From pathocracy, deliver us | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

From pathocracy, deliver us

An evil from which we must pray to be delivered. Sed libera nos a malo, as the Pater Noster that Jesus taught ends. Iadya mo kami, in Filipino.

At the Zoom press conference announcing protest actions during President Duterte’s State of the National Address this coming Monday, among the persons that delivered messages was Sen. Leila de Lima.


Behind bars for more than 1,000 days now for what she calls “trumped-up” charges, De Lima described the Duterte administration as a “vindictive, murderous, power-hungry, morally bankrupt and abusive regime. We cannot allow our country, a cradle of democracy, to fully become a pathocracy ruled by a psychopathic leader.”

If we go by rhyme and rule, there is democracy, autocracy, theocracy, aristocracy, oligocracy, and plutocracy. But pathocracy?


Whether you agree with De Lima or not, pathocracy is an evil that happened in these modern times—spanning from the century just passed to the present—that saw the rise and fall of national leaders that wreaked havoc on nations and peoples. It is for the likes of them that the ancient saying “Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad” was written. In Latin — Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat. Note the last word.

I searched the word. Pathocracy, like pathology, comes from the Greek word “pathos” or suffering; “cracy” is from the Greek kratos or rule. Pathocracy is therefore a form of government where absolute political power is held by a psychopathic or demented leader. From The Pathocracy Blog: “As such it can masquerade under the guise of democracy or theocracy as well as [under] more openly oppressive regimes.”

Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime is, for me, the glaring example of pathocracy but, as history has shown, he did not have a monopoly of murderous rule. There were the likes of Stalin, Idi Amin, and Pol Pot, to name some. Was it power that made them mad? Or were they mad to begin with and their madness was exacerbated by power?

Psychologists should now be closely studying past and present rulers with mental pathologies. This is not to cast blanket aspersions on persons with mental disorders and doubt their ability to lead. Many people carry around some mental problem or other but they function very well, thanks to therapy, medicines, and the compassion of their peers. And on the spiritual plane, there is the so-called grace of office for the elected.

We did not study pathocracy in Abnormal Psychology class. Megalomania, yes. Pathocracy is a relatively new subject matter in Political Science and Political Psychology. The latter is a field now gaining interest in the Philippines. Ateneo de Manila University psychologists Cristina Jayme Montiel and M. Elizabeth J. Macapagal write that Filipino political psychology studies psychological processes and behaviors of individuals and groups engaged in power situations.

According to psychology lecturer Dr. Steve Taylor, it was Polish psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski who developed the concept of pathocracy, which is “when individuals with personality disorders (particularly psychopathy) occupy positions of power.” Lobaczewski had suffered during the Nazi occupation of Poland and later closely followed the ruthlessness of Soviet occupation.

But he went up another level by studying human evil. He called this field of study ponerology. Why do people with disordered minds rise to power and commit evil? Why do human beings butcher one another?


For Lobaczewski, pathocracy is not only about individuals. Pathological leaders attract other disordered personalities while the upright ones fall away or cannot bear the madness around them.

Taylor writes: “(T)his is not because all human beings are inherently brutal and cruel, but because a small number of people — that is, those with personality disorders — are brutal and cruel, intensely self-centered and lacking in empathy… Pathological leaders are completely unable to comprehend the principles of democracy, since they regard themselves as superior, and see life as a competitive struggle in which the most ruthless deserve to dominate others.”

Taylor digs into Ian Hughes’ important book “Disordered Minds.” The whole idea of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, of democratic principles and institutions, is to protect the masses from this mad minority.

Find answers. Google and register for New York Southeast Asia Network’s webinar “This is How Democracy Dies in the Philippines” on July 29, 2020, 8 a.m. (Philippine time).

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TAGS: democracy, Human Face, Leila de Lima, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, Rodrigo Duterte
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