Born Monster or Insane?

It is an age-old question, one that has occupied our minds since the beginning of time: 

What makes us tick?

For a very long time now, I too have been wondering about this.  What makes people do or say the things they do?  What makes us handle situations different?  What makes one person look at a situation, learn from it and let it go, while another brood over it for years to come, allowing it to fester and grow a black cancerous hole in their soul?

Before I carry on, I do not mean to step on any toes.  I do not say that these things are only done by men, and I am well aware that women are also in the wrong.  Men, however, are more prone to violent crimes and have thus become the target of my study.  Apologies to any male reader offended by this post.

In searching for this answer I have, sort of, turned the people I encounter into “test subjects”, looking for inconsistencies, looking at reactions, expressions and words.  I find it fascinating how two people can react so very differently when presented with the same situation.

“We are all born into genius” says Robin Sharma.  We are all born with a clean conscious, a mind to be filled, a personality to be shaped.  Where does it go wrong?

(Disclaimer: The following are all still on trial, thus the actions are “alleged”)

In the small town of Bredasdorp, Anene Booysen goes out for an evening of fun with her friends.  The next morning she is found raped and brutalized, left for dead at the side of the road.  Despite all efforts to save her, she dies in hospital, but not before identifying one of her attackers. It was done by young men known to her and her family.  How do you dismember a girl you know, rape her and beat her senseless?  Was it drugs, alcohol, insanity?

A 16 year old boy shows up at the police station, panic stricken.  He had just escaped a horrible attack on his family: his mother, father and sister murdered.  Forensics shows that the sister had been raped too.  Forensics also indicates that he did it.  How do you kill your parents, rape and twice shoot your sister?  Was it for the R23 million inheritance or insanity?     

A hero to millions around the globe, Paralympian, Olympian, Oscar Pistorius fatally shoots his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day.  The world recoils in shock; surely it must be true that he mistook her for a burglar!  But as the bail hearing proceeds, seedy details about his past emerge, the picture and the story just does not add up.  Was it jealous rage; was it insecurity stemming from his disability or insanity?

The Boston Marathon ends in a manhunt, bombers have targeted the race.  Again America is under siege.  Days later two brothers are identified.  Their families are devastated, “they must have been framed” they say.  The wife of the older brother says she never had any idea that he was involved with extremists.  The younger brother is described as a gentle “walking angel” by all who knew him.  How does one person influence another that much?  How does one person turn from an angel to a murderer?  Insanity?

Johan Kotze sees his ex-wife with another man and looses the plot completely.  He arranges for 3 men to rape her, he tortures her for hours, turn screws into her breasts before cutting them off, murders her son, because he loved her and can’t stand the thought of losing her to another man.  He loves her!?!?  It makes me sick!  Is it psychosis, jealous rage or insanity?

Some more stories from people I spoke to:

A girl is forced to eat an entire pot of green beans (and nothing else), simply because she did not cut the pieces small enough.  It may seem a small thing to you, but the abuse that went with it will stay with her forever.  A lesson in cooking or insanity?

A man goes into a rage because his wife forgot to buy something, smashes the house and beats her senseless.  The next morning he wakes up in utter shock: what happened here? He cries like a baby, stunned in disbelief: he would never have done that?  An excuse or insanity?

A paedophile befriends children or families with children, he is the friendly uncle next door who always has a kind word and sweeties in his pocket.  Behind curtains he drools over child porn, waiting for the right moment to make his move, lure them into his trap and destroy their future.  A treatable disease or insanity?

A man goes out to find a girl then rapes her.

An alcoholic or drug addict goes on a binge and spends his entire month’s earnings over a weekend.  He goes home and mentally, physically and emotionally abuses his wife and children.  The next morning he laughs it off, saying that they should know by now that he never means of the things he says or does when he is drunk.  A chemical imbalance created by substance or insanity?

You will not have to search very far to find more stories like this.  This I can guarantee you!

I have always wished that I can sit down with a serial murderer or rapist and have a good heart to heart over a cup of tea and some biscuits, maybe ad some truth serum in there.  No nonsense, no lies, no mind games – just the truth.  To truly understand another person’s mind, what an accomplishment that will be.

Seeing that I am not able to do that, I settled for reading Insanity – My Mad Life by Mickey Peterson aka Charles Bronson.  Fair advance warning:  this book is not suitable if you are under 18, squeamish, faint hearted or anything like that.  I enjoy a good horror movie and I love reading. In all honesty I can tell you that I have never struggled this much to finish a book.  It is so filled with anger, hate and violence that it leaves you sick to the core.  This is after all a biography by the most feared and notorious convict in the prison system.

Bronson describes himself as the King of Roofs (he made it to the roof of prisons 8 times during incarceration, causing £1,5 million in damages), Master of Sieges (during several sieges on the inside he took 11 hostages), Supreme Lord of Cuttings and Stabbings, Stylist of attempted Murder and Governor of Isolation (at the time of going of print, he had spent 24 of his 30 years inside in solitary confinement).

I pushed through and finished the book, simply because I hoped that it would give me the answer.  What made him do all these things?

At one point he, and all the others mentioned, were someone’s beautiful baby, a child with dreams, a teenager in love.  Where did it go wrong?

I am in two minds about this issue.

1. Can someone really be born bad? 

Is it possible for a chemical imbalance or misplaced gene to take away your ability to distinguish between right and wrong?  If this is the case it can be remedied with medication.  Or can it?  Is that not merely a temporary delay of the insanity that drives them mad in the end, as Bronson puts it?  Can psychological disorders be picked up by DNA scanning after birth and corrected with treatment?  Can it ever truly be corrected or is the inevitable simply delayed?  When questioning a person about a crime or anything, for that matter, how do we really know the truth unless we saw it with our own eyes?  Even then, how I perceive something and you perceive it will hardly ever be the same.  Our views and opinions are formed by past experiences.  The very convenient “I can’t remember that, therefore it could not have happened” or “he suffers for psychosis and therefore cannot be held accountable” – it is all just a very convenient excuse to me.

2. Is it simply a choice? 

No one is perfect.  We all have had our share of misfortune, some more than others.  I, for one, have had a pretty rough deal.  Does that give me the right to think the world owes me?  Does that give me the right to go about my life like a lioness caught in a bear trap?  NO!!!  I made a choice to learn from it, to grow, to be a better person.  I made the choice to forgive and not carry the hate with me.  If you do, it will consume you and slowly eat away at your existence until you snap.  Forget?  No, I will never forget, but I choose to think about the good and not be reminded of the bad.  What would happen if psychological treatment for traumatic events and life coaching were more readily available?  What would happen if we raised men with true emotion, rather than men with ego?

Bronson makes a compelling case for the idea of insanity and how the insane are created by the penal system.  This will be covered in another post.

Why is it happening more often?  Or have we just been blind?

What are the signs?

What do we look for?

What can be done?

What is the cause?

What makes these people lose the ability to stop a second before the act an ask themselves: what am I doing?

We live in a society where violence is at the order of the day.  Maybe it’s in the water!

I simply don’t understand it.

The search must continue.


13 thoughts on “Born Monster or Insane?

  1. I am sure it is at least partly due to the water and other substances in all that we consume. Still, the human being is not that simple. From one point of view I would argue that we are still in the sixth day of creation and that the human being is far from finished. From another point of view I think many different entities probably incarnate in human form and what we regard as apparently a human being might be an horrific creature originating from anywhere in the galaxy and capable of unimaginable cruelty. The cosmos is also not that simple… (Just a few thoughts. There is so much more to say on this topic.)

    • Well said! Yes there is a lot more to be said on the subject; philosophers and psychologists have been trying for ages. I wonder if we ever will be able to fully understand.

  2. We all need so much grace, and sometimes these things gets really close to us. Deon Steenkamp of Griquastad was in the same year as me in the same dormitory at the UOFS, I knew him well … Johan Kotze was walking past my house every night while hiding from the police…
    I still can’t understand how people can become so evil as some are…

    • Unfortunately it seems that society only notices or care to intervene when it comes close to home. I feel that if we all were more aware and helped, instead of turning a blind eye, a lot of pain can be prevented.

  3. If you’re interested in this kind of thing you’d enjoy reading Abnormal Psychology. Fascinating stuff. If memory serves me I think they decided that human nature is 50% nature and 50% nurture. Makes sense to me…but then if you read a book like We need to talk about Kevin it’s clear that some people are just born broken?

    • Thanks for the tip, I will definitely try to track down those two books. I understand that sometimes people are born ‘broken’, what I struggle with, however, is how someone who appears to be normal can make the choice to not seek help before it’s too late. Surely they must have moments of ‘sanity’ in which they can realize that there is something fundamentally wrong.

      • I don’t have a copy of Abnormal Psychology, but if you send me your postal address I’ll lend you my Kevin book if you’re interested?

        I don’t know if they do have those moments…if I had to guess it starts like anything, small. Where it’s not such a big thing, and they find a way to justify it to themselves, then it escalates and they find a new way or someone else that they can “blame” for it in their heads. Rinse and repeat until it’s all completely out of hand. You’ll probably find that most people like this think of themselves as victims of their circumstances and the people around them. It’s never, “What have I done?!” it’s always, “Look what you made me do!”.

        • You have no idea how true those words are! OK, you do, that’s why you said it. Denial is a powerful tool and unfortunately used way too often. I guess the “enablers” are too caught up in the hope that it will get better with time, to notice the danger until it is too late.

          Thanks for the book offer, I will FB my address to you. You are a star!

        • You have no idea how true those words are! OK, you do, that’s why you said it. Denial is a powerful tool and unfortunately used way too often. I guess the “enablers” are too caught up in the hope that it will get better with time, to notice the danger until it is too late.

          Thanks for the book offer, I will FB my address to you. You are a star!

  4. I prefer to believe that these acts are due to some chemical imbalance in the brain. Probably naive, I know, but I can’t bring myself to think that people can hurt other people so horribly through choice.
    Helps me sleep at night 😦

    • Absolutely. It just seems to happen more and more and I feel that not enough is being done to try and put an end to it. We will never be able to fully eradicate evil, but what can be done to stop the flood? I don’t know, I just have this inexplicable urge to find out more, to know more, to do more.

Say something, you know you want to!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.