Sunday, May 20, 2012

Serial killers

I've had a dread fascination for serial killers for the longest time. I love watching crime series. I think it's a fascination with death and especially a violent one. Although I'm not such a great fan of the usual action movies I do love historical, mythical, fantasy movies which usually have a lot of blood and gore. I know people who would faint at the sight of blood but I can be pretty tough about it at least when I watch it on the telly or in a cinema hall.

I do ask myself sometimes why this morbid fascination with violent behaviour. I am not sure although I have met a lot of people in fact I should say a lot of women who love trying to get in to the mind of violence. Most of the time one finds that the childhood of the killer has had a great part to play on his psyche. The killer shows no remorse. The thrill of killing becomes a sexual high.

When you think of a serial killer the images of Hannibal Lector and Buffalo Bill immedeately come to mind. One a genius psychologist, the other a cross dressing murderer, both serial killers. Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lector and I will never forget the scene where he says,"Clarice..." with sheer ugly desire dripping from the tone of his voice. His voice alone made my hair stand on end. I wasn't that moved by the scene where he is shown eating human flesh and looking crazy. He is more "crazy" in his lucid moments than he seems in his apparently crazy ones.

So that's the image most people have of a serial killer and I admit I did too for the longest time. A slight aberration was the serial killer played by Steve Buscemi in the movie con air. In fact that's where I first heard the names Dahmer, Bundy and Gacy. Then I forgot about them. Until recently when I randomly googled Dahmer, Jeffrey Dahmer.

He was a gruesome killer who murdered 17 men. It's unbelievable and fascinating that someone had it in them to do something like that. So I read more and the details just got worse. He picked up men from gay clubs, brought them home, murdered them then had sex with them until the bodies began to decompose. At times he also ate some of his victims' flesh. Then I saw an interview which he gave to a journalist a little before he was killed by a prison inmate while incarcerated for his crimes. Just reading the story made me want to throw up but my curiosity got the better of me and I watched the video on youtube more than once.

Jeffrey Dahmer was a good looking man with impeccable manners who spoke softly and with total lucidity. He described his crimes with a matter of fact detail. More than anything what fascinated me was the fact that Jeff as his parents called him had a pretty happy childhood other than the time that his parents' marriage began to fall apart. He had a younger brother who turned out to be just fine.

What scares me the most is how normal he was when he spoke. There wasn't a shred of 'crazy' in his demeanour aside from the content of what he was actually saying. So what is it that makes a man who apparently had a normal childhood become a serial killer. I have no answers. Till today Dahmer especially fascinates me. There are many more fascinating killers. People who lived within the society and yet were so cut off from it. The question keeps coming back to me. Why did Dahmer kill? When he was asked the question he simply said it was because he wanted a complete sense of control. When he ate someone's flesh he controlled them completely. There was no way they could get away from him anymore. As if killing a man wasn't enough. He digested his flesh too.

When I excavated Dahmer's life I realised that all of us have a dark aspect. We have negative thoughts. Sometimes we want to hurt people who have hurt us. We may not want to kill them and eat their flesh but sometimes we want to control them. The difference between us and the Dahmers of the world is a conscience. A clear sense of right and wrong. The ability to feel remorse at wrong doing. A moral and ethical sense of responsibility. This is what makes us a civilised society. This is what makes us human beings.

We realise that we cannot control other people. Each person is an individual and must be shown that respect. There is freedom of will for a reason. The aberrations of society teach us that the power of good resides side by side the power of evil. It's a choice we make. Dahmer's brother never killed anyone and was a perfectly normal guy who now lives under a false name thanks to Dahmer's shadow. As long as there is evil there will be good. As long as there are humans there will be a need to control. The point is we have the power to control the need to control. To be good. To believe in love.

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