Day 1 – The Heart of Darkness – Brighton to Sompting

Brighton (didn’t) Rock

We trail through Brighton keeping to the
rather tatty sea-shore. I don’t much like touristy seaside resorts in the
sunshine but in the grey mizzle that passes for an English summer, the sea
road out of Brighton is not a pretty picture. Our walk is punctuated by
cheap eateries and second hand car lots. The harsh cries of the shrieking
sea gulls fill me with gloom. After a mile of identical swimming huts we
pass the unremarkable appartment that used to be the home of music hall
diva, Vesta Tilley. I wonder if she rests easy in her grave? She seduced so
many fresh faced innocents to their death in WW1, with the brilliant
recruiting song; “We don’t want to lose you, but we think you ought to go”,
Vesta would stand on stage flanked by recruiting sergeants and as the young
men filed up she would give them a kiss as they signed their lives away..

I suppose she would say she was only doing her duty, and so she was…. but
yet it was a desperately sad business..

You may recall the terrible event of little over a year ago when, without warning, 15-year old William Cornick murdered his teacher in a Leeds school. Afterwards, Cornick claimed that everything was “fine and dandy” and that he was “proud” of what he had done.

The boy’s background looks spotless. He was a gifted student who had achieved five GCSEs a year early, and prior to the murder seemed “amicable” and “enthusiastic”. Social workers described his parents as “entirely responsible and caring people” and his family life was marked with “love and respect.” We are told that none of the usual characteristics – such as manipulative behaviour, dishonesty, cruelty, or impulsive risk-taking – were apparent at an early age to indicate that here was a psychopath in the making. Cornick was reported to be “a delightful pupil” with 100 per cent school attendance, and “polite, cooperative and helpful.”

Searching for Reasons
I read that research psychologist Professor Kevin Dutton reckons that 15-year old Cornick “defies diagnosis”. Mr Dutton concludes that the “malevolent fog” that descended on Cornick’s brain may eventually condense into a “full-blown personality disorder”. So, in other words the murder may not be Cornick’s fault, and is instead the fault of a malevolent fog and perhaps a personality disorder.

I think Mr Dutton is probably plain wrong. In our atheistic society, the professionals always seem to conclude that when someone has done something terrible, “society” must somehow establish the reason precisely why it ever happened; then we must stick labels all over it to prevent the same thing ever happening again. We are left with the impression that whatever the crime, had there been superior housing, improved teaching, better care and more social workers, then society could have prevented it.

In Thomas Harris’s book The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lector challenges Officer Starling who is trying to psychoanalyse him thus:

“Nothing happened to me… I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviourism… nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

I know of a number of cases where young people with ostensibly enviable backgrounds have done terrible things; and other cases where people with apparently ghastly backgrounds are living lives of great virtue. Does extreme youth matter here, for we are pretty much cast as people by the time we are five?

Perhaps one day we may face the reality that we will never know what twisted the black hearts of the likes of Pol Pot, Saddam, Hitler, Stalin and probably young William Cornick – and that innate evil is not a medieval concept, but still exists.

We were joined by a delightful ZANE supporter, John Haskey, and we put
much of the world to rights as we walked. We are getting into the swing of
the old routines again, Moses behaved well enough at least when compared to
dear late Dinah whose parting gift to us we find was to have eaten the
chuggles from our drinking octopus rendering them more or less useless!

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