Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Worst Is Yet To Come

The Fritzl cellar case, relatively hot on the heels of the Kampusch cellar case, seems to be prompting many Austrians to ask themselves whether there is something fundamentally wrong with them as a nation ( The world's media is lapping up the tabloid sensationalism of the latest house of horrors and op-ed pieces are springing up everywhere wondering what is so special about Austria that could enable or encourage these kinds of events.

But is this an Austrian problem? Is there something fundamentally wrong with the Austrian people in that they could "allow" this kind of thing to happen. Perhaps, but it's not limited to Austrians (or southern Austrians as the northern provinces would like to think as they distance themselves from this disturbing crime) and it's not limited to Europeans or even the western world. Japan has had it's share of long term child kidnappings involving terrible sexual assaults, Germany is apparently plagued by repeated high profile cases of infanticide; The Jamie Bulger case with its 10 year old killers shocked England to the core; the stories of American children committing mass murder upon their school mates seem to happen so regularly and we scrabble to find some thing American that could be the cause (is it either violent video games or other entertainment? Oppressive parents? A culture of bullying? Or maybe, just perhaps, it's that's impossible to escape the plague of guns that are in the hands of anyone and everyone in that enlightened country).

And before anyone comes to the dubious conclusion that it's a western phenomenon - just about every country from liberal Canada to the watched societies of Russia and China and even Iran has sociopathic serial killers living amongst its populace and sometimes they're caught.

Any country with a large population is going to have a mix of people - for the most part people are generally good but some are bad - for every saint there's a madman - and in more complex a society and the greater the imagination we have the more creatively good and more creatively bad we can become. The depravity to which the human being can descend is only limited by his imagination. Joseph Fritzl's crimes have already been mirrored in fiction - the Australian film 'Bad Boy Bubby' bore striking similarities to his case - it was apparently not based on any true story but we now know that people can lock up their children and commit the worst crimes upon them imaginable. The depravity of life is imitated in art constantly with the barrage of serial killer films and other tales of the worst of the human condition. And life follows right back with copy cat events - the enviable Hannibal Lecter didn't create any real killers but he sure may have given some real killers some good ideas.

For as long as people creatively imagine the good we can do others will be imagining the worst we can do. And without a shadow of a doubt - there are people who live amongst us who are imagining and committing to things that most of us could never conceive until it's shoved in our faces by a waiting media. It will happen again in future and it is happening now and it's happening in every country in the world regardless of whether it is a liberal democracy, a repressive theocracy or a militant dictatorship. Who knows what further horrors lie beneath the normal facade of human society? The one thing we can be sure of is that we haven't seen the worst of it.

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