The Modern Serial Killer
A Place in this World
THE INDUSTRIAL AGE
Society at a Crossroads
Today religion as a motive to kill not only exists in the troubled Middle East but also in Western countries such as Australia, the U.K. and the USA. Out of religious zeal comes the new serial killer.
He holds up cafes, murders artists and writers in the name of his god and threatens the lives of passengers on trains.
Yes, it is generally a he rather than a she but, on rare occasions, you do have female religious serial killers.The west has seen the like of such killers before but you'd have to go back to Elizabethan times to find an earlier incarnation.
Much of it stems from some people having a difficult time adjusting to new surroundings and a new way of life. Perhaps those who come to the west need to understand western conditions better before they arrive and also to agree to at least give those conditions a proper go.
Right now there is a flood of people entering Europe with strong, highly-strung religious beliefs.There is the cry for Sharia Law. It certainly will be denied in most part of Europe as the people for centuries have not been governed by religious law and do not want to go back there ever again. One result of all this is the new religious serial killer.
Today we are at a new crossroads. The pension in many countries is not as secure as it once was. In the USA and Australia attempts have been made over the last thirty years to try to replace the pension with superannuation.
Generally speaking these attempts to make super everything come too late for those who were born in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
During their working life there is no way an average person in their situation, now in their late fifties and early sixties, could have accrued enough super to make for a good retirement.
Add to this lack of time events that have gone wrong on the stock market in recent years to reduce super plus the inability of people over fifty to find work once retrenched and there is indeed problems to solve.
One answer of course is not to have people retire at all. As stated above, people already without work and with no way to get work because of their age still present difficulties to themselves and to any economy. Also it seems cruel to have people work until they drop even if they are willing to do so.
Then there is the promise made by governments that there will be a pension, perhaps propped up buy super but still a pension, to consider. One Greek government broke the promise of an early pension for many of its citizens and there was rioting in the streets.
Work changed in the 19th Century. It was a time of scientific discovery leading to new forms of employment. Men and women who thought they would spend their lives living in their country villages, like their parents and their parents before them, ended up living in big towns or in cities.
This was the age of the machine and the factory. Change came often uninvited. Sometimes with tragic results.
There are episodes of the British television series Ripper Street that make this clear. It was also an age of empire where India was the jewel in Queen Victoria's crown. This is also made clear in Ripper Street.
Before the 19th Century there were mass murderers but it was in this century that the modern serial killer was born.
Loss of identity has generally been put down as the reason for the growth of the modern serial killer.
The most famous and also infamous serial killer to come out of the 19th Century was Jack the Ripper. He terrorized Whitechapel, East London in 1888 and has never been caught.
He may have died soon after his last noted crime. One theory is that, after his last killing, he took his own life. One of the suspects actually did commit suicide after the final murder by drowning in the Thames. It has also been theorized that Jack, according to his own way of thinking, had successfully completed what he had set out to do and so had no need to kill anymore.
There were, of course, other murders and murderers. One killer who was never caught terrorized Liverpool. His murders of women were just as ghastly of those of Jack and, since he was never caught and had stopped before Jack got started, there is the belief that the Liverpool fiend and Jack were one and the same man. In other words the Liverpool fiend has simply changed locales.
Jack got his notoriety from the press. Perhaps he craved such notoriety. There is also the possibility that he may have been a drug addict. There is the theory that he may have taken arsenic in larger and larger doses for a high before killing. Arsenic is a known poison but it can be used for such a purpose even though the person using it is dicing with death.
In the 19th Century not everything that was new was necessarily bad. New modes of transport, such as the train, made travel from large town or city to country or seaside more affordable for everyone. On the other hand, there were large towns choking on their own pollution.
The pollution problems to do with sewage entering the Thames was solved through magnificent feats of engineering in the 19th Century. This stopped outbreaks of disease taking place in London in the summer months.
New construction was going on everywhere. Bridges were being built using new ideas and new materials.The first coat hanger style bridge was constructed in the USA. It is the Brooklyn Bridge. Another example of the coat hanger that came much later is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Writers such as Charles Dickens wrote about how bad conditions in slum areas in Britain were for the poor.
There are Dickens' Christmas tales such as A Christmas Carol.
There are also novels such as Oliver Twist and Hard Times that are well worth the read.
Also some Christians were taking a hard look at themselves and how they were treating their fellow human beings. Did the poor really deserve their poverty?
The Salvation Army was founded in Britain in 1865. Today the Salvos do good work in many countries including Australia.
In the USA from 1861 to 1865 there was a great civil war. In the course of this war African Americans obtained their freedom and at the end of the war slavery came to be outlawed throughout the USA. The American Civil War was such a bloody affair because of the new weapons, products of the industrial age, that were in use.
In India in the 19th Century there was unrest. India was important to the British Empire but holding onto it was difficult. After the 2nd World War it became impossible. In 1947 India got her independence from Britain. Also in this same year part of India broke away to form Pakistan.
According to Niall Ferguson in his 2003 history titled Empire: How Britain made the Modern World, Britain's relation with India was rather mixed. It cannot be seen in the context of being either all good or all bad for the Indians or the British.
Mistakes were made in the British governing of such a large part of the world. There were uprisings and there were bouts of famine. At times the attempt to impose British style Christianity onto the people of India resulted in violence.
On the plus side there were improvements made to living standards which came with British style industrialization. Railways linked cities and major centers. Slums were cleared and some Indians were educated in the British fashion. It can be argued that the British left India in a better condition than they had found it in. It can also be said that large profits for Britain were rung out of India certainly up to the beginning of the First World war.
THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
BEING YOURSELF IN A CROWD
MADNESS AND SOCIETY
Madness has been the curse of humanity since the dawn of our existence upon this planet. There have been many reasons for it.
Stress from the introduction into our lives of new technology has definitely led to madness in some. There has been much such stress in the last two hundred or so years.
Change does not need to be a bad thing. Change can wield positive results as well as the reverse. Either way, change can take some getting used to and can require some social adjustments as well.
MYSTERIES OF THE MIND
In the 19th Century new ideas emerged concerning madness and sanity. How we are connected to others and what we think about ourselves and others was reexamined.
There was great social change and there were many people who had a tough time keeping up with such change. Some lives were improved and some were torn apart.
In the 20th Century there was also great social change that went hand in hand with rapid advancement in technology that continues to this day. How people have coped is in part what this hub is about. How we have treated those who could not cope and have come to understand them better is also what this hub is about.
LOSS OF IDENTITY
In the 19th Century there was a general feeling of loss of identity among the people of the Western nations. It came from being cut off from what had previously made for a healthy connection to society and to the past.
There was a time when a person was born into a situation and was expected to stay in that situation for the rest of their life. A person growing up in a small town or village, for example, could once be identified in much the same way as those who had come before them in their family line.The son of a baker was expected to become a baker. The son of a tenant farmer was expected to till the land.
What's more, identity could also derive from the town or village directly since, at the beginning of the 19th Century, a person wasn't expected to travel more than twenty miles in any direction from their home unless, of course, they were to enlist in one of the armed services or there was a war on that made enlistment mandatory.
You were known and understood by the people who had known you all your life and that was often enough to satisfy ego. Of course there were sailors and businessmen who did travel abroad but they were not in the majority Even there you had a sense of order and conformity coupled with a sense of being in your place spiritually if nothing else. The crew of a ship identify with the ship as well as the rest of the crew. A travelling businessman derives some identity from not only his boss but also from his clients.
The Industrial Revolution took people from their homes and put them into factories. The son of a tenant farmer might now become something other than a tenant farmer. What's more, in order to live, people had to migrate from country towns and villages to the large towns and cities where there was work for them but where they were strangers. Thanks to new methods and the use of machinery, farms could be managed with fewer people.
Cities and large towns grown larger by great influxes of people could not provide the kind of feelings of identity the small towns and villages once supplied. Factory work did not always give workers the same sense of self worth or of accomplishment that labor on the land had given and this remains true to the present. The struggle to discover a new kind of identity and a fresh sense of self worth has been with us ever since and continues to be with us.
Unionism started in the 19th Century in part as a result of this growing feeling of alienation from overall society. Workers united could more readily obtain safer working conditions and also better pay. It definitely can be said that Unions have, in the past, provided some sense of value and self worth to the worker along with the means to get a fairer deal from the employer.
The pension once allowed a means by which the worker could see a future after their energy to continue working had been spent. Governments are trying to have it replaced by superannuation. The Australian government's initiative of a minimum wage has meant that low paid workers would not do without the necessities of life due to insufficient reward from their employers.
It was decided in the 19th Century that every child was entitled to an education and then it was further decided that this education should not only be mandatory but also highly organized. The idea that everyone deserved a fair crack at the good life and that talent should win over birthright was in the air. If the son of a farmer was not to be a farmer but a factory hand might not the son of the factory hand then aspire to be something other than a factory hand?
Certainly by the 1960s there was an emerging belief that a one-suit-fits-all policy concerning child education was somehow wrong. It was deemed destructive of the individual but what, in reality, could be done about it? Everyone deserves to at least learn how to do math and also read and write. But what about those who only want to and need to learn the bare minimum? But what about those with the talent and the desire to go on to further education?
The battle between those who deserve and should be allowed to go on to a higher education and those who clearly do not, usually by their own admission, deserve as much continues in our school systems to this very day. Teachers are hard pressed to cope with those who do not want and do not need to be formally educated past a certain point. Where exactly this point lies has been greatly debated.
Poor education, created by either a lack of interest in being formally educated or being in a classroom with those with a lack of interest, has resulted in sub-cultures where street understanding and street education takes on an importance all its own.
The poorly educated, in a formal sense, become the disenfranchised from state created society and, in order to survive and preserve a sense of self worth, put together their own set of rules and values.
How then do the disenfranchised from the state created society express themselves and form their own sense of individuality and self worth? Music is one way. If the sounds they listen to are deemed so alien and so discomfiting by regular society then they can help form a separation for a time from the greater society. Language is another way. Every generation has is own use and its own creation of words sweeping up from some sub-culture.
Common words can take on a whole new meaning when said by a teenager and this is not a new phenomenon. A good example would be the word bad replacing good which in recent times has been replaced by sick. As I write this the code has probably changed or is in the process of changing. Being in the know when it comes to music and words can be a comfit and can help strengthen bonds in a sub-culture. It can actually be a healthy thing and can prevent madness from setting in.
Graffiti has been around since cave man days. Political comment in art has been around since at least Roman times. The earliest piece of political graffiti I know of depicts Jesus as a donkey hanging from a cross. Obviously it was done by an anti-Christian.
In the 1960s graffiti usually consisted in NSW, Australia of the occasional Nazi cross to stir up teacher. Today it is rife throughout the UK, the USA and Australia. What's more, it comes in many and varied forms. The idea of tags and tagging, the use of graffiti to form identity clusters, took off in the 1970s.
It seems to have begun in the USA with the notion that certain signs, sometimes including oft times misspelled words, could stand for a gang, a gang member or a wannabe desperado. Graffiti of this nature has been compared with a dog urinating to mark its own territory. There is some truth in this. It is also an act of defiance against a greater society that seems too big to confront otherwise. Ugly as it mostly is this is a way some people have of letting off steam and thus keeping their sanity.
Cartooning and political satire took off in the 17th Century and have been going strong ever since. Even though this was a middle class movement, it still has aided the poor and provided them, at given moments, with a voice. It helped to ease tensions between classes on occasion and, at other junctures, inflame such tensions. If not for adverse publicity Marie Antoinette might have kept her pretty head on her neck a while longer.
Clubs and societies have allowed people to form a sense of purpose and/or identity beyond where they grew up and what they do for a living. The Freemasons did and still do provide membership with a sense of belonging and also a set of goals to aspire to. The same can be said for the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides. There have, of course, been bad clubs and societies such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Hitler Youth movement.
If work cannot satisfy a person with the feeling of being needed or valued then there is always family and, if not family, then for many there is sport.
The 19th Century was a time of empire building and also empire securing for the British as well as other European powers. In New Zealand and Australia there were annual Empire Day celebrations. There was also the feeling that an empire that plays together stays together. Cricket became the glue of the British empire and today it is the glue of the Commonwealth. To this day every boy who does well at cricket dreams of possibly representing his country on the cricket field.
ART OF THE SOUL
In Medieval times in Europe artists were commissioned to depict both the glories of Heaven and the horrors of Hell. The idea being that the faithful would be rewarded after death and the unfaithful condemned. Since the artists doing the work had neither been to Heaven or Hell they were required to use their imaginations to get the job done. There were, of course, clues in the Bible but only vague clues as to what Heaven and Hell should look like. There were certain surreal elements in the best results that had nothing to do with reality but a lot to do with the soul of the artist.
The terror of the plague years provided plenty of inspiration for Hell. The need to get right with God was the reason for the creation of the great cathedrals of Europe, plus oneupmanship with the nearest rival city, and the same can be said for miraculous art. There was also the keeping of the peasants in their place. If the peasants could believe that they would be up for a better existence after death if they kept their place in this world then order could be better maintained.
Until the 18th Century, art that was secular in nature was mostly realistic and not overly imaginative. The Romantics changed all that. Joseph Turner's masterpiece, Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway (1844), was an attempt to humanize the new age with nature at its wildest as a main feature. Turner's landscapes were controversial and remain so. Often in them nature has both power and definite presence. Sure, this type of effect can be seen in Leonardo da Vinci's background to Virgin of the Rocks (1508) and his Mona Lisa (also from the 1500s) but it has been said many times that Leonardo was a man ahead of his time.
NEW ART BEGAN TO FLOURISH
ART IN THE 19TH CENTURY
During the 19th Century, the middle class in Britain, the USA, Australia and New Zealand grew in both numbers and prosperity. The upper class struggled to find ways to separate themselves from those they thought of as below them in status if nothing else. Art was one way of doing this.
It began with a fresh, new appreciation for porcelain figurines and plates from China and Japan. This appreciation fired up artists such as Claude Monet to perform experiments in lighting and color. Sure, how we perceive people and places through the use of shadow and angle dates back to at least the renaissance but color, as used by Monet, was a fairly new element. There were also experiments in creating the illusion of movement for which Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is most famous.
In the 19th Century the camera made it possible to create images of homes and families a lot cheaper than an artist was capable of doing with paints and canvas. What would take an artist days if not weeks to accomplish a photographer could do in less than an hour.The camera, at least in the early stages of its development, however, could not delve into the soul of a subject or tell the kind of lies patrons wanted to be told about themselves.
The idea of breaking down people, places and things into geometric shapes such as in Cubism may have come from photography or been an early 20th Century reaction to it.Of course reducing a person to various shapes was perhaps the best of statements an artist could make as to where humanity was headed. Of the cubists, Pablo Picasso was the most famous and popular.
In 1901 there were various writers and artists pushing the idea of new art forms for a new age. There was a movement toward ultra-realism on stage and also a movement in the opposite direction. There was the belief that language would have to change dramatically and become shorter and snappier for the new century.There was also the belief that, with the modern weapons on hand such as the machine gun, that none of the big nations in Europe would dare start a war with any other big nation. Heads of government and reigning royalty might want conflict but it was felt that the common man would see to it that such a thing would not happen. This touch of naivety ended in 1914 at the start of the First World War.
Late in the 19th Century flickering images took on a certain power. They could have propaganda value for governments and they could simply be a way for ordinary people to forget their troubles for a short space of time. They could also be used to educate and inform.
In the silent movie period the sort of horror that comes straight out of an unbalanced mind was explored by German cinematographers. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920) being an excellent example. There were strange sets with doors at weird angles and encroaching shadows that contained unnamed menace. In the German science fiction classic, Metropolis (1927), the nature and the needs of the common worker were delved into in ways that had never been delved into before.
In Australia legendary bushrangers such as Ned Kelly became, once more, heroes to the downtrodden. In the USA the swashbuckler ruled and a cheeky comedian from London, Charlie Chaplin, did very well. Chaplin realized straight off that there were more laughs to be had in a well-off, pompous man or woman taking a fall than someone who is already down on their luck. Chaplin's 'little tramp' represented the person not doing very well but still in possession of a heart of gold.
After the Silent Period a certain sophistication in story telling and in plot became possible. There were Westerns in the Silent Period (Tom Mix was a star) but the Western really took off when the talkies started up.
What was it about the Western that made it popular throughout the world? Was it just American nostalgia or did it encompass other things as well? Well, my dad was a factory worker for over twenty years and what I believe he liked and still likes about the Western are the wide open spaces. Also there is the sense in many Westerns that the good guy will be the fastest draw and that justice will win out in the end. Westerns haven't really been much about the way the West in the USA was really like, say, between 1870 and 1914 but the way we would wish the West to have been.
People need an escape from reality every now and then. For my father and most people in the 20th Century the Western was one source for this escape. Science fiction, when done well, has been another way of getting away for even a short while from the pressing concerns of every day life.
Writers of the 19th Century
Of all the writers of fiction living in the 19th Century, Jules Verne and H. G. Wells will be best remembered as the pioneers of science fiction. They provided their readers will a new way of looking at the world they were living in and they continue to do the same, to some extent, for present day readers.
Writers of the 20th Century
Of all the fiction writers living in the 20th Century Franz Kafka, Robert E. Howard, Frederick Brown, H. P. Lovecraft, Terry Pratchett, Harry Turtledove, Peter David and Diane Carey have shown themselves to be among the most imaginative. They have taken me on marvelous journeys over the years and have helped to keep at least one reader relatively sane.
Writers of the 21st Century
It is difficult to say which of the writers I name here will even be remembered at the end of our present century. I can only put forward the names of some of the writers that have touched me.
They are: Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, Harry Dresden author Jim Butcher, Western author Lyn McConchie and vampire writer Barbara Custer. It is also my hope that the supernatural trilogy I have been working on also makes it to the end of the 21st Century and beyond. All good stuff for the heart and the soul.
Also check out Ghost Dance and Desk Job by yours truly.
It is good to be able to tell Fantasy from Reality
FREUD AND OUR TIMES
Sigmund Freud started a branch of medicine that is still with us today. He founded the psychoanalytic school of psychiatry. Though some of his ideas and findings are disputed today he definitely took some needed steps when it comes to diagnosing and curing the mentally ill.
There was a time in the 19th Century when it was thought that those with sickness of the mind could best be helped by punishing them. There was also the belief that certain ailments that didn't have any known physical reason for being simply could not be fixed. Freud discovered that through hypnotism at first and then through word association certain patients could be made to address hidden fears and anxieties and be made well. He also found clues as to what was wrong with some patients in their dreams. These were great breakthroughs. Some of his better ideas came to him when he was examining World War One shell-shock victims.
Of Freud's colleagues, Carl Jung, to me, always made the most sense. His ideas concerning symbolism and masks touch upon his upbringing in Switzerland. His understanding of both Eastern and Western philosophy also adds something to what he has to say about both the sick and the well mind. Freud may have given dream analysis a scientific basis but Jung also made leaps and bounds in this area.
The new direction of secular art in the late 19th, and certainly well into the 20th Century, points to three questions. The questions are: Who am I? Where have I been? Where am I going? These were easy questions to answer before the Industrial Revolution. Not so easy after this revolution and it has since been made even more complex by two world wars, one Cold War and numerous wars small in historic terms but not so small for those who lived through them and the families of those who did not. Certainly Freud and Jung had us looking inward as well as outward for answers and they still have us doing so.
ATOMIC BOMBS, COLD WARS AND THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN
And so we come to the Conclusion...
Much more can be said about the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries. And more no doubt will be said in the future. I have not, for example, touched upon Marx and his influence or how migration before and after the 2nd World War has affected life in Australia, usually in positive ways, and how Australians now think about themselves.
Then there is the atomic bomb, a souvenir from the 2nd World War, and how it changed the way we came to think about 'the other'.
In recent Australian history the beach culture, which had been established by the early years of the 20th Century and strengthened by the sub-culture of the Lifesaver, came under attack from migrants who felt the bikini and the mini-skirt morally questionable attire for women to wear.
The police were unable to defend the rights of the women and thus uphold the recognized and now seen as precious beach culture.(Too often we see something as precious when we are in danger of losing it.) The result was violence at Cronulla, NSW, south of Sydney.
What started off as a peaceful protest for the rights of women to wear what they wanted to wear on the beach and to be respected by all turned nasty when agitators came in from elsewhere to stir things up.
Then there was the issue of a lifesaver being punched after saving a person's life. This, too, did not sit well with people who love the surf, the sun and understand that the lifesavers are there on the beach to keep people safe.
It was a cultural clash that might have been avoided if certain migrants before migrating realized what the beach culture in Australia is all about and how people would be willing to fight to keep this culture going because, to many, it stands for freedom. Possibly the only freedom some of them will ever truly know.
If a person works hard during the week why shouldn't he or she enjoy the beach on the weekend? Anyone who tries to take that away or make it difficult for a lad to have his lass beside him on a towel on the sand is, in my opinion, really asking for trouble.
Keep well. Stay healthy.
More by this Author
The Jazz Age, Josephine Baker, Ken Burns, The League of Nations, radio, the gramophone, Kangaroo, Ragtime, Ku Klux Klan, Elvis Presley, World War One, The Saint, The Great Gatsby, Pollyanna, Paris.
Einstein, Doctor Who, Edison, Freud, Jung, Mitchell, Ford, The Spitfire, Punch and Judy, Desk Job, Don Berlin, Masks, clowning, Gotham, Bedlam, the Camera, the moon, alchemy, USA, Mental Illness.
Characters that don't quite fit into society as we know it happen to be the stuff of good television. They are the fish out of water we sometimes admire and sometimes have our fingers crossed for.