The details emerging in the Graham Dwyer murder trial are some of the most disturbing I’ve ever come across, but that’s not because I find the gruesome details shocking. I’ve encountered some terrible things in the course of my life, including violent death from many causes.
I find the details shocking because the case has exposed a whole sub-culture, a world of people obsessed with inflicting and suffering pain. A world where some people think of themselves as gods, while others view themselves as worthless objects to be abused and disposed of.
Innocent or guilty of Elaine O’Hara’s murder, this is the world Graham Dwyer immersed himself in, to the extent that his corporeal existence as a partner in the architectural firm Wejcherts seems to have become the fantasy side of his life rather than the reality. If the evidence is to be believed, Dwyer plunged into the darkness of a world where pain is the only reality, the only currency worth possessing. The fictional stories found on his external drives detail fantasies of abduction, torture and murder, but what’s deeply disturbing is that these files were kept on the same drive as pictures of family occasions and even a scan of his child in utero, as if they were just another normal part of human existence.
No wonder Graham Dwyer kept his head in his hands as these details were read out to a court cleared of the public by Judge Tony Hunt, though in truth, the judge might as well not have bothered, since we’re already hardened to the brutality of modern life.
On the other side of this equation, Graham Dwyer seemed to find common cause with people who wished to be harmed, humiliated and ultimately murdered. And he seemed to make contact with them easily enough on the internet where people exist who have such a low opinion of themselves that they consider themselves worthy of nothing better than torture followed by murder.
Out there are people who will gladly offer themselves up for such treatment, and not all of them are women. In 2001, Armin Meiwes posted an advertisement on Cannibal Cafe for “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be killed and eaten.” Bernd Brandes replied to the ad, and together they tried to eat Brandes before he died of his injuries. There was no coercion involved. Brandes wanted to be killed and eaten. Some very strange people inhabit the world of pain and humiliation.
When I was growing up, I knew a young lad who took great enjoyment from inflicting pain on small animals. I don’t know where that impulse came from, but the last I heard he was a school principal somewhere.
How can anyone understand such a thing? I can’t and neither, in all likelihood, can you.
But the fact is that the world is full of sadistic people and most of them will never kill or even inflict a tiny cut on another human being. For every gross murder that grabs the headlines, a dozen dysfunctional sadists in business inflict unnecessary pain on a vulnerable colleague, a dozen nasty-minded care professionals humiliate some old person, a dozen power-maddened policemen force an innocent passer-by to the ground, a dozen direct-provision hostel owners bark instructions at a desperate refugee from torture in a foreign country and a dozen petty Social Welfare officials humiliate some unemployed dole-applicant queueing at a hatch.
Maybe we should ask ourselves if the Graham Dwyer case simply reveals the extreme end of deeply-ingrained human tendency.