Identity and Violence: Feeling Unreal, Being Nobody

Thoughts on identity and violence, from Jane Haddam’s Cheating at Solitaire (2008), a Gregor Demarkian crime novel:

“Of course, most crime wasn’t committed by serial killers. Most crime was committed by ordinary people in the day to day, and most of the murders made absolutely no sense at all. … Real violence was … just out there, out in the middle of nowhere, with no rhyme or reason, committed in an instant, finished in an instant. People’s lives changed overnight.

“Often it turned out that the impetus was the same as the impetus for those serial killers who did not hear voices in their heads: the gaping nothingness of being nobody in particular, of trying to exist in the world with nothing and nobody to validate you. Gregor wondered if almost all crime might be like this, or at least if almost all violence might be. Maybe there was really only one motive, and that was the need to compensate for a deep and abiding sense of failure, a failture that went all the way down. He wondered how many people there were like that out there, and what they might appear to be on the surface.”

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“Gregor thought he had met a lot of people who didn’t know if they were really real, and that those people had included all the serial killers whose cases he had ever been involved with. …. It was not a matter of belief in God or lack of belief in God, or of belief in an afterlife and the supernatural or the lack of it. Gregor had known murderers who were believers and murderers who were not believers. He had known saints who were believers and saints who were not believers. It was not so simple as the sort of philosophy people had come to accept as some sort of conscious act of the will. Most people felt real, and some people just did not. Serial killers did not think they were the only real people in the world. They didn’t think they were real at all.”

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One thought on “Identity and Violence: Feeling Unreal, Being Nobody

  1. This rings true for me. The times I feel most desperate and therefore most prone to rage…to have a purpose , to survive, to assert myself, to announce “here I am”, is when I feel empty and unreal.

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