By this time I'm sure you've heard the story, as it's all over American news (as opposed to BBC, which is where I try to get most of my world news since they have a more balanced world view).
A man, if you can call him that, in Austria was recently caught after holding his own daughter hostage for 20 years in his basement. The psychological and physical horrors that woman endured at the hands of her own father are nearly beyond comprehension: living in a dark, underground box with the SIX children resulting from rape that began when she was 12, told the cell was rigged to gas her to death if she made noise, knowing her mother was above her head and either didn't know or wouldn't do anything to save her. And the kicker: this disgusting excuse for a person's lawyers have said he will be seeking an INSANITY DEFENSE.
Our current society has become so ridiculously politically correct that people actually want to believe mental illness can cause someone to do such heinous acts. What the hell happened to EVIL? I'm not a particularly religious person, and I don't consider myself to be a Christian for a multitude of reasons. However, I do seem to have enough common sense to see that a person who commits acts of evil cannot claim they were insane when they clearly demonstrated they knew it was wrong. Take "wrong" as religiously or morally or even just majority-ruled, and the man obviously still knew what he was doing was disgusting and reprehensible. Yet the ridiculous court system will allow him to try to prove he wasn't sane, and potentially he could get off. Explain that one to me. Mental illness, TRUE mental illness or insanity, is NOT THE SAME as evil for evil's sake.
Boiled down to the basic components, evil is the selfish disregard for anyone else around you in favor of your own immediate satisfaction. Ultimate selfishness. Empathy, sympathy, a general ability to see anyone else is missing. You want to blame that on childhood? Fine. But having a shitty childhood doens't give you the right to be an evil human being as an adult.
How is it that this can even be brought up as a defense? How can "I was beaten as a kid" be an excuse for violent behavior? Um, sorry: what percent of the population grew up with beatings, beltings, whippings, spankings, etc and turned out not only fine, but have gone on to NOT do it to their own children (much less attacking the general public)? How many rape victims have fought through their experiences to be able to lead a normal life afterward? How many WAR VETERANS, the people who see the worst atrocities, have been able to lead a life when the war is over without attacking their neighbors?
I'm a pretty firm believer that the capacity for good and evil is in us all, and it's a person's CHOICE to become either. Unfortunately, evil is easy. Evil is often the shortest path with the least resistance to your desire, because nothing and no one else matters.
Maybe instead of putting all moral responsibility in Church and the government oversight committees and the media, people should take responsiblity for their own morals. Maybe along with taking responsibility we can create a justice system that doesn't allow such bullshit as "I'm a serial killer/child molester/rapist/etc so obviously I'm crazy" stand as acceptable, because there shouldn't be any excuse for it.
Is there rehabilitation for the truly evil? I don't know. Maybe. I like to think, regardless of my cynicism about the world, that people can change if they have enough motivation. I hope so.