Monday, August 28, 2006

Even monsters have feelings

We all like poking our noses into things that are none of our business. In fact 90% of the news is just this. This story is a good example of something that is absolutely 100% news worthy whilst also prying into the emotional lives of strangers.

You may have seen it already - a young girl in Austria was kidnapped and disappeared eight years ago. She'd been kept in a make shift dungeon (pics) all these years by telecoms engineer Wolfgang Priklopil and managed to escape her ordeal a few days ago.

I shalln't bother with condemnations or hand wringing at how terrible this must have been for her because it's obvious. But one of the interesting things for me is that if we are to try to understand how such a thing can happen we should not start with the construction of tabloid style monsters.

Even in the worst of places we were still humanPrimo Levi's beautiful book "If this is a man" has many profound points to make. One of which was that even in the depths of the holocaust there was no absolutes of evil or suffering.

Camp guards could show kindness, dying inmates still cracked jokes or wrote poetry about girls they had loved and mothers of children condemned to die tomorrow still washed their clothes and fed them today.

Indeed Anne Frank's little book (the uncensored version came out a few years ago) is full of the banal normalities of everyday life – despite this young woman being in hiding and in fear for her life. It is a tribute to human resiliance that we are not simple reflections of our environment - and a dark warning that you cannot tell who are the good from the bad through listening for maniacal laughter or drooling rage.

Monsters do exist - but they are not monstersWell it appears that even in the horrors of Natascha Kampusch’s imprisonment mundanity, kindness and laughter were still present. The BBC describes a cozy domestic arrangement where;

"She said she and Priklopil had eaten meals and watched television together, and had jointly done the housework… she said she did not feel that Priklopil had robbed her of her childhood… Together they had furnished her room "adequately" soon after he had abducted her, Ms Kampusch said."

I particularly liked this quote which flies in the face of the cartoon of a helpless victim in the clutches of a powerful monster "Priklopil "was not my lord, although he wanted to be - I was just as strong", she added."

Some press commentators are putting this down to "Stockholm Syndrome" but I think this is too easy. These are two people who had a long term and human relationship, no matter how warped. Kampusch “is reported to have wept inconsolably when she was told the man she had to call "master" was dead." (He threw himself under a train when he realized she had escaped) and is it such a leap that we can feel attached to people, even whilst being in absolute opposition to them?


Priklopil may have been unbelievably cruel in many ways but the drawing of two-dimensional ogres is a fairy story that does nothing to get into the heads of men who take that step into a far darker place.

1 comment:

helsalata said...

I made the mistake of clicking the link from the BBC news site to the story about Natascha in the Sun. Not only is she pregnant with the sex-beast's child but every cliche you could imagine to describe "paedophile" Priklopil was crammed into a very small space.
You're right that the real story here is her remarkable strength and a cool determination to not be regarded a victim. Hopefully these qualities will see her through the media circus which has the potential to be an equivalent monster in my eyes to her kidnapper.