I’m reading The Empire Of Pain, the new book that chronicles the Sackler dynasty, an extended family who marketed and sold OxyContin, the opioid that has ravaged the United States. And yes, behind their great fortune lies a great crime.
Unfortunately, like other criminals who became wealthy through predation, the Sackler’s will probably get away with it.
Next week I will be doing a much deeper dive into the family and their decades long crime spree but for now one of the paragraphs in the book jumped out at me. The author, Patrick Radden Keefe, describes their sociopathy, and how the Sacklers, unlike other human beings, didn’t seem to learn from what they saw transpiring around them. “They could produce a rehearsed simulacrum of human empathy, but they seemed incapable of comprehending their own role in the story, and impervious to any moral epiphany. They resented being cast as villains in the drama, but it was their own stunted, stubborn blindness that made them so suited to the role.”
The larger problem is that our culture, with its relentless focus on money as the ultimate signifier of meritocracy, promotes the type of sociopathy exemplified by the Sacklers.
Going further, the uncomfortable truth is that many of our “feral elite” are similar to the Sackler’s, in that they too are monsters who’ve managed to perpetuate great crimes (the invasion of Iraq, for starters) then make a clean get-away, and if we don’t want these great crimes to continue we need a way in which to punish the perpetrators rather than reward them.