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Looking in the Mirror -- at Josef Fritzl ?

Global conditions on reflection (Part #1)


Introduction
Reflective TV screens?
Cognitive dissociation
Structural violence
Celebration of agreement and togetherness?
Confirmation of purity -- a healthy catharsis
Habituation to participation in such actions
How? When?
Why? Who? Which?
Future perspective?
Speculative anticipation
Conclusion
References

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Introduction

In November 2008, Mumbai was the focus of a serious terrorist attack which was a shock to India and the world. Amongst the multitude of commentaries on the incident, perhaps the most insightful was that by Arundhati Roy (Mumbai was not our 9/11, The Guardian, 12 December 2008):

The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror.

This is an exploration of possible learnings to be obtained from the worldwide intensive coverage of the trial of Josef Fritzl in Austria -- convicted in March 2009 for incarcerating his daughter for 25 years, frequently raping her, bearing children by her, and failing to take a newborn, sickly child to hospital - resulting in the child's death. In the week preceding the trial, Germany was witness to a horrific school shooting resulting in 15 deaths, also in March 2009.

The mystery on which many have focused in such cases is "why?".

In the same period (March 2009) there has been coverage of the historically unprecedented Ponzi scheme, involving $65 billion, operated by the esteemed financier Bernard Madoff -- and the disastrous consequences for those who had confidence in him over decades (including his co-religionists). But simultaneously there has been intensive debate and public anger, notably in the USA and the UK, over the contested efforts to remunerate exorbitantly those in major corporations whose disastrous financial management had necessitated unprecedented bailouts from government. Little, if any, effort has been made to indict those who might be considered complicit in the associated financial crisis and its consequences -- despite the widespread loss of livelihood, housing, pensions and life savings, with more to come.

In such a confusing context it is understandable that the case of Josef Fritzl can be considered a huge relief. Here is someone about whom uncontested universal agreement can be experienced. He is clearly completely guilty (by his own admission) and totally bad (given his reprehensible actions) -- if not purely evil. There are few issues of global significance on which such a degree of consensus has been achieved, or can be anticipated.

More generally it would appear that this is the strange role performed for society by such as: Saddam Hussein, Adolf Eichmann, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Josef Mengele, or "terrorists".

But beyond "he bad" therefore "me good", as characteristic of binary logic, is there more to be learnt by considering such individuals and the consensus they evoke? The question here is not whether any degree of sympathy should be envisaged for them. Rather it is a question of whether the universal consensus and judgement distract from other learnings -- perhaps much more inconvenient, but of greater potential significance in relation to other global issues.

Hence the value of following Arundhati Roy in an effort to look at the "monster in the mirror". What is to be seen there? Who is "Josef Fritzl" ? With respect to terrorism, as one writer confirmed:

I have seen the enemy and it is us (Joan Chittister, Pogo may have been right, National Catholic Reporter, 17 June 2003).

ave been right, National Catholic Reporter, 17 June 2003).


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