Friday, August 07, 2009

Living in Hell.

Amongst the blogs that I frequent, the topic which has received the most discussion is the one dealing with George Sodini(Pictured), the man who recently murdered three women in a gym. What's interesting about this fellow is that he left quite a bit of information about himself on the Web. People often speculate about the mind of a mass murderer and frequently these speculations are way off the mark, but the snippets of information that Mr Sodini left on the Internet are worthy of some reflection so as to be able to speculate as to what kind of man Mr Sodini was.

Reading his diary postings and other assorted paraphernalia, one certainly gets the impression of a profoundly lonely man. Whist most of the media have commented on his sexual deprivation, it's also apparent to the slightly less superficial observer that he was starved of common friendship and love as well. He lacked both male and female friends and believed others were the source of his woes. The blindness to personal failings is usually a sign of a narcissistic personality.

The themes that run repeatedly in his writings is of his inability to find a mate and of his incompleteness and emptiness. So the question that comes to my mind is why did he want to destroy the thing he most wanted.? Why did he want to kill the very sex that that he so desperately craved?

Perhaps the idea that can help us the most in understanding this unfortunate man is the concept of Poena damni, the pain of loss, a Christian idea on the nature of suffering of the soul in Hell.

In Christian theology, the worst terror of Hell is not the "fire and brimstone" but the sense that we are permanently separated from God and the associated happiness that that would bring. People who have not thought about the matter deeply imagine this loss as a loss God's company, sort of not getting to hang around God, but they are wrong. The best way of imagining this pain of loss is by looking at it's opposite, the beatific vision. Acceptance by God, is like being accepted and loved by your sweetheart. It's not just the local effect of possessing your beloved, but the "spillover" effects are as important as well. When you're in love, life is sweeter, injuries are born easier, life is beautiful, there is a sense of goodwill to all; we want others to share our happiness. The beatific vision is not "just" the possession of God's favour, but the state of being in God's favour. It is this state of existence is what we mean by being in heaven.

Being rejected by the thing we love or desire creates the opposite effect. Nothing gives us joy, everything is bleak, and if we know we will never have the thing we want, despair or resignation sets in. However, more often than not ,we come to hate the thing the we love. The boy who was spurned by his high school sweetheart,is still is still bitter toward her years later and wants to get back at her. The girlfriend who is dumped by her partner sets out to destroy his life. Hatred and despair are the companions of those who suffer poena damni. They hate that which they want to love, but which does not love them back.

George Sodini's actions, seen in this light, are perfectly understandable. The women that he so desperately wanted rejected him, engendering in him a sense of poena damni which reached it's cumulation in the shooting of the innocent women at the gym. Now while Sodini's actions are understandable, they are in no way justifiable. The women who were killed or injured in no way had personally injured Sodini, their capital offence was that they were women. He stands condemned.

Is Sodini's hatred legitimate? Are women to blame for Sodini's plight? Amongst some of the more "sympathetic" analyses of Sodini's actions, the opinion is put out that Sodini's anger was legitimate, the consequence of a breach of social contract. As the theory goes, a educated,hard working, quiet man is meant to be rewarded by female affection. After all, in days gone bye such a man would have made good husband material. Quite reasonably, in the 50's, such a man would have no problems getting married. But this assumption is flawed in several ways.

Firstly, the consequence of this line of though is that in the 50's people viewed marriage as an exchange of goods. A woman weighed up her options and picked the best mate on the basis of what she could get for her sexual favour. This of course is rubbish, in most instances in the West, women and men married for romantic motives rather than for the transactional benefits. This trope is common with Evo-Bio thinking which has to reduce all human action within the confines of its reductionist metaphysic. Love was the primary motive for most couples, not the transactional benefits. Indeed until recently, the "gold digger" was a woman who was culturally derided.

Secondly, this line of thinking assumes that certain behaviours are meant to be rewarded with sexual favour. Something that no intelligent person in the West has ever assumed. There has never been a formulaic answer with regard to attracting the opposite sex. There were rules for increasing the odds for attraction but they were never guaranteed. No morally legitimate station in life was ever guaranteed to give you access to sex. Ever.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that engenders a sense of entitlement after accomplishment. It lays the intellectual groundwork for the perception of personal injury where there is none and provides a motive for unjustified retribution. Sort of like yelling at your parents for not getting a good enough present for your birthday, the perpetrator forgets that no one is owed a gift. No woman was ever obligated to give Sodini sex, no matter how buffed, rich,hardworking or nice he was. No woman had to "pay" because he couldn't get any action. Sodini suffered because he couldn't get what he wanted, not because he couldn't get what he was owed.

I feel that most men can empathise with sadness and bitterness associated with female rejection. However we should not confuse empathy with the perpetrator with sympathy of for his crime. He coldly, methodically and with measured deliberation had planned the murder of innocents who had in no way caused him harm. The Catholic Church teaches that the deliberate killing of an innocent is a mortal sin, and the souls of such sinners go to Hell. Still the Church also teaches that we cannot be sure of what the state of a soul is after death. I do not know where George Sodini's soul rests, as he was a seriously disturbed and depressed man and perhaps this may have attenuated his culpability, but I do know that while he was alive he lived in this world as if it were Hell.

My sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families.