Why are there so many total nutcases infesting our world? How can there be so many terrorists, so many mass murderers, so many loonies gluing themselves to stuff to “protest” fossil fuels, or “cisgender heteronormativity,” or whatever? Omitting the ones driven by Islam, that is.
A short while ago, it occurred to me that a classic science-fiction novel has a possible explanation for us:
One of his men told me dryly: “It’s a matter of population, Courtenay. Have you ever heard of Albert Fish?”
“He was a phenomenon of the dawn; the earliest days of the Age of Reason—1920 or thereabouts. Albert Fish stuck needles into himself, burned himself with alcohol-saturated wads of cotton, flogged himself—he liked it. He would have liked brainburning, I’ll wager. It would have been twenty delightful subjective years of being flayed, suffocated, choked, and nauseated. It would have been Albert Fish’s dream come true.
“There was only one Albert Fish in his day. Pressures and strains of a very high order are required to produce an Albert Fish. It would be unreasonable to expect more than one to be produced out of the small and scattered population of the period—less than three billion. With our vastly larger current population there are many Albert Fishes wandering around. You only have to find them. Our matchless research facilities here at Taunton have unearthed several. They turn up at hospitals, sometimes in very grotesque shape. They are eager would-be killers; they want the delights of punishment. A man like you says we can’t hire killers because they’d be afraid of being punished. But Mr. Taunton, now, says we can hire a killer if we find one who likes being punished. And the best part of it all is, the ones who like to get hurt are the ones who just love hurting others. Hurting, for instance—you.”
In case you’re wondering, Albert Fish was a real person, one of the first well-documented sadomasochists. He really did torture himself…and others.
In the above-cited novel, the villain (Taunton) wanted a willing killer / torturer who actually sought to be tortured himself. Today’s villains want willing killers, destroyers, and disruptors of all kinds who seek personal validation through their “causes,” no matter the cost to themselves. There are enough humans alive today that the subgroup of thoroughly evil and / or seriously mentally ill persons who fit that description – and there are a minuscule percentage of them in any population – is sufficient for the villains to recruit what they need.
Why, yes: I do think about such things over my morning coffee. Don’t you?