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A state abused
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-05-02 07:38:02
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Following on from the case of the Austrian ‘father’ - if it is ever possible to call him a father - and the unveiling drama with the torture and abuse of the family, I found myself thinking about the small society/neighborhood I live in and how easily it would have been for something similar to happen just meters away from me without having an idea.

ovi_austria02I was reading somewhere that the whole Austrian nation feels numb with this story and that they started questioning their society's values on many levels, since this was the second incident of a long-term captured, tortured and sexually-abused female in the country in the last year. I hope this process will bring something good to the Austrian society, at least a better self-knowledge but the big question, at least for me, is if the Austrian society is the only one that suffers or if there are many fathers like him and we have no idea. If there are girls like the captured daughter just around my house and I have no idea about it.

In the early-80s Greece was shocked by the discovery of a girl imprisoned for nearly twenty years. In that case the girl suffered a brain disability and the parents were afraid of how society would react, so they locked her in a small dark cellar, minimizing the possibilities for help and improvement. On the contrary, her condition worsened and I think it became fatal. Apart from the guilt, few changes in laws and the often mentioning of the case when people want to describe the complex reaction of fear, embarrassment of a child that is different and parent brutality, nothing else remains from the story. Actually, when I asked over the last few days what happened to the girl nobody could tell me.

So what happens after the grief and the father’s imprisonment? Thousands of kids disappear everyday all around the world; the majority of them are victims of their own closest people, relatives and friends, this is something research has proved. A big number of them are driven to crime, including prostitution, drug dealing and theft. Another big part is led to slavery and what remains, especially in the western world, is the unknown. I’m serious, there are thousands of kids between eight and fifteen-years-old in Europe and America who disappear every month and nobody has the slightest idea of what happened to them or their whereabouts. It is as though one day they vanished from the face of earth without leaving any trace.

Parents, friends and close relatives often ask the help of the police but here they have to deal with a huge wall with many names. Terrorism is the obvious priority for the police and security forces, to be followed with financial crime and lack of personnel leaving kids’ disappearances very low in the list. Actually the most usual reaction is to announce the disappearance on billboards and milk bottles and just wait. Miracles still happen and some kids after living their street adventure, survived drugs, alcohol and prostitution and of course the embarrassment of their action they do return to their families and again if their families are not the ones who pushed them away. If you noticed I returned to the role of the family again.

Things like that are not new, they have nothing to do with computers, internet and heavy metal music, the 73 year-old ‘father’ has nothing to do with those stereotypes and to my opinion it has not to do with our overproducing or overconsuming society. It has to do with the state. Usually my first question is what have you done for the country and not what the country has done for you, and often I am the one who talks about the collective responsibility but when it comes to crimes like this one that is unveiled in Austria the one under question is the state and there is no collective responsibility there.

ovi_austria03The modern states are armed, literally armed, nowadays with an international information exchange network, with profilers and psychologists and I used the word 'armed' because if they could and should use the profiles and psychologist more often and better they might had avoided incidents like this one in Austria. If they didn’t put in the closet cases like the one of the girl that disappeared in a religious sect and they had done a further investigation they might had found out what really happened instead of having not only a family but a whole nation traumatized today and who knows how many more. A proof of how powerful a weapon doctors, psychologist and profilers can be is again in this Austrian case, the ones who suspected something wrong and started all this case were the doctors in the hospital where the young daughter of the victim was led.

I know that it is easy saying things after they happened but after the parents called the police for their disappeared daughter why didn’t they get a visit from a specialized psychologist who works for the police? Psychologists don’t make miracles but with the right training they know what to look for and what to expect. The German state has declared war against all religious sects with first of all Scientology and they don’t know if a new member joined one? So when a parent appears with a letter from the sixteen-year-old daughter telling that she hasn’t disappeared but she has joined a sect why the police didn’t do any further investigation? They weren’t looking for bin-Laden after all.

I cannot blame the wife and the family, the abused woman’s siblings and kids, the future looks very dark for all of them and I feel really sorry for them. Imagine how many parties, how many Christmases and birthdays they lived and enjoyed in this house while their sister was constantly tortured and raped just a few meters under their feet. These people will have to deal and live with this and all the guilt that will come. I cannot blame the neighbors and the local society, how could they know? Does anybody know what happening behind his or her neighbor's closed doors?

Apparently, and with all I have read about the case, I have the feeling that his wife was equally imprisoned and abused on a different level but with similar results. The same comes to her siblings and other family members; the man obviously methodically imprisoned everybody to his power games. According to experts who have already examined him the common reaction is that he is a person with strong power issues with strong will that he likes to show and enforce to others and naturally if he failed to do so in his social and work environment he tried to do inside his house, most likely sexually unstable to abuse his eleven-year-old daughter, perhaps the experts should examine the other siblings as well, and highly manipulative. This description constructs a persona a psychologist could trace after an interview with his and his wife and this is why I blame the state.

ovi_austria04_400I’m blaming the state that is unable to prevent things like this and I’m not talking only about the Austrian state but for all the government all around the world. Police and security forces all around the world spend unbelievable amounts of money using terrorism as an excuse. Often the excuse sounds more unbelievable than the possibility, I can understand why bin-Laden would hit a financial center like London but I’m sorry I cannot understand why he would hit the World Trade Center in Helsinki. While security forces arm themselves with gigantic information networks for bin-Laden’s whereabouts they can add something about the missing kids all around the world. After all bin-Laden belongs to a very dark past while the kids are the best hope for the future.

As I said in the majority of the cases of a crime that includes a kid a family or close relative is part of it and experts know, the only thing the states in extent the police have to do is use these experts to find out. I know it might sound wrong but using a film’s title there are some natural born criminals, some people who cannot identify good from evil and there are many explanations for that, shouldn’t the police been equipped to deal with them? And in this case I’m not talking for just a killer, look how many people are or going to be traumatized with this case.

This is not just a crime the Austrian man committed; this is a serial crime against a series of people. Prevent it? As it came and the way the story unveils I think there was too little anybody could do to prevent, perhaps if the mother knew about the signs or had seen them, because there were signs, perhaps she could prevent it. But the police could stop it and it didn’t to take twenty-three years and an accident to find out they just needed one thing and it could happened only with a lot of help from the state, to do their job like they should do.

The reason I wrote all these it was not to add another condemnation to the monster that called himself father, there are already thousands and the next few months will be more, I don’t want either to add any grief to the bitter feelings a whole nation deals with this very moment or show my anger over something I cannot accept as human being but I want to emphasize that what happened in Austria it should all make us worry and do something about it but this time it must not be us but the governments all around the world, it is their obligation and nobody else’s and from now on the governments and the police should carry the guilt if anything like that comes out again.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-02 11:41:27
"Monsters cannot be announced.
One cannot say: 'here are our monsters',
without immediately turning the monsters into pets...
A future that would not be monstrous would not be a future; it would already be a predictable, calculable, and programmable tomorrow. All experience open to the future is prepared or prepares itself to welcome the monstrous. … as soon as one perceives a monster one begins to domesticate it, one begins to compare it to the norms, to analyze it, consequently to master whatever could be frightening in this figure of the monster. And the movement of accustoming oneself, but also of legitimation, and, consequently, of normalization has already begun.” (Derrida)

Emanuel Paparella2008-05-02 11:49:32
The above is an apt quote from Derrida. Of course he was referring to texts as monsters to be “deconstructed” but there are indeed dragons and knights battling dragons and those dragons are not the benign Chinese kind. Indeed, how does one begin to deconstruct the story coming out of Austria or that coming out of the Texas compound? I would suggest that we, and not only the State or the police, desperately need to recapture the significance of the icon of St. George slaying the dragon, or what used to be understood, in a less relativistic society that no longer grasps the concepts of soul and evil, as the struggle of good against evil. The very concept of evil seems to have been expunged from our vocabulary and consequently so has that which the ancient Greeks called "the Good," and yet all one needs to do is read the daily newspapers to know that evil exists and as St. Peter expresses it in one of his early letters to the first Christians it goes around like a roaring lion searching for someone to devour. Socrates too believed in the monstrosity of evil and wickedness which “runs faster than death and is leery of letting go once it has a grip on you.” I am afraid Thanos that it takes more than the State and its police apparatus to slay that kind of monster from which all the other monstrosities derive. Nothing less than a radical change of heart and value-system may do, and to put all one's hopes in the State is like putting the cart before the horse. As Kierkegaard has also well taught us, it needs to begin with the individual conscience who then builds a community of consciences.

Dimitra Karantzeni2008-05-02 13:06:12
I strongly agree with you, Mr Thanos, that governements do nothing to solve this problem and stop these criminals from abusing innocent children, raping their body and soul..For this is not the only example,as we all know, it is a global phenomenon, a plague of modern times.. Although, i can't help thinking of that tragic figure, the poor girl, whose life is worst than every horror film i have ever seen or we could ever imagine.. I wonder whether she will be able to trust anybody again.. If she will be able to beleive in love, to have children, to stand up on her feet and face life, to cope with everyday problems.. It goes without saying that she is in need of medical help and psychological support.. On the other hand.. I really can find the proper words to characterize the father, for i think he is not of course a father.. He is a monster, using the word you have chosen, a murderer, a useless, worthless human being.. Finally, I wonder if there's any judge who could be able to remain objective and unprejudiced while deciding for the penalty of this person..

valerie2008-05-04 10:43:05
the state - of mind - of place - how can we build civilization if social trust is impossible to maintain? I hope this man is an abberation rather than a trend.

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