Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dalyrimple on Murder

The always fascinating Theodore Dalyrimple on the recurrent themes in the murder cases that he studies.

The homes in which the murders took place... have, from the photographic evidence, a terrible similarity. There is the same narrow hallway, with the same detritus strewn in it. There is almost always a pile of trainers (training for what, I wonder?) on the floor, and one can almost smell the athlete's foot from the picture.

Into the living-room through the door on the right: the same gas fire, but above all, and always, the prominence of the video machine, which is to the British home at the lower end of the social scale what the icon was in the Russian muzhiks izba: the focus of the household's spiritual life, if spiritual is quite the word I seek.

Strewn on the floor, there are always several videotapes, probably just watched: these are the homes in which the television or video is never switched off so long as there is someone awake in the house. There are also many more videos on shelves in every room throughout the house, for images of a pseudo-reality mean more to the inhabitants than most of life as they actually live it.
There are usually a few cans (never bottles) of beer on the carpet, which itself is highly patterned. Objects - dirty washing, the containers of takeaway meals, newspapers - are strewn all over the place and piled in corners. The disorder is not the result of a violent struggle, but of the way the inhabitants have lived for years, even - or especially - if they are unemployed and have nothing much else to attend to but their domestic tasks.

I am overwhelmed by a sense of the unfitness for life of all the participants in these sordid dramas: their main problem was that they had not the faintest idea how to live and yet - this is the hallmark of modernity - they were plentifully supplied with ego.

Interesting, troubling stuff, and more interesting coming from a prison social worker than it might be from an armchair pundit.

No comments: