Fritzl and Blair
Of course it added to the horror of what Josef Fritzl did to his daughter and the children he fathered on her that he frolicked with his friends on beach holidays abroad and was filmed laughing and playing to the camera while his victims languished underground waiting for their gaoler’s return. But I am put in mind of Raskolnikov’s article in Crime and Punishment that certain people – a Napoleon, say – can get away with mass murder while ordinary people can’t. Raskolnikov absurdly deduces that there are two kinds of men, not as a matter of law but in nature: the supermen who can “step over” the rules that bind humanity, and the rest of us crawling vermin who can’t. Along with millions of my fellow citizens and many more people abroad, I’m morally appalled at the idea that after being complicit in the mass murder of thousands of Iraqis Tony Blair can dance off into a life of wealth and respect and continuing self-congratulation. It seems monstrous that a man with so much blood and suffering on his hands can ever again smile that shark-like smile of the conqueror – so reminiscent of Fritzl’s smile, as he waves a chop at the camera in the famous film of him on the beach. I’m not a Catholic, but I believe that if Blair himself were a man of true religious feeling he would be in a monastery now and for the rest of his life, praying for forgiveness, or that he would be working for charities to redeem himself by bringing benefit to his fellow man.
And yet people with a normal sense of empathy and of responsibility for the possibly disastrous consequences of their actions would probably not make good leaders either. They would probably be too easily frozen by terror at the risks they must take with other people’s lives ever to act effectively. No doubt if we were in government most of us would show the moral cowardice that left Europe and the West wringing its hands on the sidelines during the long agony of the Bosnian War and that has paralysed us again in face of the atrocities in Gaza.