And so, the trial of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian engineer accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years beneath the family home and fathering her seven children, has begun. The charges pressed against the 73 year-old were: rape, incest, coercion, false imprisonment, murder and enslavement, out of which he pleaded guilty to the first four. Plead guilty, but showed no remorse whatsoever, as you can see in this mugshot of his. Appearing in court, he hid his face behind a blue folder and ignored the questions being posed to him as he was being taken to the courtroom. Those who could see his face behind the folder, however, could see that he was smiling. No, don’t label him a monster yet. You can’t appreciate the story fully without the details.
When Fritzl was 49 and his daughter Elisabeth was 18, he took her captive in a cold, damp cellar in the basement of the house. A prison with no sink, no hot water, and no natural light, low ceilings and just 11 sq m in area, where the only source of air was through cracks in the walls. He made sure the rest of the world, including his wife, thought Elisabeth had run away from home, while he held her captive there and raped her repeatedly. For the first few years he didn’t say a single word to her, and only used her as a toy. Only rape. Solitary confinement coupled with sexual abuse. And then he used to cut off the cell’s electricity for days, leaving Elisabeth in the dark. Over the course of the time, she gave birth to eight children, one of which died three days after birth in the absence of medical care and was disposed off in an incinerator by Fritzl. Three of the children are taken upstairs and raised there by Fritzl. and the rest were brought up in the cellar, which was later expanded slightly. Of course, the rapes didn’t stop. He kept raping Elisabeth in front of the children, and of course, he threatened them with dire consequences if they ever tried to escape. And all this with the outside world totally oblivious, till 18-year-old Kerstin, the cell’s first-born, fell critically ill, forcing Fritzl to take her to the hospital, and the can of worms finally plopped open.
Which brings us to the question: is this man a monster? Most people wouldn’t even call him a man, I know, but hold that thought a little while. Do you think Josef Fritzl is a unique case in history? Isn’t he similar in monstrosity to Adolf Hitler, who brought the Holocaust upon the Jews and massacred 6 million of them? Is he any worse than Pol Pot and members of the Khmer Rouge, whose genocidal regime resulted in around a million deaths in Cambodia? And try comparing him to Islamic fundamentalists who believe all those who address their God with a different name must be killed to achieve salvation. If you ask me, I can compare him to a million people who walk this Earth. Because the truth is, there is a Josef Fritzl in each one of us. It’s just the varying levels.
Today, we can use this man as a whipping post (and he deserves that, every bit of it) and turn a blind eye towards all the turmoil that is going on around us because of similar sinister minds: drug lords, religious fanatics, market cons, and even the monster within each of us. Wake up and look into the mirror, meet that monster eye-to-eye. You know it has showed up on instances before, maybe when you tried your best to jeopardize somebody’s grades, or maybe when you wished someone’s relationship would break, or in other ways wished for something wrong to happen to someone. It is this monster that is the root cause of all the turmoil in the world today: all the murders, all the rapes, all the wars. And if each one of us can master this part of our psyche and keep it buried in a dungeon called ‘compassion and rationale’ in our minds for the rest of our life, we can call ourselves true human beings. Unfortunately, it this compassion and rationale which is increasingly being held hostage by the darker side. Do not let that happen. Be a human. Think. Feel.