhus, D. L. (2013) ‘Behavioral Confirmation of Everyday Sadism’, Psychological Science, Los Angeles, SAGE Publications, 24(11), pp. 2201–2209 [Online]. Available at https://pmt-eu.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/13ueeno/TN_cdi_crossref_primary_10_1177_0956797613490749 (Accessed 11 August 2020).

Grierson, J. and Sabbagh, D. (2020) ‘Boris Johnson accused of scapegoating migrants over Channel comments’, The Guardian, 10 August [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/10/boris-johnson-hints-at-law-change-to-deport-migrants-who-cross-channel (Accessed 11 August 2020). 

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