While the biggest crime story of the past week is disgraced financial wizard Madoff going to jail, white-collar crime is not my area of interest. But the story of an arsonist-mass murderer of firefighters in California captured my interest. As those who have studied the worst serial killers attest, pyromania in childhood is considered a "warning sign" of future violent behavior. David Berkowitz set over a thousand fires before going on his shooting spree in the streets of New York, documenting each arson in a journal. Australian spree killer Martin Bryant also had an obsession with fire as a child, landing him in the hospital, where he told local reporters that, despite his life-threatening injuries, he would continue to play with fire. The California arsonist chose to combine his lust for murder with his obsession with flames, and, in an ironic twist, killing firefighters in the process. The arsonist said he felt "powerful" while setting fires. Many serial killers and other criminals speak with awe about the sense of power their crimes give them. Ted Bundy said that a person in his position, about to take a human life, is "God." I don't know anything about the California arsonist murderer's background, so I have no idea how he got to this point. However, I'm sure he grew up feeling powerless, either because of rejection by his peers or an abusive home life, like so many others of his type. The rage at the people who hurt or rejected him, combined with a feeling of powerlessness, led him to think, in a mind warped by hurt, that the only way to assert himself was through random violence.
While I'm not covering it extensively, the devastation caused by the financial manipulation of the likes of Madoff cannot be underestimated. Although he didn't physically harm anyone, he conned those who put faith in him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and caused misery among them and their families in the process. I don't know if his motive was greed or a lust for power similar to that of more physically violent criminals, but, either way, the damage was done, and he's now, thankfully, answering for his crimes.