(Following on from previous post about the book by Natascha Kampusch who was kidnapped and held in captivity by Wolfgang Priklopil for 8 years from the age of 10.)
I keep thinking about Natascha Kampusch’s experience. She was beaten, punched and hit with objects, she was half-starved, but for whatever reason, the image that keeps coming into my mind, and the one which I find the most distressing to contemplate, is the idea of her all alone in her underground dungeon for hours and days on end, trying to occupy herself, trying to give herself some kind of life, with the magazines, books and videos that Priklopil allowed her.
I suspect Kampusch herself would disapprove of my dwelling on this: she is determined not to be an object of pity, just as she was determined not to be a mere object onto which Priklopil could project his fantasies. There are video clips here and here of her being interviewed about 4 months after her escape. I think you can see here the firmness of spirit which comes over in the book, and dismiss any doubts that you might have that the book (written with the help of two co-authors) is an authentic representation of her voice.
What is striking is the determination to hold onto her own identity, however little room for manoeuvre. I suppose there hundreds of millions of people have coped in the same way with the experience of oppression that was quite specifically intended to break their spirits. I think of Africans sold into slavery, wrenched away from family, friends, culture and packed into slave ships for the horrors of the middle passage, and how they nevertheless preserved and evolved a unique culture of their own, which was to become global in its influence
How weak Priklopil seems by contrast: a man whose own identity was so fragile that he demanded absolute obedience, absolute submission to his own needs and fears. How weak and baby-like tyrants are in general. Think of Gaddafy, think of Hitler (who Priklopil apparently admired), demanding that others to act out a charade around them, a pretence of loyalty, a pretence of love, a pretence of admiration, presumably because they don’t have the courage to face what they would see if the pretence was torn away.