ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE HEART
PART ONE: A STUDY IN EVIL
Yes, we have heard all the scoffing and pompous declarations of boo-hooing for inmates who are doing long sentences and many for very vicious crimes.
No, no one here believes that these real criminal types should get off with a hand slap or any such thing.
We do have a theory, however:
Why these seemingly heartless, vicious people have become this is NOT because they are, by their natures, bad seeds or that they were born with certain genetic directives that turned them into constructs of the criminal. After all, even the criminally insane was once that bright-eyed, smiling and innocent infant in a crib; that bundle of…love!
The reader who is arrogant by his or her nature may be stirred to say something like: Look, these terrible people who are a danger to the rest of us are nothing other than the dregs of society and should be locked up forever or executed and be done with it.
In our period of studying ex-prisoners with long records we have even heard some ex-inmates say this very same thing about themselves—they should have executed me.
But the real question is, how does a human being end up being a target of such social abandon and hatefulness? How does one grow a mind that is criminally dangerous?
Is the “criminally dangerous” a product of Nature? Perhaps if there is something physically wrong with the brain, that brain might—might—produce the evil doer but a healthily formed brain will not produce an unhealthy thinker.
In this regard, the world’s most well known thief and intellectual, Jean Genet, who the modern father of existentialism, jean Paul Sartre, named a prototype of existential man who, in this view, is the criminal by personal choice; the doer of evil by decision and so is the product of his own freedom. However, there is a kind of paradox that Sartre gives us at the same time as he creates a social ritual during which Genet is “officially” labeled and denounced as the thief. He later decides to take on the nature of the thief. Might this actually have been the case?
We’ll cover a little of his life—1910-1986.
When Gene Genet was a boy of ten he was accused of being a thief and during those adolescent years spent five years at a reformatory. He escaped at age 19, joined the Foreign Legion, deserted and lived as a free spirit in Europe where he arrested for such crimes as vagrancy, theft and smuggling. (He was also arrested for homosexuality which was illegal during those years!)
He started to write in 1939 and was given more than a taste of success as a writer and dramatist although much of his theater work was too daring even for French theater. He began lecturing in the 1960s and died in Paris nearly a quarter century later in 1986.
The question is what instilled evil and social hatefulness into this man who, most typically, lived a life of defiance; indeed as the proud criminal and law breaker?
Going back into Jean Genet’s childhood we discover that he was born—out of wedlock—to a couple whose names were Camille and Francois. The boy Jean was quite readily turned over to a public home for “unwanted children:” From that moment on he was raised in state institutions save for a family that took him in who lived in a village by the name of Alligny-en-Morvan. (Jean Genet’s real mother had died when he was nine years old).
Interestingly enough, the boy’s foster mother had hopes that he would grow up to be a priest. Unlike the rebellious adult that he would become this homebody declared him as a “submissive child.” In fact, at this age no one probably suspected the deep-seated anger and hatefulness that Jean Genet was harboring on the darkest side of his heart.
With only this much retold about Jean Genet we can all but easily see how “Genet-the-thief-and-evil-doer” evolved. Indeed we can almost put all our analytical views into the single and apparent unwanted basket. That is, he had been abandoned by his unloving parents, he had been raised in the unloving environment of state institutions and finally in reformatory where the very spirit of youthful inmates is deprived of attitudes of self-worthiness by the workings of the systems of incarceration itself.
When one is raised in an unloving environment, the child will invariably believe that he or she is, in fact, unlovable and this will often be demonstrated into unloving behaviors. It simply isn’t unusual for a child, as a result of being unloved (unattended and not nurtured) to take on a persona (a public image) of hardness and callousness which he or she wears as armor against being hurt by others; against being vulnerable to caring about anything or anyone. Being unlovable is of course a very lonely place to dwell…
PART TWO: A SOCIAL VIEW
The eye’s of general society see only the façade of the evil-doer; he or she may ride in packs boasting the colors of their affiliations; they may be hidden behind the ski mask or become the silhouette behind the gun that murders some innocent victim. He or she might well be more subtle than this: and have evolved into the dealer or perhaps even the rapist or some other harmful, hard and hateful human being. In such cases, the primal howl is that I am the unlovable and what I do is the unloving.
Most typically the general response to this is so what, if you do criminal acts you are a criminal and no one cares how loved or how unloved you have been; you have chosen your bed now lie in it.
This view is also commonly combined with the observation—lots of people grow up in terrible, deprived areas and they do not end up thieves and doers of evil.
Since we all know that the ghetto, projects and other poor environments produce the greatest number of lawbreakers and, for that matter serious criminals, a first question that comes to mind is why is it that some of those children somehow escape the destiny of becoming the bad seed and grow up to be contributing and productive citizens…and this question is usually followed by all the clichés such as, people just want to take the easy road…they don’t want to work so they steal…they are all ruthless animals and should be caged as such…why look at this one or that one, born and raised in the same ghetto and he or she is now a businessperson, a doctor, lawyer, priest…and finally, no one has to do bad things unless they want to do them…
To most ordinary citizens this all sounds reasonable. And, in many instances it is—society after all cannot have the dangerous and destructive left free to do their will. And, while there are so very many men and women who should not be imprisoned there are, of course, many who should be since prison is the only system we have to keep the (real) criminal behind bars and out of the free world. Nevertheless, we need to address the question that asks, why do some children grow up to be good and honest citizens who are born in the same terribly impoverished environments of those many that end up in such serious trouble?
While there are exceptions to everything, we offer that no matter how harsh and/or impoverished an environment is, that environment will have no or little (bad) influence over the child…who is loved and nurtured by his or her family. The child, after all, who is loved, experiences the condition of being loving and lovable…and loving/lovable individuals simply do not hurt or coerce others. But there is yet another side to this same coin, a person who is loved and therefore has the experience of being both loving and lovable will not do anything that is destructive to one’s self either. Remember living the life of an outlaw is never unencumbered by pain of one kind or another. While the most vicious and violent criminal may be more than capable of showing no mercy to his or her victims, he or she will NOT escape, at least from time to time, the stark aloneness and emptiness of the unloved child who still lives deep within that same criminal’s psyche.
Well, so what, society screams. Even if there is a speck of truth to what has just been said those people do not deserve to be loved because of their evil deeds.
This of course becomes the major issue. Remember the brief story of Jean Genet, the unloved child who grew up to do unloving things; to take on the nature of the thief and evil doer?
We will never know what great and truly productive things Genet would have accomplished had he been raised in a loving family environment, an environment that nurtured and cared about him. And in this light, to cast him aside as the mere criminal who had been born the bad seed is heartless and thoughtless in and of itself. It is in our view that in vast numbers the cold-hearted, true devotee to crime is in an unnatural state of being. That is, he or she is the result of the neglect and abuse endured as the abandoned child growing up. There is no greater poverty after all than the lack of love.
But can any of this be grounded in anything other than a bunch of psychobabble?
While we do not claim to be scientists our studies reveal that the chemicals in our brains can be changed by our experiences. For one example, truly violent people who we have been referring to are known to have lower levels of serotonin (a brain chemical). It seems that the lower someone’s brain is in serotonin the more apt that person will be vicious or suicidal. The question then is why would so many violent, evil doers have this problem…a lower level of the brain chemical than other more mellow people have?
The answer is simply this. It is now known that people who have the well being of being loved and nurtured have increased serotonin levels while those who are not loved and nurtured have lower levels.
While we may not be able to blame all vicious and ruthless human action on this brain-state we can see that love truly is physiological. Indeed, the very hatefulness, resentments and rage that the criminal feels in his or her heart is not of the heart at all but of a physical brain that has been deprived of enough love to maintain its good health…