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Today the wind has changed direction and smoke from the bushfires is wafting back over town, everything has a reddish hue.

The weather's starting to warm up again.

I don't feel anger towards arsonists at this point. I'm sure I will one day but I think I'm still a bit stunned. At the moment, I'm just plain curious. Who would do such a thing? How do they reach this point? Where do they come from? I hope they don't get murdered because (aside from the fact that two wrongs don't make a right) I think we really need to know who these people are. Unfortunately I doubt the one that's been charged so far will even make it to court.

I already knew about personality disorder and certain types of criminal behaviour. And I'm prepared to say some types are what I would also call 'evil'. Lack of empathy for others, a desire to hurt and kill, a desire for notoreity that overrules normal moral codes, none of which is powered by mental illness, these are types of human evil.

But even knowing that left me unprepared for the people who apparently started fires after Saturday. (And at this point you can rule out people who do not understand consequences, as we already knew the disaster was way beyond normal). I guess I somehow still believed the most cruel person would still be aghast. Or at least satisfied - how many bodies do you need? These are the truly dangerous people of our world.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2009 07:47 am (UTC)
There was a small article in The Herald-Sun earlier this week. Country arsonists are different from city arsonists, as they pass as "normal" more easily - city arsonists tend to be clearly 'futters'. It's not true that firemen are firebugs, that's a myth. I gather arsonists of all stripes exhibit the "MacDonald triad" - bedwetting, setting fires and cruelty to animals - in their youth. There are some international experts that suggest we should keep lists of such young people, so that later, when they start acting out, we know where to look. I gather the correlation is downright spooky though i can't remember the stats. Part of me hates labelling, and another part of me thinks that if I knew a kid with any ONE (possibly excepting the bedwetting which can be physiological) I'd be wanting to get that kid some serious help.

Like you, I am concerned the culprits - or even suspects - might not make it to trial, feeling is running so high. Hubby asked me if I was worried for the arsonist. Not particularly, I just don't want our society to be stained by having a lynching. Soul-taint of that variety doesn't wash out easily, I think. The danger is its so tempting. Vengeance is powerful stuff, that's why we have to guard against it so assiduously.

Far from not knowing the consequences, rural arsonists are looking for exactly those consequences. Its a crime about power and control. And lack of empathy of truly frightening proportions.

I - dimly - get the people who take my stuff so they can have it. I really, seriously, struggle with understanding the Destroyers - people who take my stuff so they can smash it and enjoy my pain therefrom. OTOH... perhaps its best I never do understand that.
Feb. 13th, 2009 08:08 am (UTC)
They would have lifted that stuff from here Scroll down to "The Arsonist's Mind".

Specifically on the Macdonald Triad
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<a href="http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/bfab/">They would have lifted that stuff from here</a> Scroll down to "The Arsonist's Mind".

Specifically on the Macdonald Triad <a href="http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/bfab/bfab036.html"here</a>
It's old research. And it's only the people that get caught that get studied. More recent work finds the bedwetting link is tenuous. I would be inlined to think that the concern with toiletting behaviour reflects the preoccupations of therapists who were still caught up in Freudian bullshit back then (and found what they already thgouth was relevant).

Trouble is a lot of people misread this stuff and start to think it has more predictive power than it really has. The main message, I'd think, is that kids who do nasty things can grow into adults who do nasty things. Quelle surprise!
Feb. 15th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
The predictive power of this stuff is a nightmare to try to work out, especially as arsonists - especially rural arsonists - rarely get caught. I'm with trying though. In some other stuff I've read re "when to worry about my child" there is some chilling stuff about children who are "inappropriately" fascinated by their by-products over the age of 3 or so. It's something to do with developing appropriate inhibitory control and recognising social appropriateness. Which makes sense, of a sort.

And I do wonder about how the FB can tell... given the fire often masks its own start. I sometimes wonder if we need to believe *someone bad* started the fire, because that's slightly less scary than realising we're powerless in the face of nature. If it's deliberately lit that means more people can claim on the insurance, I believe. Unless the phrasing of underwriting has changed a lot in the past 10 or so years.
Feb. 13th, 2009 08:48 am (UTC)
yeh, baleful red sky. I remember this from the big Sydney Christmas fires of a few years ago. I was interested to notice this evening that the shadows had a noticeable blue cast.

I keep thinking I am seeing artificial light rather than sunlight 'cause the colour is wrong.
Feb. 13th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
I noticed the light shining in the window had a strong "sunset pink" shade, about 2 hours before the sun set. It was odd to see pink light at that angle.
Feb. 13th, 2009 09:38 am (UTC)
Its odd - this side of town its been really yellow. Eerie yellow.
And smoky.
Feb. 13th, 2009 09:52 am (UTC)
I've been thinking about arsonists too - I suspect they are people that really don't understand human emotions - perhaps something like Asperger's syndrome. They don't seem to be deterred by punishments and they don't feel remorse. I also wonder whether it might be something like an addiction.

In any case I quite agree that we don't need a lynching and that such a thing is likely. I'm sure that the only reason that the police have risked issuing an identikit picture is that the risk of further arson is still great.
Feb. 13th, 2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
Do you actually know anybody who has Asperger's Syndrome?
Feb. 13th, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Several people, including my father (mildly). I'm not suggesting that arsonists have Asperger's or that people who have Asperger's are likely to be arsonists - I'm just suggesting that arsonists may have an impaired ability to understand the emotions of others like many Asperger's sufferers.
Feb. 27th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
a very late response
There's a slight misconception there, as I see it. Asperger's folks and other autists do understand emotions, they just can't read other people's emotions very well. For instance, they can feel sad and understand that others feel sadness... they just can't figure out when someone is feeling sad or not.

There are, however, sociopaths, people who have no empathy for others. They may know that other people feel emotions, but they just don't care, and they don't tend to feel emotions properly themselves. I suspect these are more likely candidates.

Anyways, whoever did such a thing must either be wrong in the head or have a serious grudge against humanity in general. We get scary wildfires out here in CA, too, but I can't imagine anyone being crazy enough to set one on purpose!
Feb. 13th, 2009 10:45 am (UTC)
We have arson problems here in Spain also. People set fire to the mountains and luckily they are usually in relatively unpopulated areas. As to why...one guy who got caught said it was so he could have a job replanting trees.
*shakes head*

There is no way for me to express the extreme disgust (way too mild a word)I feel about anybody who set the fires in AUS. They can give all sorts of reasons, analysis, profile these so-called humans psychologically to hell and back and nothing, NOTHING, justifies or even explains any of it, really. There is a lot of evil involved as you so well point out.
Feb. 13th, 2009 12:15 pm (UTC)
Some of the terrible fires here were caused by arson too. What amazed me was how it could be so hot and tinder dry for so long there and *not* have a major fire, for any reason. Do you get thunderstorms?

I have memories of acrid air, hazy light, orange and yellow skies, and large areas of smoke creating its own weather system, from last summer. My heart goes out to you.
Feb. 13th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Yes, lightening strikes have been a problem too. In fact, as far as I know most of the fires have *not* been deliberately lit. But I guess when we think there's a human responsible, it takes on a different hue. Someone made a deliberate choice.

And in the conditions that have developed in recent times(ie. the drought that just won't stop), it would be unrealistic not to expect fire, even without arson.

But even so, on one night during the week police and fire crews reported putting out several deliberately lit spot fires - so person or persons unknown really were going all out to do more.

Apparently in some areas the smoke created its own weather system.

Feb. 13th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
For a while we had extensive fires every summer here that threatened homes. They were set by kids. No amount of public pleading could stop it. Like you I am always amazed at the people who set the secondary fires. There were so many at different sites it must have been a lot of people at the same time, so many that it added to my belief that something is making lack of empathy a standard personality trait rather than a trait found in the abnormal.
Feb. 14th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
A book recommendation
A friend of mine has just read this:

Dancing at the River's Edge: A Patient and Her Doctor Negotiate Life with Chronic Illness by Alida Brill, Michael D. Lockshin

Her words about the book:
‘Visiting and inhabiting the world of chronic illness are two very different things.’

This book has a particular resonance for me: my autoimmune disease is causing eye related problems and I am currently legally blind in my left eye. From 6/6 to 6/60 in three months is a big jump. And so, I have a particular interest in chronic illness especially those with an autoimmune component.

I read this book during a day, have dipped into and out of it since and will continue to do so. I am simultaneously enlightened, inspired and saddened.
We are all touched by chronic illness, each in our different ways. Some of us feel it, some of us observe it, some of us care for people fighting with or suffering from it, many of us know or work alongside sufferers, while others try to provide answers.
And sometimes, one person can fill a number of these roles.
Chronic illness is an umbrella label for a number of different diseases and disorders that turn our individual bodies and minds into enemies rather than friends. Sometimes, the signs are obvious but often they are not. Chronic illness is often compartmentalized into neat medical chunks which may make treatment ‘easier’ for medical practitioners but often does little for patients who see themselves as progressively depersonalised through this segmentation.
I applaud Ms Brill and Dr Lockshin for sharing their experiences with readers. Medicine cannot provide all of the answers and may not, yet, have identified all of the questions. Doctors and patients dance an intricate pavane but often with differing steps because of different senses of time. I think the hardest thing about chronic illness is knowing, and then accepting, that containment rather than the cure is the most likely positive outcome at the individual level in real time.
In bringing their shared experiences and unique perspectives together in this book, Ms Brill and Dr Lockshin invite us to read, absorb and reflect. I thank them for taking the risk of inviting strangers into their thoughts and experiences.
This book does not contain easy answers but it does enable you to see some of the milestones on the journey and, perhaps, to read time better than I can. I would recommend this book unreservedly to those of us living with chronic illness, and for all of those involved in caring for or about people. I think that includes most of us.
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