Born Monster or Insane?

It is an age-old question, one that has occupied our minds since the beginning of time: 

What makes us tick?

For a very long time now, I too have been wondering about this.  What makes people do or say the things they do?  What makes us handle situations different?  What makes one person look at a situation, learn from it and let it go, while another brood over it for years to come, allowing it to fester and grow a black cancerous hole in their soul?

Before I carry on, I do not mean to step on any toes.  I do not say that these things are only done by men, and I am well aware that women are also in the wrong.  Men, however, are more prone to violent crimes and have thus become the target of my study.  Apologies to any male reader offended by this post.

In searching for this answer I have, sort of, turned the people I encounter into “test subjects”, looking for inconsistencies, looking at reactions, expressions and words.  I find it fascinating how two people can react so very differently when presented with the same situation.

“We are all born into genius” says Robin Sharma.  We are all born with a clean conscious, a mind to be filled, a personality to be shaped.  Where does it go wrong?

(Disclaimer: The following are all still on trial, thus the actions are “alleged”)

In the small town of Bredasdorp, Anene Booysen goes out for an evening of fun with her friends.  The next morning she is found raped and brutalized, left for dead at the side of the road.  Despite all efforts to save her, she dies in hospital, but not before identifying one of her attackers. It was done by young men known to her and her family.  How do you dismember a girl you know, rape her and beat her senseless?  Was it drugs, alcohol, insanity?

A 16 year old boy shows up at the police station, panic stricken.  He had just escaped a horrible attack on his family: his mother, father and sister murdered.  Forensics shows that the sister had been raped too.  Forensics also indicates that he did it.  How do you kill your parents, rape and twice shoot your sister?  Was it for the R23 million inheritance or insanity?     

A hero to millions around the globe, Paralympian, Olympian, Oscar Pistorius fatally shoots his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day.  The world recoils in shock; surely it must be true that he mistook her for a burglar!  But as the bail hearing proceeds, seedy details about his past emerge, the picture and the story just does not add up.  Was it jealous rage; was it insecurity stemming from his disability or insanity?

The Boston Marathon ends in a manhunt, bombers have targeted the race.  Again America is under siege.  Days later two brothers are identified.  Their families are devastated, “they must have been framed” they say.  The wife of the older brother says she never had any idea that he was involved with extremists.  The younger brother is described as a gentle “walking angel” by all who knew him.  How does one person influence another that much?  How does one person turn from an angel to a murderer?  Insanity?

Johan Kotze sees his ex-wife with another man and looses the plot completely.  He arranges for 3 men to rape her, he tortures her for hours, turn screws into her breasts before cutting them off, murders her son, because he loved her and can’t stand the thought of losing her to another man.  He loves her!?!?  It makes me sick!  Is it psychosis, jealous rage or insanity?

Some more stories from people I spoke to:

A girl is forced to eat an entire pot of green beans (and nothing else), simply because she did not cut the pieces small enough.  It may seem a small thing to you, but the abuse that went with it will stay with her forever.  A lesson in cooking or insanity?

A man goes into a rage because his wife forgot to buy something, smashes the house and beats her senseless.  The next morning he wakes up in utter shock: what happened here? He cries like a baby, stunned in disbelief: he would never have done that?  An excuse or insanity?

A paedophile befriends children or families with children, he is the friendly uncle next door who always has a kind word and sweeties in his pocket.  Behind curtains he drools over child porn, waiting for the right moment to make his move, lure them into his trap and destroy their future.  A treatable disease or insanity?

A man goes out to find a girl then rapes her.

An alcoholic or drug addict goes on a binge and spends his entire month’s earnings over a weekend.  He goes home and mentally, physically and emotionally abuses his wife and children.  The next morning he laughs it off, saying that they should know by now that he never means of the things he says or does when he is drunk.  A chemical imbalance created by substance or insanity?

You will not have to search very far to find more stories like this.  This I can guarantee you!

I have always wished that I can sit down with a serial murderer or rapist and have a good heart to heart over a cup of tea and some biscuits, maybe ad some truth serum in there.  No nonsense, no lies, no mind games – just the truth.  To truly understand another person’s mind, what an accomplishment that will be.

Seeing that I am not able to do that, I settled for reading Insanity – My Mad Life by Mickey Peterson aka Charles Bronson.  Fair advance warning:  this book is not suitable if you are under 18, squeamish, faint hearted or anything like that.  I enjoy a good horror movie and I love reading. In all honesty I can tell you that I have never struggled this much to finish a book.  It is so filled with anger, hate and violence that it leaves you sick to the core.  This is after all a biography by the most feared and notorious convict in the prison system.

Bronson describes himself as the King of Roofs (he made it to the roof of prisons 8 times during incarceration, causing £1,5 million in damages), Master of Sieges (during several sieges on the inside he took 11 hostages), Supreme Lord of Cuttings and Stabbings, Stylist of attempted Murder and Governor of Isolation (at the time of going of print, he had spent 24 of his 30 years inside in solitary confinement).

I pushed through and finished the book, simply because I hoped that it would give me the answer.  What made him do all these things?

At one point he, and all the others mentioned, were someone’s beautiful baby, a child with dreams, a teenager in love.  Where did it go wrong?

I am in two minds about this issue.

1. Can someone really be born bad? 

Is it possible for a chemical imbalance or misplaced gene to take away your ability to distinguish between right and wrong?  If this is the case it can be remedied with medication.  Or can it?  Is that not merely a temporary delay of the insanity that drives them mad in the end, as Bronson puts it?  Can psychological disorders be picked up by DNA scanning after birth and corrected with treatment?  Can it ever truly be corrected or is the inevitable simply delayed?  When questioning a person about a crime or anything, for that matter, how do we really know the truth unless we saw it with our own eyes?  Even then, how I perceive something and you perceive it will hardly ever be the same.  Our views and opinions are formed by past experiences.  The very convenient “I can’t remember that, therefore it could not have happened” or “he suffers for psychosis and therefore cannot be held accountable” – it is all just a very convenient excuse to me.

2. Is it simply a choice? 

No one is perfect.  We all have had our share of misfortune, some more than others.  I, for one, have had a pretty rough deal.  Does that give me the right to think the world owes me?  Does that give me the right to go about my life like a lioness caught in a bear trap?  NO!!!  I made a choice to learn from it, to grow, to be a better person.  I made the choice to forgive and not carry the hate with me.  If you do, it will consume you and slowly eat away at your existence until you snap.  Forget?  No, I will never forget, but I choose to think about the good and not be reminded of the bad.  What would happen if psychological treatment for traumatic events and life coaching were more readily available?  What would happen if we raised men with true emotion, rather than men with ego?

Bronson makes a compelling case for the idea of insanity and how the insane are created by the penal system.  This will be covered in another post.

Why is it happening more often?  Or have we just been blind?

What are the signs?

What do we look for?

What can be done?

What is the cause?

What makes these people lose the ability to stop a second before the act an ask themselves: what am I doing?

We live in a society where violence is at the order of the day.  Maybe it’s in the water!

I simply don’t understand it.

The search must continue.

Hero or Zero – judged by all.

It is with bated breath that South Africa and the world is watching the Oscar Pistorius case unfold. If you have ever wondered about the real power of social media, this will surely enough prove it.

Never before have I seen twitter this active. It also goes to show the wonderful reporting capabilities of our journalists. In this regard I must refer especially to Barry Bateman. His up-to-the-second courtroom reporting of the case has been of an exceptional quality!

Why is it that this case is drawing so much attention when we have had much worse cases in SA? Is it because Oscar is the Golden Boy of SA who crept into our hearts during the Olympics, overcoming the most horrendous of odds? Is it because we are so shell-shocked by this, what appears to be, brutal slaying of a beautiful woman in the wake of Anene Booysens murder? Is it because our children watch the news in horror and tearfully say “He is supposed to be one of the good guys”? Is it because we, as a country, so desperately need a good clean hero to look up to? Someone who can show us that no matter what the odds are, you can make a success of your life.

Honestly, I don’t know. I just know that I hope against all hope that it was indeed a horrible mistake, a tragedy. Which one of us can in all honesty say that they have never done or said something in a fit of rage, which was later regretted? I know I can’t!

Fact of the matter is that we will only ever have Oscar’s version of the nights events. If that will be the true and correct version, only he will know.

Speculation is rife and we have seen the many faces of Oscar painted all over the media, faces good and bad. His accomplishments and his arrogance have been displayed in so many different ways. Amongst all the news and speculation, of a few things I am certain:

1. I am very grateful I am not Magistrate Nair. What a huge responsibility rests on that man’s shoulders!? Remind me again why we don’t work on a jury system in SA? Why does the responsibility of such a grave decision rest on the shoulders of one man. He is, after all, only a man who can err, as any one of us.

2. If ever, and I mean ever, I am in trouble I will want anyone of Nel, Roux or Oldewage on my side! Every one of them have the ability to make you believe the case they are making. This is definitely going to turn into a legal battle of note!

3. Thirdly, and most important of all, two families have been changed for the rest of their lives. They will never be the same again. Reeva’s family and friends are grieving the loss of a child, a sister, a cousin, a confidant. The world has lost a good soul and heaven have gained an angel. Oscar’s family and friends are grieving for their son, brother and friend. Guilty or not, he will never be the same again. Can you imagine what he must be feeling? Thinking? The guilt and shame. The emotional toll on him will be a tremendous one. If guilty, I can hear you say, he deserves what he’s got coming. If not guilty, he will carry the hurt with him forever. I don’t wish that on anyone.

Tonight, and for the foreseeable future, each party involved is this case will be in my prayers.

I will reserve judgment in this and allow justice to take it’s course. Until then I will cry for Reeva and I will cry for Oscar.

May God be with them all.
Sent via my BlackBerry from Vodacom – let your email find you!

Oscar & Reeva – a crying shame!

It was with utter shock and disbelief that we heard the news of Oscar Pistorius fatally wounding his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of this morning.

Even more shocking, however, are all the tasteless, disgusting jokes doing the rounds! I can’t believe that we live in society so sick that it is OK for people to believe that they have the right to joke about something as serious as this. Actually, if you look at the state of our nation, I should not be sickened by this. I’ve mentioned before, and still feel very strongly, about the fact that it is time that each and every person in this country does a lot of soul-searching. Fixing this sick society starts with each and every one of us. Only if every one of us focuses on fixing yourself, we will start to see a difference.

Sure there are two sides to the coin, as we see it at the moment:

1. It was an accident, as reported. In which case it just bring me back to the sorry state of our country. We live in a country we fear is so embedded in us that we take the law into our own hands and feel that we have to kill to protect ourselves. If this was not the case, you would not have had people sleeping with loaded guns next to their beds.

2. It was not accident and there is a lot more to the story. In which case it just proves that we all have skeletons in the closet and no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

We will have to wait and see what happens as the police investigation proceeds.

Bottom line is this, a family lost their daughter. A human life is lost. A life has been ruined.

None of us know the facts of the situation and none of us have the right to comment or joke about this.

It is a crying shame!

Look Ma, no hands!

Watching the Olympics a couple of weeks ago were inspirational enough. It was such an amazing showcase of what we are capable of as humans. Seeing Chad le Clos and Michael Phelps in the pool and Husain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius on the track really got me thinking about what I do with my body. It actually got me to the point of dusting of my running shoes, however, I never did get round to actually putting them on and doing something about it.

Isn’t that just exactly the way it goes with inspirational books, movies, quotes, etc. We read them and go out guns blazing: today I’m becoming the person I can be, today I’m changing my life, my circumstance will no longer hold me back. It goes well for a week, maybe two. Sadly though, we fall back into a dark hole of self pity, “life owes me”. You know where I’m going right? Come on, be honest, we’ve all been there.

Watching the Paralympics have been a completely different experience all together! I’ve cried countless times for the guts and determination shown by each and every athlete competing there. The cherry on top was the 50m Men’s Backstroke last night. If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself and a favor and go to To see what these guys accomplish have me speechless. Junquan He is my new hero. Even though he only got silver, his performance was a stellar one! He will outswim me on any given day!

And again, like so many times before, I woke this morning with an undeniable sense of there is more to life.

I have a brilliant mind, I am healthy, I am able! What am I doing with my life? How am I using my God-given talents? Why am I denying my own ambition? I have all of the resource at my disposal to make something of the precious life given to me. I have the power to be the best I can be!

God knows, if Junquan He can do a 50m Backstroke with no arms, I certainly can do more than just this mere existence!