A trend is emerging for the want of interpersonal skills.
I can’t recall exactly, the first time I read of Jeffrey Epstein. I learned of him from a few years ago, during the last presidential election, and during the rise of the #metoo movement. I see that he’s in the news and this time, he’s in jail, and it doesn’t look like he will be leaving jail anytime soon. This time he is probably in jail for good.
As I read the details of Jeffrey Epstein, billionaire, teacher and registered sex offender, I see someone deep in addiction. I see someone with an entourage of enablers. I see the people around him enabling him for his money.
All the stories I’ve read about Epstein so far, have been biographical in nature. They tell the story of his life. They tell us of the people who were willing to work for him, to enable his addiction to continue. Bringing in the victims, covering his tracks, and saying nothing to anyone else.
What I find most interesting about the case of Jeffrey Epstein though, is that he is a man with more than enough money to never have to work again, and yet he was not truly happy. He owns islands, his own private islands. Anything that he could ever want or need was available for a price, and he could pay it. You would think that would be enough. But judging by the way he continued to take risks and how he hurt people, whatever power or possesions he had, well, that wasn’t enough.
I’d hazard a guess that the enablers were doing what they did out of fear, greed, and lust. They feared reprisal. They had enough money and power for their own survival, and they wanted more. They lusted for Epstein’s wealth. And they were willing to sacrifice their dignity for more money. Corruption is an exchange of dignity for money. Epstein was very much aware that the people around him were susceptible to corruption.
It should already be clear that Epstein is the latest political football for both parties, Democrats, and Republicans. Both major political parties seem to think that somehow, they will profit from the release of the sordid details of the life of one very functional addict. Yet, both major parties have already profited from Epstein’s campaign contributions, his participation in their lives and his connections.
And it isn’t just both political parties have enabled someone like Jeffrey Epstein to walk free for decades. All three branches of government have failed to protect society from a man like Mr. Epstein. The courts failed to give a fair hearing for his victims. The legislature looked the other way. The executive branch, the police, and the attorneys failed to prosecute and restrain him. Until now.
While we’re so busy damning someone like Epstein, it should be remembered that people who are suffering tend to make others suffer. I’m not offering this as a defense of Mr. Epstein. I’m simply making the point that the only way he could justify the enormous harms he has perpetrated upon others is that he was suffering himself, and he lacked the skills to do better. Epstein should be restrained and now that he is, his victims can speak more freely about their experiences with him.
I’m fairly certain that Epstein was himself abused as a child. I believe that details of his own childhood will come out sometime, maybe at trial, maybe in a book after endless interviews, maybe of his own admission. Epstein’s childhood is important information. When children are raised with empathy, they will imitate that empathy in their own character, they will identify with it and live it. Likewise, when people are not raised with empathy, they cannot exhibit that same trait without learning it first from someone else. Empathy is a skill.
It is a certainty that the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein were conducted by him without empathy for his victims. You cannot hurt someone and at the same time, have empathy for them. It is simply not possible to do that, for, in order to hurt someone else, we must shut away, or hide from ourselves, how others might feel in their suffering. Shutting out empathy is a skill.
Jeffrey Epstein is not the cause. He is a symptom of a disease in America. He is an example of what extreme inequality looks like. He is the epitome of privilege, something that I’ve seen many Americans clamor for, and yet so few of us have. A privilege, like a license, permits us to do that which would otherwise be illegal. Mr. Epstein was granted a privilege by the people around him. Epstein had in a sense, a license to abuse others with impunity. For him, that license is power and the source of that power is money.
In America, many people worship dominance. But few understand that the sole purpose of dominance in any sphere of influence is to avoid accountability. Mr. Epstein was almost certainly a very dominant person to be around. He worked his way into a life of privilege. He found his way into elite private schools. He found his way into elite social circles. He used the power given to him by others with impunity.
A person only has as much power as others are willing to give him. Mr. Epstein had enormous power, and used it with impunity for many years, free of accountability because other powerful people around him were unwilling to hold him accountable.
Without his money, Epstein would have been put away decades ago. The success rate of any public defender will attest to that fact. But with power and privilege, Epstein was free to roam without accountability.
For the foreseeable future, there will be men like Mr. Epstein, and there will be men and women willing to enable such behavior. But if a billionaire can be restrained as we would hope will be the case for Epstein, then there is still hope for progress.
All parents want a prosperous and happy life for their kids. And so long as parents are teaching their kids the skills required for material success, I am hopeful that they are also teaching their kids interpersonal skills, including a principle that wealth isn’t a license to abuse others. I say this because living in peace with others is a skill, a skill that must be modeled, it must be taught, and it must be practiced. Interpersonal skills cannot be bought, they can only be taught and practiced.
Had Jeffrey Epstein learned the interpersonal skills required to get along in peace, in addition to the skills he learned to build wealth, he might not be in jail right now.