Amanda Lewis has written a hagiography of the novelist Haruki Murakami, and apparently believes he deserves the Nobel prize. Let’s overlook that the prize is historically a badge of ephemerality, of middle-brow worthiness, of mediocrity.

Lewis believes Haruki Murakami became a more important writer when he got a message to convey. She helpfully summarises his message: individuals are more important than groups, individual perception is more important than historical truth or fact, violence is caused by depersonalisation of individuals. Well, that’s handy. Now we have the message, we don’t need to read the books.

One point of Haruki Murakami’s that Lewis emphasises near the end of her essay is that fact is near-worthless next to hearsay. It is somehow more “true”. Well, of course we are familiar with the idea that a poetic truth has more value, or is more profound than a mundane fact of reality. But it’s not necessarily true. Things that we call profound SEEM important; their actual importance is another thing.

For example, in Murakami’s “After the quake” he says (says Lewis) that the only person emotionally affected by news of a distant earthquake is a four-year-old girl, who has “hysterical fits” after watching news reports, because she has not yet learned the apathy of adults. Wow, what a deep truth about the innocence of childhood and moral degradation of adulthood. Except that a girl who had such fits would be extremely unusual, as four-year-olds feel very little empathy except for people who are close to them. The author’s great “truth” is a cheap poetic device conceived by someone who doesn’t know much about how people’s minds really work. The fact that he is “socially conscious” does not vindicate him. His “truth” is vacuous and inane.

At the end of the essay, Lewis relates some anecdotes about encountering the “Japanese mind”, but is unable to relate this to Haruki Murakami’s thesis in the obvious way: he has developed concern for the value of overlooked individual experience, contrasted with his previous self-professed contempt for the “masses”. But Lewis’s anecdotes show that most people don’t want to be individuals as much as they want to be like everyone else.

Instead of delivering a message, Murakami should be asking questions: What is the value of the individuality of a person who despises this quality in themselves? Of what value is that person, compared with a person who does not think their opinions and beliefs have universal qualities? And is “individuals have value” enough of a take-home message to entitle the novelist to a prize?
 

I just watched Shadow Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a press conference reiterating at length his simple anti-refugee policy (in case you hadn’t heard, it’s “Stop the boats”. I’m not sure if there should be an exclamation point there). It’s interesting to note that whereas the Liberal Party’s policy used to be a straight appeal to xenophobia (the fear and hatred of foreigners), Abbott now wants to have it both ways: the policy still prevents Australia being invaded by foreigners (AKA potential new Australians), but it is also a humanitarian policy to prevent the “terrible, tragic” deaths of these evil invading foreigners. There’s little doubt that this new angle is simply a ploy to entice humanitarian-minded voters who don’t analyse things beyond their immediate emotions.

Without a doubt, the Labor Party’s revision of previous refugee policy led to increased problems in various areas. While they had good intentions, they didn’t take into account just how complicated the situation is, and how one policy change can have a domino effect of unintended consequences. Once they realised this, they did their best to revert to previous methods, but since this time their early policy has been used as a stick to beat them by both refugee advocates and the Liberal Party. But still it’s hard to believe that towing refugee boats back into international waters is a workable solution; certainly, it hardly lines up with the Liberals’ recent humanitarian pose, to refuse permission to dock to dangerously unstable, leaking boats loaded with women and children.

How much of a danger do unstopped boats represent? For a population of over 20 million, a few thousand extra immigrants does not realistically present a serious problem. Indeed, what is being treated in Australia as an exceptional problem is for countries with land borders (i.e. most countries) just part of the cost of doing business. They expect illegal immigration flow, and have internal services to trace and control such people. How do Australia’s operations in this area compare with other countries? Have we all this time been relying on the sea to do all the work for us?

The issue of conditions in refugee detention camps is similarly an area of confusion and hypocrisy. The same institutions are accused by the Liberal Party of mollycoddling lawbreakers, and by refugee advocates of abuses of human rights. The issue of young people in these places is controversial, but critics seem unwilling to understand the problem in detail.

First, there is the notion that keeping people in detention is inhumane, especially if they are young. This doesn’t bear examination: teenagers generally spend most of their time confined either in school or at home, and this is regarded as normal, nonabusive, non-trauma-inducing. There is no reason that a refugee teenager should be regarded as especially psychologically vulnerable in this situation – indeed, considering these people are supposedly escaping war and deadly persecution, you’d expect they’d just be glad of a bit of peace.

Second, there is the matter of self-harm. Given the above argument that detention should not in itself be considered a cause of gross psychological trauma, what credence should be given to regular reports of self harm? All else being equal, I think we must assume that a lot of people have been advised, either by fellow-refugees or by refugee advocates, that these dramatic gestures are a good way of “gaming” the system – getting special treatment and privileges, even release into the community.

But all else may NOT be equal. One matter that gets little attention is the consequence of keeping a lot of teenage boys and young men confined together (supposedly for the safety of women and young children – does this mean that when infant boys reach a certain age they are removed from their mothers and put into the men’s section?). Those who are aware of how things work in prisons, schools and deprived neighbourhoods, know that unless these situations are strongly regulated a culture of violence and bullying can dominate. And considering these people come from societies with much more old-fashioned entrenched notions of masculine dominance, this is an imminent problem.

In this case, what is needed to prevent psychological problems in vulnerable people is MORE regulation of their lives – closer monitoring and stricter discipline against bullying and gang activities. This might make the more violent inmates feel psychologically repressed and unhappy, but, you know, fuck ’em.
Anyway, I am surprised that this aspect of life in detention has not been reported on.

While reading an article called The Science of Loneliness, I found this interesting passage:

Functional magnetic resonance imaging scans showed that the experience of being snubbed lit up a part of the subjects’ brains (the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) that also lights up when the body feels physical pain.

I asked Eisenberger why, if the same part of our brain processes social insult and bodily injury, we don’t confuse the two. She explained that physical harm simultaneously lights up another neural region as well, one whose job is to locate the ache—on an arm or leg, inside the body, and so on. What the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex registers is the emotional fact that pain is distressing, be it social or physical. She calls this the “affective component” of pain. In operations performed to relieve chronic pain, doctors have lesioned, or disabled, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. After the surgery, the patients report that they can still sense where the trouble comes from, but, they add, it just doesn’t bother them anymore.

What this means is that emotional pain isn’t a metaphorical, “all in your head” thing. It is literal pain, the difference from physical pain being that it is not located at a specific site in the body. From this we can see why people use alcohol and opiates to cope with emotional distress – they function as literal and functional anaesthetics. Which puts the matter of “substance abuse” in a different perspective. You don’t tell someone with a broken leg that their need for painkillers is a character flaw, do you?

(I must advise those tempted to self-medicate for anxiety that taking large amounts of paracetamol will cause liver damage.)

This linked article collects short pieces on the reconciliation of religion and atheism:
After God: What can atheists learn from believers?

The title is a bit of misdirection, as it’s not suggested that atheists can learn anything useful from what believers in religion may tell them. Rather, the main subject is ways in which the lives of the godless can be improved by elements of religion.

The backlash against the blinkered aspects of the “New Atheists” has in fact been quite blinkered in itself – yes, the NAs may not know every nook and cranny of the theology they are arguing against, and the history of the USSR shows that a (supposedly) godless nation may perpetrate all the horrors of the religious state and then some, but underlying the backlash argument is the thought that, because the NAs deny the existence of God and the spiritual, they are obviously wrong, and any specific citings of St. Augustine are more for the sake of form than necessity of argument.

In terms of cognitive development, both groups are stuck at certain points analogous to those which children pass through. The religious are at the stage of believing that morality comes from authority (i.e. murder is wrong because God forbids it/it’s against the law), of wishful thinking (willpower and prayer can affect the world), and magical thinking (events occur due to will of supernatural entities, morally-determined providence or karma; non-sentient things have moral qualities).

The atheists are at a later step, where they understand the distinction between the world and the self: the world is distinct from the individual’s mind and body and so cannot be moved by will alone; events in the world are not necessarily directed at them personally by benevolent or malevolent powers; the moral status of a thing or event derives from the judgement of the observer, not the thing itself. From this stage naturally arises disbelief in divine will, souls, magic, ghosts, and moral absolutism (not the same as rejecting morality, but rather understanding that other views may exist).

When it comes to intellectual and moral development, we always imagine that we have reached the final stage. The atheists are a step beyond the believers, but there is another step to take: There is no use in knowing the world if you do not know yourself.

It is a fallacy to attribute religion to religious institutions. Obviously the belief came first. Also, I think that if atheists are honest they will admit to the weaknesses of which they accuse the believers. I’ve observed in myself, precisely due to my desire to be a strict atheist, all sorts of thoughts which are supposed to derive externally from religion or superstition. Have you ever willed a car to start or a computer to work faster? Have you ever prayed to get to a destination on time? Do you believe deep down that certain moral standards are indivisible? Have you ever felt that a dead person was somehow still present?

We all think like this, even Richard Dawkins. From this, I think we must conclude that our minds are mystically inclined, even if the world in which we live is not. This is something that Carl Jung recognised and explored (though I think deep understanding of the situation will have to wait for radical advances in neuroscience). Jung suggested in The Undiscovered Self that being denied overt religious experience would cause mental collapse, but I think the mind is more adaptable: if the idea of God is consciously rejected, something else will inevitably fill that mental slot, be it Communism, nation, family, sports, or even the idea of “nothing” itself (to paraphrase The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, some people go to church, some keep birds, and some join the Communist Party). In a similar way, monotheistic religions inevitably develop a crypto-pantheon of prophets, saints or similar venerated figures, because this fulfills an inherent psychological need.

Several secular religious forms have already been observed: performances of Beethoven’s 9th symphony have long been regarded, not always consciously, as a kind of eucharist, if not a downright ecstatic mass ritual. English literary culture rests on both the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare (I recently watched a documentary in which an actor talked about audiences speaking Hamlet’s soliloquy along with him, which certainly has something of the church about it, and elsewhere the extended analysis of the play texts was nothing less than hermeneutics). In the U.S.A., the national Constitution is revered on a par with the Ten Commandments. In Russia, the great novelists are regarded as something like national prophets. Experiences like childbirth and mountain-climbing have been called “spiritual” by people who’ve never given thought to the condition of their souls. None of these have been accorded the overt recognition given to the institutions of religion.

(Should these be called secular religions or secular cults? Technically, because they are smaller, more personal and less externally dogmatic, they are cults, whereas totalitarian creeds like Communism and Fascism were religions.)

Can we consciously establish broad-based secular religions, as Daniel Dennett and Alain de Botton have suggested? There are some tricky obstacles to overcome, the trickiest of which is: How can you believe in something which you simultaneously don’t believe? But then, there are plenty of paradoxes in the orthodox religions. They are called “Mysteries“.

First, we must acknowledge what is in our minds, perhaps by a catechism – “I have no soul, and yet my soul is everything. The world has no meaning, and yet is utterly beautiful and profound. Ritual is mere action, and yet it connects me to people, places, and myself. There is no “Good” nor “Evil”, and yet kindness is the greatest virtue, and cruelty the foulest sin. Death is the end, but I feel everything somehow eternally remains. I am an animal – and yet I love, and my mind encompasses the universe.” That’s just an improvised suggestion.

Texts of faith: there is something unsatisfying about religious texts created to be such by an individual. Apart from the problem of personal idiosyncracy being transformed by authority into unanswerable dogma, the work of one person rarely has the richness and sheer size that make older religious canons seem so profound. Whatever the new Bible might turn out to be, it must be complex, and the work of many authors (or an author who contains multitudes).

As for secular ritual, there are plenty of things which serve as ecstatic experiences, but few that offer regular solemn observance, and none that offer forgiveness, acceptance and transformation of pain into transcendence. Perhaps such a thing could not exist until a secular faith is consciously created.

Here is an article in the New Yorker, on belief, atheism, and the populous realms between: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2014/02/17/140217crat_atlarge_gopnik?currentPage=all

Particularly of interest to me is the discovery of Auguste Comte, a French Humanist who indeed founded a Humanist “religion”, the Religion of Humanity. His development of strict and complex doctrines for priests and rituals seems rather oppressive, and therefore a mistake, but I like the idea of Humanist chapels.

Perhaps if I was rich I would build a Hall of Humanity in the centre of the city. It would be a beautiful space, like a cathedral or a great museum, but warm and welcoming, surrounded by a simple garden and with chapel niches containing statues or busts of great people, each with a plaque describing their achievement. Statesmen and public figures would strive for remarkable feats of altruism and expansion of knowledge, in the hope that one day they too would have a place in the hallowed Hall (all appointments would be posthumous, of course). On the other hand, they would be fearful of ending up in the basement of the Hall, where mass murderers and those who have suppressed knowledge, health and opportunity for the sake of doctrine would be placed (I’m thinking now of Tony Abbott and his war on science (and his Health Ministry staffed by alcohol and fast-food lobbyists)). The lighting here would be dark and fearful, and the smell of the sewer would waft up through vents in the floor. Every religion needs its devils.
 

Butch / Femme Bullshit

26 March, 2013

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with society’s gender expectations. It’s probably because my parents tried to raise me and my sister gender-neutral – at least, that’s what I was told. Despite the party line, my sister had Barbie dolls, and once when I was very young my sister and I swapped clothes – Dad came out into the yard and told me off: “You know what they call boys who wear dresses, don’t you?” Actually, I had no idea, and he didn’t clarify the issue for me.

But this isn’t going to turn into some story about transvestitism or sex change, or using trendy words like “ver” and “cis”. I’ve never had a problem with my gender or sex. Sex: I have XY chromosomes, so I’m male. Gender: I’m not masculine or feminine, I’m ME. I really don’t understand the issue everyone else seems to have with gender – “OMG I’m too/too little masculine/feminine.” It’s like worrying that you like or don’t like tomatoes – it doesn’t matter, and it has no moral implications.

But I’m the only one who thinks like that. Gay or straight, progressive or conservative, everyone seems to buy into the fundamental importance of gender. The only difference is that some people flip the usual sex/gender alignment. So what? It’s still the same old game: one is assertive, the other is receptive. This is assumed to be the only possible sexual model.

And yes, although having no interest in gender roles has been inconvenient for me (being bullied or dismissed for being “queer” because I don’t play the masculine game), the saddest implication of all this plays out in the bedroom. The mandatory masculine/feminine roles mean that sex always has to be about power. The truth which we are not permitted to deny: you can’t have sex without the ruler and the ruled, however liberal or queer the participants may claim to be. I play these games only grudgingly and never with real pleasure. My partners sense my disinterest in the game, and GTFO ASAP.

I have noticed some dominance games in my sexual imagination in recent years, which I think derive from porn. Porn is based very much on the gender game – male = predatory brute, female = exhibitionist victim. Feminists complain about the sexual victimisation of women and the feminine, but usually blame it on men, maleness, masculinity, patriarchy. They don’t take into account that these roles are enforced just as much by feminine-identified people as by masculine.

You are probably struggling to understand my point of view. It’s okay – I’m coming to accept that I am in a minority of one. Insisting on being myself without regard for the demands of gender roles (apart from fairly conventional dress, for defensive purposes) inevitably alienates me from society, plus means I don’t get laid. It’s lonely, of course, but I couldn’t live with the empty falsity of the alternative.

[This post was written because I tried to talk about these issues in a forum thread called “Delusions of gender” – I was banned for “narrow-minded bullshit”, because I mocked the whole butch/femme game that even “genderqueers” play (I did not criticise any individuals). Are people who take gender roles seriously an oppressed minority? Very fucking far from it. I guess I just touched a nerve.]

Don’t go to Bulgaria

13 November, 2012

Here’s the latest news on the Australian jailed for “murder with hooliganism” in Bulgaria.

I’ve followed this story since it started: basically, Jock Palfreeman was a naive young traveller who found himself targeted by gangs in Bulgaria, and took to carrying a knife in self defense. In a subsequent attack, a Bulgarian ended up dead. Palfreeman was railroaded – abused by the police, who crudely fudged the evidence, which was nonetheless accepted by the court in what I assume was a manner of habitual corruption. The reparation payment increasing at 15-20% per annum is another example of gross unfairness. Sadly, much of Eastern Europe is like this, though Bulgaria may be the worst: racist, corrupt, brutal, dishonest, a 3rd world country with 1st world tech. I wouldn’t go there without a humvee convoy for backup.

I last took this test years ago, when it was on a different site, but my result hasn’t changed, right down to the equal bard-thief ranking. In the detailed stats, it’s nice to see I am not at all evil. 🙂

I Am A: True Neutral Gnome Thief Bard

Alignment:
True Neutral characters are very rare. They believe that balance is the most important thing, and will not side with any other force. They will do whatever is necessary to preserve that balance, even if it means switching allegiances suddenly.

Race:
Gnomes are also short, like dwarves, but much skinnier. They have no beards, and are very inclined towards technology, although they have been known to dabble in magic, too. They tend to be fun-loving and fond of jokes and humor. Some gnomes live underground, and some live in cities and villages. They are very tolerant of other races, and are generally well-liked, though occasionally considered frivolous.

Primary Class:
Thieves are the most roguish of the classes. They are sneaky and nimble-fingered, and have skills with traps and locks. While not all use these skills for burglary, that is a common occupation of this class.

Secondary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Deity:
Callarduran Smoothhands is the True Neutral gnomish god of stone, the underground, and mining. He is also known as the Deep Brother and the Master of Stone. His followers enjoy mining – especially for rubies. Their favorite weapon is the battleaxe.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Alignment:
Lawful Good —– X (1)
Neutral Good —- XX (2)
Chaotic Good —- XXX (3)
Lawful Neutral — XXXX (4)
True Neutral —- XXXXXXX (7)
Chaotic Neutral – XX (2)
Lawful Evil —– (0)
Neutral Evil —- (0)
Chaotic Evil —- (0)

Race:
Human —- XX (2)
Half-Elf – X (1)
Elf —— XXX (3)
Halfling – (-2)
Dwarf —- (0)
Half-Orc – (-4)
Gnome —- XXXX (4)

Class:
Fighter – (-6)
Ranger — (-2)
Paladin – (-5)
Cleric — (-6)
Mage —- XXXX (4)
Druid — (-1)
Thief — XXXXXXXXX (9)
Bard —- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Monk —- XX (2)

It occurred to me recently that the moral sense and the aesthetic sense might be related, or possibly even be the exact same thing.

Experiments with infants have shown (debatably) that the “fairness instinct” is indeed inborn. Somehow from this simple base all the diverse and mutually loathing moral systems of the world are grown. We disagree about what may be called right, or wrong, but either way we sure feel strongly about it, because it’s in our genes.

Now look for example at internet forums, where matters as trivial and unprovable as the validity of a musical interpretation can stir us to righteous fury. It is an aesthetic issue, but it can stir emotions as strong as any political or religious debate. It is in fact a moral response.

If we accept this premise, where does it take us? Well, for a start it validates moral relativism. (I mean that in a philosophical sense, not a prescriptive sense.) It also suggests new methods of social influence. We already use aesthetic considerations to influence moral judgements, e.g. calling someone “crooked” or “dirty”. Possibly this approach could also work the other way. For instance, if the populace is exercised by a political issue, they might be diverted from action by a related aesthetic issue, e.g. a debate over the design for a new flag.

Possibly this idea has been developed before, and by someone with more substantial credentials than mine. But I’m less interested in producing material for a thesis, more in developing better tools for understanding human thought and behaviour.

A definition of art

22 August, 2011

A work of art is a beautiful, made object.

I arrived at that definition while trying to clear away the Romantic and Modern dross that has accumulated around the concept. In essence, art (deriving from the Latin, roughly meaning skill, craft or technique) is a thing created by a person (so a sunset may be beautiful, but it is not art). It is created to be beautiful, i.e. its function is aesthetic, not practical (hence Wilde’s assertion that art is useless). And its virtues proceed from its being an actual thing that exists in the world, not a concept or ideal.

What do I mean by ‘beautiful’? Obviously there are artworks which we can enjoy which don’t necessarily fit the conventional idea of beauty. But if they stimulate us in a pleasant way, then I would call them beautiful. (And if we find them genuinely unpleasant, we avoid them.) But still, what is beauty?

Recall Pinker’s description of music as “cheesecake for the mind”. I think that fits with my materialist idea of what art actually does. In the case of music, patterns of vibrating air are received through the senses, and stimulate electrochemical activity in the brain which we find rewarding. Proportions and textures and interrelationships are arranged in patterns which we perceive to be “right”, for whatever psychological or biological reason.

As you can see, I don’t believe in a literally spiritual dimension of art. I don’t think that a great artwork exists somehow beyond time, space and conventional morality. I also regard “profundity” as a product of perception, and not as a special mystical insight. I can reach the end of Bruckner’s 9th with a sensation of intellectual and emotional ecstasy, profundity and insight – but what is this ‘insight’? The world has not changed, and neither have I (except perhaps in becoming more sensitive to aesthetic experience).

I don’t think this way of looking at art diminishes it or my experience of it. Art still affects me; it’s just that I don’t proceed from that effect to the notion that I have received mystical (or sociopolitical) insight.
 

From this site: http://www.pureintimacy.org/piArticles/A000000433.cfm
Bear in mind as you read this that Bundy was executed in 1989, well before the current explosion of porn upon the internet.

JCD: How did it happen? Take me back. What are the antecedents of the behavior that we’ve seen? You were raised in what you consider to be a healthy home. You were not physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Ted: No. And that’s part of the tragedy of this whole situation. I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.

As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighborhoods, and in our neighborhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc., and I want to emphasize this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behavior that is too terrible to describe.

JCD: Walk me through that. What was going on in your mind at that time?

Ted: Before we go any further, it is important to me that people believe what I’m saying. I’m not blaming pornography. I’m not saying it caused me to go out and do certain things. I take full responsibility for all the things that I’ve done. That’s not the question here. The issue is how this kind of literature contributed and helped mold and shape the kinds of violent behavior.

JCD: It fueled your fantasies.

Ted: In the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process. Then, at a certain time, it is instrumental in crystallizing it, making it into something that is almost a separate entity inside.

JCD: You had gone about as far as you could go in your own fantasy life, with printed material, photos, videos, etc., and then there was the urge to take that step over to a physical event.

Ted: Once you become addicted to it, and I look at this as a kind of addiction, you look for more potent, more explicit, more graphic kinds of material. Like an addiction, you keep craving something which is harder and gives you a greater sense of excitement, until you reach the point where the pornography only goes so far – that jumping off point where you begin to think maybe actually doing it will give you that which is just beyond reading about it and looking at it.

JCD: How long did you stay at that point before you actually assaulted someone?

Ted: A couple of years. I was dealing with very strong inhibitions against criminal and violent behavior. That had been conditioned and bred into me from my neighborhood, environment, church, and schools.

I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fueled, largely, by pornography.

JCD: Do you remember what pushed you over that edge? Do you remember the decision to “go for it”? Do you remember where you decided to throw caution to the wind?

Ted: It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew I couldn’t control it anymore. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody.

JCD: Would it be accurate to call that a sexual frenzy?

Ted: That’s one way to describe it – a compulsion, a building up of this destructive energy. Another fact I haven’t mentioned is the use of alcohol. In conjunction with my exposure to pornography, alcohol reduced my inhibitions and pornography eroded them further.

JCD: After you committed your first murder, what was the emotional effect? What happened in the days after that?

Ted: Even all these years later, it is difficult to talk about. Reliving it through talking about it is difficult to say the least, but I want you to understand what happened. It was like coming out of some horrible trance or dream. I can only liken it to (and I don’t want to overdramatize it) being possessed by something so awful and alien, and the next morning waking up and remembering what happened and realizing that in the eyes of the law, and certainly in the eyes of God, you’re responsible. To wake up in the morning and realize what I had done with a clear mind, with all my essential moral and ethical feelings intact, absolutely horrified me.

JCD: You hadn’t known you were capable of that before?

Ted: There is no way to describe the brutal urge to do that, and once it has been satisfied, or spent, and that energy level recedes, I became myself again. Basically, I was a normal person. I wasn’t some guy hanging out in bars, or a bum. I wasn’t a pervert in the sense that people look at somebody and say, “I know there’s something wrong with him.” I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life, except for this one, small but very potent and destructive segment that I kept very secret and close to myself. Those of us who have been so influenced by violence in the media, particularly pornographic violence, are not some kind of inherent monsters. We are your sons and husbands. We grew up in regular families. Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago. As diligent as my parents were, and they were diligent in protecting their children, and as good a Christian home as we had, there is no protection against the kinds of influences that are loose in a society that tolerates….

JCD: Outside these walls, there are several hundred reporters that wanted to talk to you, and you asked me to come because you had something you wanted to say. You feel that hardcore pornography, and the door to it, softcore pornography, is doing untold damage to other people and causing other women to be abused and killed the way you did.

Ted: I’m no social scientist, and I don’t pretend to believe what John Q. Citizen thinks about this, but I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction. The F.B.I.’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.

JCD: What would your life have been like without that influence?

Ted: I know it would have been far better, not just for me, but for a lot of other people – victims and families. There’s no question that it would have been a better life. I’m absolutely certain it would not have involved this kind of violence.

JCD: If I were able to ask the kind of questions that are being asked, one would be, “Are you thinking about all those victims and their families that are so wounded? Years later, their lives aren’t normal. They will never be normal. Is there remorse?”

Ted: I know people will accuse me of being self-serving, but through God’s help, I have been able to come to the point, much too late, where I can feel the hurt and the pain I am responsible for. Yes. Absolutely! During the past few days, myself and a number of investigators have been talking about unsolved cases – murders I was involved in. It’s hard to talk about all these years later, because it revives all the terrible feelings and thoughts that I have steadfastly and diligently dealt with – I think successfully. It has been reopened and I have felt the pain and the horror of that.

I hope that those who I have caused so much grief, even if they don’t believe my expression of sorrow, will believe what I’m saying now; there are those loose in their towns and communities, like me, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled, day in and day out, by violence in the media in its various forms – particularly sexualized violence. What scares me is when I see what’s on cable T.V. Some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today is stuff they wouldn’t show in X-rated adult theatres 30 years ago.

JCD: The slasher movies?

Ted: That is the most graphic violence on screen, especially when children are unattended or unaware that they could be a Ted Bundy; that they could have a predisposition to that kind of behavior.

JCD: One of the final murders you committed was 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. I think the public outcry is greater there because an innocent child was taken from a playground. What did you feel after that? Were they the normal emotions after that?

Ted: I can’t really talk about that right now. It’s too painful. I would like to be able to convey to you what that experience is like, but I won’t be able to talk about that. I can’t begin to understand the pain that the parents of these children and young women that I have harmed feel. And I can’t restore much to them, if anything. I won’t pretend to, and I don’t even expect them to forgive me. I’m not asking for it. That kind of forgiveness is of God; if they have it, they have it, and if they don’t, maybe they’ll find it someday.

JCD: Do you deserve the punishment the state has inflicted upon you?

Ted: That’s a very good question. I don’t want to die; I won’t kid you. I deserve, certainly, the most extreme punishment society has. And I think society deserves to be protected from me and from others like me. That’s for sure. What I hope will come of our discussion is that I think society deserves to be protected from itself. As we have been talking, there are forces at loose in this country, especially this kind of violent pornography, where, on one hand, well-meaning people will condemn the behavior of a Ted Bundy while they’re walking past a magazine rack full of the very kinds of things that send young kids down the road to being Ted Bundys. That’s the irony.

I’m talking about going beyond retribution, which is what people want with me. There is no way in the world that killing me is going to restore those beautiful children to their parents and correct and soothe the pain. But there are lots of other kids playing in streets around the country today who are going to be dead tomorrow, and the next day, because other young people are reading and seeing the kinds of things that are available in the media today.